It’s an open secret among U.S. military experts, corporate elites, and DC insiders that in the coming decades, the country is going to be faced with a war which causes unprecedented destabilization for the American empire—both externally and internally. This is to say it’s quite likely that the military is going to have to fight a potential World War II-level series of conflicts abroad, and a class-based confrontation within U.S. borders which matches or surpasses the Civil War.
Clamping down on dissent to preemptively pacify the U.S. population
The basis for the military’s expectations of such events comes from the findings of a 2017 Pentagon report, which drew upon a year-long research process involving consultation with key agencies across the Department of Defense and the U.S. Army. It concluded that American global power is “collapsing,” and that the military must respond to this by investing in more surveillance, “strategic manipulation” of public sentiments through propaganda, and a “wider and more flexible” military. By extension, this effort to step up militarization applies to U.S. police forces, which have been gaining unprecedented amounts of Army equipment during the War on Terror while being trained in repressive tactics by Israel.
This importing of U.S. imperialism’s foreign occupation techniques has gone along with the 2013 legalization of CIA propaganda being covertly used in U.S. media, and with unprecedented expansions of the surveillance state in the Covid-19 era via the implementation of newly intrusive monitoring tools by Big Tech. The consequences of these power grabs during this last year or so have been the orchestration of a counterinsurgency against the Black Lives Matter movement, one which targets demonstrators with strategic demonizing propaganda, terrorizes rally attendees by sending unidentified federal agents to black bag protesters and detain them in unmarked vehicles, and surveils protesters through social media monitoring and drones.
Years before the disease outbreak, economic collapse, and unrest of the 2020s were even present, the U.S. national security state was anticipating events in this vein and using them to preemptively self-justify such abuses against the population. As the report concludes, the nature of imperialism’s crisis mandates that drastic measures be taken to maintain the current power structure:
“States and traditional political authority structures are under increasing pressure from endogenous and exogenous forces… The fracturing of the post-Cold War global system is accompanied by the internal fraying in the political, social, and economic fabric of practically all states… Wide uncontrolled access to technology that most now take for granted is rapidly undermining prior advantages of discrete, secret, or covert intentions, actions, or operations… In the end, senior defense leaders should assume that all defense-related activity from minor tactical movements to major military operations would occur completely in the open from this point forward… To date, U.S. strategists have been fixated on this trend in the greater Middle East. However, the same forces at work there are similarly eroding the reach and authority of governments worldwide… it would be unwise not to recognize that they will mutate, metastasize, and manifest differently over time.”
The report’s recommendations that U.S. intelligence leverage its internal propaganda capabilities to try to retain the public’s support in the event of destabilization, and that the national security state make better use of its surveillance apparatus, pertain to the ways that these destabilizing factors have evolved since 2017. With Covid-19, the U.S. state has faced a type of threat that’s ravaged the economy, further undermined public confidence in neoliberal capitalism, and sown distrust of the government. Another Pentagon report from 2019 predicted that a pandemic was an inevitability due to the new virus risks created by climatic changes, but even amid this prior ability to recognize that outbreaks like this one were coming, the U.S. military has had to grapple for new ways to try to maintain internal order amid this unprecedented shock to the system. What it’s settled on is a campaign to try to stamp out all facets of revolutionary thinking, similarly to how Colombia’s neo-colonial government is treating all participants in the pro-worker and indigenous movements as terrorists.
In response to the pandemic, the military has been learning to make communications between its ranks more efficient and centralized. As action officer with the Commander’s Initiatives Group at NORTHCOM Matt Strohmeyer has said about this project, “Achieving superiority against an adversary is all about making decisions faster than them. The way that we make decisions is by getting the most accurate and aggregated data to that decision maker as quickly as possible so that they can achieve understanding of what’s going on, then make a decision.”
This approach that the military has adopted of trying to preemptively stamp out threats, of hastily prompting a response from the national security state (whether that response is greater surveillance or tightened censorship or something more severe) extends to the state’s recently embraced method for suppressing dissent. Using the Capitol Hill riot as an excuse, the Biden administration has implemented a counterterrorism doctrine which further chips away at civil liberties, stating that “a comprehensive understanding of the domestic terrorism threat landscape requires facilitating a systematic provision of information and data to the appropriate parts of the Federal Government from state, local, tribal, and territorial partners who often identify and disrupt manifestations of the domestic terrorism threat, even if they do not always use the same labels to describe it.”
This “even if they do not always use the same labels to describe it” statement reveals the dictatorial nature of the campaign that our government aims to carry out in the coming years and decades. As part of its effort to stop the metastasizing “forces” that the 2017 Pentagon report worried about, the national security state is establishing the precedent to persecute anyone who the government judges to be an “extremist.” Since anti-imperialist commentators and Palestinian anti-Zionist voices have already bore the brunt of social media censorship in the aftermath of January 6th, Biden’s counterterrorism doctrine is undoubtedly going to target liberation movements more than it will counter right-wing extremists.
