The Anglo-American Empire is Preparing for
By Nafeez Ahmed
July 08, 2015 "Information
Last week, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff
released the new National Military Strategy of the United States
of America, 2015.
The report’s main theme is
that “globalisation” and “demographics” are pushing forward trends
that are undermining US military superiority, including its
capability to sustain “international order”. It sets out how the US
military intends to keep ahead of those trends.
Although imbued with flowery technocratic
language, when read closely in the context of recent history, the
document is ultimately a blueprint to shore-up a dying empire, and
reveals much about the reigning ideology of US military supremacism.
“The United States is the world’s strongest
nation, enjoying unique advantages in technology, energy, alliances
and partnerships, and demographics,” the document observes.
“However, these advantages are being challenged.”
The report notes that globalisation is catalysing
“economic development” while simultaneously “increasing societal
tensions, competition for resources, and political instability”.
Of course, the strategy document
mention that since 1980, under the age of neoliberal
globalisation, even as GDP per head has risen, the “vast majority of
countries” have experienced a “sharp increase in income inequality,”
as documented by a flagship 2014 report by the Organisation for
Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
In the wake of the new era of slow growth and
brutal austerity ushered in after the 2008 global banking collapse,
the risk of the dire economic climate sparking civil and political
unrest is increasing. But what the document also misses is that
growing risk is itself a symptom of the uneven “economic
development” that constitutes GDP “growth”.
The US Joint Chiefs of Staff document goes on to
highlight the danger of “shifting demographics”. In the Middle East
and Africa, the document warns that “Youth populations are rapidly
growing” amidst an environment of “resource shortages, struggling
economies, and deep social fissures”.
In Europe and north Asia, the demographic
challenge comes in the form of aging populations, set against a
declining labour force that some see as a potential economic
More generally, the document flags the general
risk of immigration from rural to urban areas, and “across borders
and seas,” which is fuelling “cultural differences, alienation and
disease” and “placing strain on nations that receive them”.
Unsurprisingly, the document fails to grasp that
much of these problems are entirely symptomatic of the current
structure of global capitalism, dominated by a tiny minority of
transnational banks and corporations which are dependent on fossil
fuels to prop-up debt-creation as an instrument of profiteering for
Relatedly, while recognising the persistence of
“resource shortages” and “competition for resources,” the document
does not once recognise the role of climate change in accelerating
To some extent, that is to be expected given that
this is a military strategy document, but it highlights the problem
of applying military thinking to address challenges that are not, in
reality, military in origin.
The age of empire did not end with the collapse of
the old colonial order, but continued in a new form. Since the end
of the Second World War, the most powerful nations have used their
overwhelming military and economic superiority against former
colonies to forcibly absorb them into the orbit of a US-dominated
A hint of the imperial contours of the document
emerge in its reference to US national interests, defined as
“… the security of the United States, its
citizens, and US allies and partners; a strong, innovative, and
growing US economy in an open international economic
system that promotes opportunity and prosperity; respect for
universal values at home and around the world; and a rules-based
international order advanced
by US leadership that promotes peace, security, and opportunity
through stronger cooperation to meet global challenges”.
At first glance, this all sounds great, until we
take a glimpse at the nature of the “open international economic
system” that the US seeks to protect, and the “allies and partners”
that are integral to this “rules-based international order”
subordinate to “US leadership”.
Across the Middle East, Africa and Latin America,
US allies and partners consist almost entirely of brutal
dictatorships, monarchies, and corrupt regimes engaged in systematic
human rights abuses against their own populations.
“In the Middle East, we remain fully committed to
Israel’s security and qualitative military edge. We also are helping
other vital partners in that region increase their defences,
including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Egypt,
The US, in other words, is committed to supporting
Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories in
violation of international law and countless UN resolutions – such
as the latest UN Human Rights Council resolution
condemning Israeli war crimes against innocent civilians during
Operation Protective Edge in Gaza - which is perhaps why 41 nations
supported the resolution and the US, alone, was against it.
“The lack of support by the United States - the
only state to vote against shows a disappointing unwillingness to
challenge impunity for serious crimes during the Gaza conflict and
to stand up for the victims of war crimes during the conflict,”
noted Human Rights Watch.
As for Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE
and Pakistan, senior US military and government
officials themselves concede that these states are
complicit in financing the very “violent extremist organisations
(VEO)” the US now claims it is intent on destroying.
Egypt and Bahrain are also engaged in egregious
abuses of their own populations, all in the name of fighting
Yet this is packaged as supporting “respect for
universal values at home and abroad”.
In this context, international norms are used to
beat others over the head – not to regulate the conduct of the US
itself, or its allies.
Empire of networks
Military power is seen throughout the document as
integral to US leadership of the international order, sanitised by
claiming its objective is to maintain “international security and
stability” - which should be read as security and stability for
predatory US-dominated global finance capitalism.
“We will preserve our alliances, expand
partnerships, maintain a global stabilising presence, and conduct
training, exercises, security cooperation activities, and
military-to-military engagement,” the US Joint Chiefs promise. “The
presence of US military forces in key locations around the world
underpins the international order and provides opportunities to
engage with other countries while positioning forces to respond to
There is a by-product to this strategy not
mentioned in the document, but obvious nonetheless from examples
like Egypt - popular revolutions that overthrow existing regimes
allied to the US, no matter how dictatorial or abusive, are largely
seen as a threat to the US-dominated order.
