Michael Klare: Russia v. China – Washington Debates Who Should Be Public Enemy Number One

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Yves here. It’s mind-boggling to think that the US is confronting China as a hostile power. We are deeply integrated with them economically, so it’s hard to see how this makes any sense. And it reveals classic American short-sightedness, since by letting them become our preferred vendor (as in exporting US jobs to them), we accelerated their rise to become a world power.

By Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left. A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @mklare1. Originally published at Tomdispatch

America’s grand strategy, its long-term blueprint for advancing national interests and countering major adversaries, is in total disarray. Top officials lurch from crisis to crisis, improvising strategies as they go, but rarely pursuing a consistent set of policies. Some blame this indecisiveness on a lack of resolve at the White House, but the real reason lies deeper. It lurks in a disagreement among foreign policy elites over whether Russia or China constitutes America’s principal great-power adversary.

Knowing one’s enemy is usually considered the essence of strategic planning. During the Cold War, enemy number one was, of course, unquestioned: it was the Soviet Union, and everything Washington did was aimed at diminishing Moscow’s reach and power. When the USSR imploded and disappeared, all that was left to challenge U.S. dominance were a few “rogue states.” In the wake of 9/11, however, President Bush declared a “global war on terror,” envisioning a decades-long campaign against Islamic extremists and their allies everywhere on the planet. From then on, with every country said to be either with us or against us, the chaos set in. Invasions, occupations, raids, drone wars ensued — all of it, in the end, disastrous — while China used its economic clout to gain new influence abroad and Russia began to menace its neighbors.

Among Obama administration policymakers and their Republican opponents, the disarray in strategic thinking is striking. There is general agreement on the need to crush the Islamic State (ISIS), deny Iran the bomb, and give Israel all the weapons it wants, but not much else. There is certainly no agreement on how to allocate America’s strategic resources, including its military ones, even in relation to ISIS and Iran. Most crucially, there is no agreement on the question of whether a resurgent Russia or an ever more self-assured China should head Washington’s enemies list. Lacking such a consensus, it has become increasingly difficult to forge long-term strategic plans. And yet, while it is easy to decry the current lack of consensus on this point, there is no reason to assume that the anointment of a common enemy — a new Soviet Union — will make this country and the world any safer than it is today.

Choosing the Enemy

For some Washington strategists, including many prominent Republicans, Russia under the helm of Vladimir Putin represents the single most potent threat to America’s global interests, and so deserves the focus of U.S. attention. “Who can doubt that Russia will do what it pleases if its aggression goes unanswered?” Jeb Bush asserted on June 9th in Berlin during his first trip abroad as a potential presidential contender. In countering Putin, he noted, “our alliance [NATO], our solidarity, and our actions are essential if we want to preserve the fundamental principles of our international order, an order that free nations have sacrificed so much to build.”

For many in the Obama administration, however, it is not Russia but China that poses the greatest threat to American interests. They feel that its containment should take priority over other considerations. If the U.S. fails to enact a new trade pact with its Pacific allies, Obama declared in April, “China, the 800-pound gorilla in Asia, will create its own set of rules,” further enriching Chinese companies and reducing U.S. access “in the fastest-growing, most dynamic economic part of the world.”

In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the military strategists of a seemingly all-powerful United States — the unchallenged “hyperpower” of the immediate post-Cold War era — imagined the country being capable of fighting full-scale conflicts on two (or even three fronts) at once. The shock of the twenty-first century in Washington has been the discovery that the U.S. is not all-powerful and that it can’t successfully take on two major adversaries simultaneously (if it ever could). It can, of course, take relatively modest steps to parry the initiatives of both Moscow and Beijing while also fighting ISIS and other localized threats, as the Obama administration is indeed attempting to do. However, it cannot also pursue a consistent, long-range strategy aimed at neutralizing a major adversary as in the Cold War. Hence a decision to focus on either Russia or China as enemy number one would have significant implications for U.S. policy and the general tenor of world affairs.

Choosing Russia as the primary enemy, for example, would inevitably result in a further buildup of NATO forces in Eastern Europe and the delivery of major weapons systems to Ukraine. The Obama administration has consistently opposed such deliveries, claiming that they would only inflame the ongoing conflict and sabotage peace talks. For those who view Russia as the greatest threat, however, such reluctance only encourages Putin to escalate his Ukrainian intervention and poses a long-term threat to U.S. interests. In light of Putin’s ruthlessness, said Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a major advocate of a Russia-centric posture, the president’s unwillingness to better arm the Ukrainians “is one of the most shameful and dishonorable acts I have seen in my life.”