This paradigm that our government is engineering, where privacy and freedom of expression get increasingly stamped out, is a transition into the environment that the military views as ideal for its expected task of fighting an all-consuming war within our generation. This is an environment where life under the jurisdiction of the U.S. government is no longer governed by the country’s already flimsy settler-colonial constitution, but by the kinds of brutal military laws which rule areas like Israeli-occupied Palestine. Where anyone who writes, speaks, demonstrates, politically assembles, votes, or interacts on social media in a way which ideologically opposes the occupier state’s agenda gets treated as an enemy combatant.
Washington’s repressive tactics throughout the War on Terror, where U.S. citizens suspected of terrorist involvement have been extrajudicially assassinated by drone strikes, where individuals (including Americans) have been indefinitely detained at Guantanamo despite not being convicted of any crimes, and where the Guantanamo detention center has effectively created a lawless zone in which prisoners can be tortured with impunity, have all foreshadowed this dystopian reality the government intends to create. This will be a reality where these most extreme instances of late-stage imperialist repression and violence get expanded into the entirety of U.S.-controlled territory.
Preparing for unprecedented conflicts & “the information war”
This war against dissent, and the current CIA propaganda campaign about Xinjiang that goes along with it, serve a practical military purpose: to pacify the U.S. population to the greatest possible extent in anticipation of what the military expects to be an unprecedented siege.
The 2017 Pentagon report was just one part in an ever-growing body of indications that the government expects such an event. We also know the military believes such a conflict will occur from looking at the 2016 U.S. Army War College document which urges the Army to prepare for “contemporary Stalingrads” within U.S. borders, where the government has to fight off lower class uprisings after decades of deterioration in living standards. From looking at the Pentagon training video that predicts an “unavoidable” dystopian future where the military has to “drain the swamp of non-combatants” so that the rebels can be fought off amid military occupation of the largest U.S. cities. From looking at a 2018 Pentagon report which points to preparations for total war, with it recommending a redoubling of the high-tech sector so that the military can gain the industrial base for building up arms against China and Russia.
From looking at how the 2019 Pentagon report which anticipates near-future pandemics also says the military needs to establish an intensive presence on U.S. soil to retain stability amid climatic collapse. And from looking at the comment earlier this year by Kamala Harris about how “For years there were wars fought over oil; in a short time there will be wars fought over water.”
Harris discerned this through gathering the opinions of military elites, who’ve evidently come to the consensus that the climate crisis, the decline of U.S. global power, and unending neoliberal degradation of living conditions are soon going to combine to challenge the military like never before. And the pandemic has prompted the intellectuals of the national security state to reveal some additional details about how this war is going to be fought.
Defense One, a site which describes itself as a guide which “gives national security professionals, stakeholders and citizens what they need to know, from senior leaders in Washington to commanders abroad and next-generation thinkers,” published a headline last May which is slightly alarming given its intended audience of military elites: “How the Pandemic Is Helping The Military Prep For World War III.” Its author Patrick Tucker, who’s also advocated for further cold war escalations with the headline “It’s Time to Wargame Against an AI-Enabled China” and portrayed Washington’s rivals as sowing domestic extremism with the headline “China, Russia, Iran Spin Capitol Insurrection,” concludes that “Getting top commanders to second-guess their own presumptions—their ‘gut’—and go with what the data is telling them is a big ask. But the pandemic has proven that a lot of presumptions won’t work for the future.” In the context of an assertion about how Covid-19 should be viewed as a trial run for a third world war, this seems to imply that such a conflict should be viewed simply as the inevitable conclusion of current data trends.
It’s also ominous that next to messages like these, Defense One puts ads offering to help clients “Win the information war.” These ads are for Booz Allen Hamilton, an information and technology consulting firm. Booz Allen Hamilton was described by Bloomberg in 2013 in as “the world’s most profitable spy organization,” which is likely still true given that the firm bagged a $950 million Air Force contract along with Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies, Saab, and Viasat this week. It also employs more than 1000 former intelligence officers, so its offer to help military elites fight a narrative battle amid the country’s rising internal and geopolitical tensions indicates how private industry will be incorporated into this propaganda operation.