The overarching goal, then, of maintaining this
network of allies and partners, supported by US military forces, is
to protect not “universal values” of democracy and human rights, but
very simply, the transnational flows of global capital:
“The presence of US military forces in key
locations around the world underpins the security of our allies and
partners, provides stability to enhance economic growth and regional
integration, and positions the Joint Force to execute emergency
actions in response to a crisis.”
Risk of interstate war
The risk of a US war with another state is low
“but growing”. The document sees four main countries as threatening
US domination of the international order: Russia, Iran, North Korea
Russia is accused of conducting a “proxy war” in
the US role in interfering in Ukrainian politics, propping up
the breakaway state, and fostering the rise of neo-Nazi militias is
conveniently ignored. So are longstanding US efforts to bring
Ukraine, a major gas transshipment route, into the orbit of
Euro-American power, and to access untapped regional oil and gas
Iran is accused of pursuing nuclear weapons
technology, contrary to the
repeated findings of the US intelligence community, and of
sponsoring “terrorism” in “Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen”.
Israeli war crimes in Gaza and Lebanon, the US invasion of Iraq,
US-backed proxy war in Syria involving support for Islamist rebels
that spawned the “Islamic State” and the US-backed Saudi bombing
campaign in Yemen, on the other hand, are not terrorism, but part of
the US-backed efforts to promote “universal values”.
North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is
condemned, but the backdrop to its paranoia is ignored. During the
Korean War (1950-53), US bombing killed up to a third (around 3
million people) of the North Korean population. The US was also the
first during the war to install nuclear weapons on the Korean
Peninsula. The ongoing US military presence in the region, including
nuclear-armed submarines, and regular military exercises simulating
an invasion of North Korea hardly help to ameliorate tensions.
“China’s actions are adding tension to the
Asia-Pacific region,” according to the US strategy document,
referring to China’s “aggressive land reclamation efforts that will
allow it to position military forces astride vital international sea
The South China Sea, which contains untapped oil
and gas resources and is also significant for fisheries, is the
annual route for $5 trillion of global shipping. In total, the sea
contains 11 billion barrels of oil, and 190 trillion cubic feet of
natural gas in proven or probable reserves. The US Geological Survey
(USGS) has estimated further undiscovered resources might exist,
including 12 billion barrels of oil and 160 trillion cubic feet of
natural gas – about a fifth of which could be found in contested
China’s territorial claims are challenged by
several US allies in East Asia, namely, the Philippines, Vietnam,
Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan – all identified in the document as part
of the US-backed “order”. US interests are, as usual, not about
peace and democracy, but about rolling back China’s sphere of
influence and maximising access to the resources of the South China
Sea for the US and its allies.
Oil, food and water
Under the guise of promoting peace and stability,
the new military strategy is in fact simply a blueprint for
sustaining global US hegemony in the face of the rising geopolitical
influence of its major rivals. Control of resources remains a core
factor in its considerations.
The role of resources is also flagged up by the
Global Strategic Trends
report published last summer by the British Ministry of
Defence’s (MoD) Defence Concepts and Doctrines Centre (DCDC).
The report, which feeds into the recently
announced UK Strategic Defence and Security Review, warned that
“Demand for resources of all kinds is likely to increase out to
2045, as the world’s population rises to around nine billion.” In
particular, while increasing demand for “more food and water” will
increase strain on the environment “some countries are likely to
experience significant declines in agricultural productivity”.
The document added that: “Water shortages are
likely to be particularly acute in many areas, exacerbated by
increasing demand and climate change.”
The Middle East and North Africa remain pivotal to
these concerns. The report noted that: “US involvement in the Middle
East is unlikely to alter significantly, as the region will almost
certainly continue to have a significant bearing on global stability
Apart from sustaining longstanding commitments to
regional allies “not least Israel,” the report highlighted the
region’s centrality to stabilising global oil prices: “The price of
oil in the Middle East affects the price of oil produced in the US,
meaning that any serious disruption in the former could have a
knock-on effect on the global economy.”
Climate change in the form of increasing droughts
and heatwaves will exacerbate already entrenched “socio-economic
factors, including disparity in wealth, gender inequality and poor
education,” which are “the underlying causes of much of the unrest
and sometimes violent conflict within MENA”.
Yet neither the US nor the British strategies
offer any interest or recognition of the need to address those
“underlying causes,” which are rooted in the very structures of the
“international order” the US and Britain are committed to protecting
at any cost.
Ahmed PhD is an investigative journalist, international
security scholar and bestselling author who tracks what he calls the
'crisis of civilization.' He is a winner of the Project Censored
Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian
reporting on the intersection of global ecological, energy and
economic crises with regional geopolitics and conflicts. He has also
written for The Independent, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The
Scotsman, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, Prospect, New
Statesman, Le Monde diplomatique, New Internationalist. His work on
the root causes and covert operations linked to international
terrorism officially contributed to the 9/11 Commission and the 7/7