On the other hand, choosing China as America’s principal adversary means a relatively restrained stance on the Ukrainian front coupled with a more vigorous response to Chinese claims and base building in the South China Sea. This was the message delivered to Chinese leaders by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter in late May at U.S. Pacific Command headquarters in Honolulu. Claiming that Chinese efforts to establish bases in the South China Sea were “out of step” with international norms, he warned of military action in response to any Chinese efforts to impede U.S. operations in the region. “There should be… no mistake about this — the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows.”

If you happen to be a Republican (other than Rand Paul) running for president, it’s easy enough to pursue an all-of-the-above strategy, calling for full-throttle campaigns against China, Russia, Iran, Syria, ISIS, and any other adversary that comes to mind. This, however, is rhetoric, not strategy. Eventually, one or another approach is likely to emerge as the winner and the course of history will be set.

The “Pivot” to Asia

The Obama administration’s fixation on the “800-pound gorilla” that is China came into focus sometime in 2010-2011. Plans were then being made for what was assumed to be the final withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and the winding down of the American military presence in Afghanistan. At the time, the administration’s top officials conducted a systematic review of America’s long-term strategic interests and came to a consensus that could be summed up in three points: Asia and the Pacific Ocean had become the key global theater of international competition; China had taken advantage of a U.S. preoccupation with Iraq and Afghanistan to bolster its presence there; and to remain the world’s number one power, the United States would have to prevent China from gaining more ground.

This posture, spelled out in a series of statements by President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other top administration officials, was initially called the “pivot to Asia” and has since been relabeled a “rebalancing” to that region. Laying out the new strategy in 2011, Clinton noted, “The Asia-Pacific has become a key driver of global politics.  Stretching from the Indian subcontinent to the western shores of the Americas… it boasts almost half of the world’s population [and] includes many of the key engines of the global economy.” As the U.S. withdrew from its wars in the Middle East, “one of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region.”

This strategy, administration officials claimed then and still insist, was never specifically aimed at containing the rise of China, but that, of course, was a diplomatic fig leaf on what was meant to be a full-scale challenge to a rising power. It was obvious that any strengthened American presence in the Pacific would indeed pose a direct challenge to Beijing’s regional aspirations. “My guidance is clear,” Obama told the Australian parliament that same November. “As we plan and budget for the future, we will allocate the resources necessary to maintain our strong military presence in this region. We will preserve our unique ability to project power and deter threats to peace.”

Implementation of the pivot, Obama and Clinton explained, would include support for or cooperation with a set of countries that ring China, including increased military aid to Japan and the Philippines, diplomatic outreach to Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and other nations in Beijing’s economic orbit, military overtures to India, and the conclusion of a major trade arrangement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), that would conveniently include most countries in the region but exclude China.

Many in Washington have commented on how much more limited the administration’s actions in the Pacific have proven to be than the initial publicity suggested. Of course, Washington soon found itself re-embroiled in the Greater Middle East and shuttling many of its military resources back into that region, leaving less than expected available for a rebalancing to Asia. Still, the White House continues to pursue a strategic blueprint aimed at bolstering America’s encirclement of China. “No matter how many hotspots emerge elsewhere, we will continue to deepen our enduring commitment to this critical region,” National Security Adviser Susan Rice declared in November 2013.

For Obama and his top officials, despite the challenge of ISIS and of disintegrating states like Yemen and Libya wracked with extremist violence, China remains the sole adversary capable of taking over as the world’s top power.  (Its economy already officially has.) To them, this translates into a simple message: China must be restrained through all means available. This does not mean, they claim, ignoring Russia and other potential foes. The White House has, for example, signaled that it will begin storing heavy weaponry, including tanks, in Eastern Europe for future use by any U.S. troops rotated into the region to counter Russian pressure against countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. And, of course, the Obama administration is continuing to up the ante against ISIS, most recently dispatching yet more U.S. military advisers to Iraq. They insist, however, that none of these concerns will deflect the administration from the primary task of containing China.

Countering the Resurgent Russian Bear

Not everyone in Washington shares this China-centric outlook. While most policymakers agree that China poses a potential long-term challenge to U.S. interests, an oppositional crew of them sees that threat as neither acute nor immediate. After all, China remains America’s second-leading trading partner (after Canada) and its largest supplier of imported goods. Many U.S. companies do extensive business in China, and so favor a cooperative relationship. Though the leadership in Beijing is clearly trying to secure what it sees as its interests in Asian waters, its focus remains primarily economic and its leaders seek to maintain friendly relations with the U.S., while regularly engaging in high-level diplomatic exchanges. Its president, Xi Jinping, is expected to visit Washington in September.