Private mercenaries have already been used by the U.S. to assist in domestic counterinsurgency efforts like the infiltration of the Standing Rock protests, with the mercenary company TigerSwan having created an entire intelligence center which served to monitor the demonstrators and send agent provocateurs into their spaces. Given that Biden has been allowing for private mercenary companies to fill the vacuum left by his Afghanistan troop pullout, privatized warfare is no doubt going to continue to rise, both abroad and at home. Firms like Booz Allen Hamilton are going to serve as the propaganda aspect in this corporate-facilitated internal counterinsurgency, gathering data on those who seek to shed a light on the military’s future war crimes so that the Army can craft “compelling narratives,” as the 2016 War College report described the propaganda which will be necessary to legitimize the planned interventions within U.S. urban areas.
Booz Allen Hamilton’s site states that “To meet the challenge of strategic competition, the Department of Defense is creating a new paradigm for decision making with Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2). Yet achieving the promise of JADC2 requires its employment within a larger, all-encompassing vision to comprehensively prepare for the future of war.” Which given the Biden administration’s recent statement on counterterrorism is perfectly fitting; the statement also says that the national security state must start “making appropriate use of the analysis performed by entities outside the government” by introducing “a new systematic approach for utilizing pertinent external, non—governmental analysis and information that will provide enhanced situational awareness of today’s domestic terrorism threat.”
This is going to mean an expansion of the campaign for countering what the military-industrial complex calls “fake news,” which Booz Allen Hamilton has been participating in during the U.S. intelligence community’s “Russian interference” hysteria from recent years. Following the debunked intelligence claim about Russia having given the Democratic National Committee’s emails to WikiLeaks, which was about painting WikiLeaks as a foreign propaganda outlet and justifying the persecution of Julian Assange, Booz Allen Hamilton interns started on a project to further help this governmental information war. As intern team leader Joseph Montminy said in 2017, “Fake news stories can have very real and dangerous consequences. The ability to quickly debunk these stories before they proliferate, and are accepted as fact, would be enormously beneficial to society as a whole.”
The ample measures since then from intelligence-tied social media companies to censor anti-imperialist sources, or to label them as foreign propaganda, has been rationalized by this belief that the U.S./ NATO intelligentsia must counter material it deems to be dangerous. January 6th has opened up the potential for further policing of the public’s thoughts, backed by a sophisticated social media micro-targeting network that U.S. intelligence is carrying out in coordination with firms like Booz Allen. Raul Diego of MintPressnews (one of the many sites which has been targeted by this censorship campaign) assessed this year that the experts guiding this online information management project fundamentally lack trust in the ability of the public to think the right thoughts without intervention. Diego references statements from Jessica Dawson, Ph.D., who’s discussed micro-targeting as a tool which should be pursued by a hypothetical government agency:
“Paying lip service to the inevitable questions about free speech that such an agency would elicit, Dawson grants that it is a “wicked problem to solve”—throwing in a sinophobic quip for good measure, assuring listeners that “we don’t want to start regulating everything using the artificial intelligence censors that, for example, China is rumored to be using.”…Lost in the conversation was the ability of regular people to use their own, individual critical thinking skills to sift through the content they may come across. For Dawson, Burns, and others in the growing cybersecurity industry, the “U.S. cognitive space” is a new theater of war that is not to be fought through education and open dialogue, but through hard and fast rules about what you can and cannot think about.”
Another facet of this policing campaign—one which perhaps already fulfills Dawson’s recommendation for a micro-targeting information management agency—is the Global Engagement Center, the entity created in the aftermath of the 2016 election which is meant to fight foreign “disinformation” but which gives the government a clear legal loophole to covertly target anti-imperialist media outlets within U.S. borders. With Biden’s recent counterterrorism measure, the GEC’s efforts have been redoubled. Senator Chris Murphy has praised this by stating:
“The Global Engagement Center is the United States Government’s agency that coordinates our interagency efforts to combat disinformation abroad. Time and time again, it has demonstrated its effectiveness in assisting our allies as they push back against Chinese and Russian disinformation efforts. This increase in funding is much needed and will provide the GEC with the resources it needs to continue to effectively combat disinformation and propaganda. If we’re serious about fighting propaganda and disinformation abroad, we must equip the Global Engagement Center with sufficient resources. With the passage of our bipartisan provision, Congress is making this possible.”
This new model for waging war, where controlling the sentiments of those within the core of the empire receives more focus than during any previous U.S. conflict, is a product of the decline of U.S. hegemony. When the military occupies a large U.S. city like Los Angeles, or attacks U.S. city blocks with bombs and drone strikes to counter domestic rebels, or carries out a vast wave of global interventions in a desperate attempt to retain resources amid the climate crisis, or starts a war with another superpower which could entail conscription and nuclear strikes, it’s going to need an extremely thorough public relations campaign to keep the people on its side. And even this campaign may not be enough to keep the people from embracing an anti-colonial socialist revolution as U.S. living standards continue to decline in the coming decades.
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