Vladimir Putin’s Russia, on the other hand, looks far more threatening to many U.S. strategists. Its annexation of Crimea and its ongoing support for separatist forces in eastern Ukraine are viewed as direct and visceral threats on the Eurasian mainland to what they see as a U.S.-dominated world order. President Putin, moreover, has made no secret of his contempt for the West and his determination to pursue Russian national interests wherever they might lead. For many who remember the Cold War era — and that includes most senior U.S. policymakers — this looks a lot like the menacing behavior of the former Soviet Union; for them, Russia appears to be posing an existential threat to the U.S. in a way that China does not.

Among those who are most representative of this dark, eerily familiar, and retrograde outlook is Senator McCain. Recently, offering an overview of the threats facing America and the West, he put Russia at the top of the list:

“In the heart of Europe, we see Russia emboldened by a significant modernization of its military, resurrecting old imperial ambitions, and intent on conquest once again. For the first time in seven decades on this continent, a sovereign nation has been invaded and its territory annexed by force. Worse still, from central Europe to the Caucuses, people sense Russia’s shadow looming larger, and in the darkness, liberal values, democratic sovereignty, and open economies are being undermined.”

For McCain and others who share his approach, there is no question about how the U.S. should respond: by bolstering NATO, providing major weapons systems to the Ukrainians, and countering Putin in every conceivable venue. In addition, like many Republicans, McCain favors increased production via hydro-fracking of domestic shale gas for export as liquefied natural gas to reduce the European Union’s reliance on Russian gas supplies.

McCain’s views are shared by many of the Republican candidates for president. Jeb Bush, for instance, described Putin as “a ruthless pragmatist who will push until someone pushes back.” Senator Ted Cruz, when asked on Fox News what he would do to counter Putin, typically replied, “One, we need vigorous sanctions… Two, we should immediately reinstate the antiballistic missile batteries in Eastern Europe that President Obama canceled in 2009 in an effort to appease Russia. And three, we need to open up the export of liquid natural gas, which will help liberate Ukraine and Eastern Europe.” Similar comments from other candidates and potential candidates are commonplace.

As the 2016 election season looms, expect the anti-Russian rhetoric to heat up. Many of the Republican candidates are likely to attack Hillary Clinton, the presumed Democratic candidate, for her role in the Obama administration’s 2009 “reset” of ties with Moscow, an attempted warming of relations that is now largely considered a failure. “She’s the one that literally brought the reset button to the Kremlin,” said former Texas Governor Rick Perry in April.

If any of the Republican candidates other than Paul prevails in 2016, anti-Russianism is likely to become the centerpiece of foreign policy with far-reaching consequences. “No leader abroad draws more Republican criticism than Putin does,” a conservative website noted in June. “The candidates’ message is clear: If any of them are elected president, U.S. relations with Russia will turn even more negative.”

The Long View

Whoever wins in 2016, what Yale historian Paul Kennedy has termed “imperial overstretch” will surely continue to be an overwhelming reality for Washington. Nonetheless, count on a greater focus of attention and resources on one of those two contenders for the top place on Washington’s enemies list. A Democratic victory spearheaded by Hillary Clinton is likely to result in a more effectively focused emphasis on China as the country’s greatest long-term threat, while a Republican victory would undoubtedly sanctify Russia as enemy number one.

For those of us residing outside Washington, this choice may appear to have few immediate consequences. The defense budget will rise in either case; troops will, as now, be shuttled desperately around the hot spots of the planet, and so on. Over the long run, however, don’t think for a second that the choice won’t matter.

A stepped-up drive to counter Russia will inevitably produce a grim, unpredictable Cold War-like atmosphere of suspicion, muscle-flexing, and periodic crises. More U.S. troops will be deployed to Europe; American nuclear weapons may return there; and saber rattling, nuclear or otherwise, will increase. (Note that Moscow recently announced a decision to add another 40 intercontinental ballistic missiles to its already impressive nuclear arsenal and recall Senator Cruz’s proposal for deploying U.S. anti-missile batteries in Eastern Europe.) For those of us who can remember the actual Cold War, this is hardly an appealing prospect.

A renewed focus on China would undoubtedly prove no less unnerving. It would involve the deployment of additional U.S. naval and air forces to the Pacific and an attendant risk of armed confrontation over China’s expanded military presence in the East and South China Seas. Cooperation on trade and the climate would be imperiled, along with the health of the global economy, while the flow of ideas and people between East and West would be further constricted. (In a sign of the times, China recently announced new curbs on the operations of foreign nongovernmental organizations.) Although that country possesses far fewer nuclear weapons than Russia, it is modernizing its arsenal and the risk of nuclear confrontation would undoubtedly increase as well.

In short, the options for American global policy, post-2016, might be characterized as either grim and chaotic or even grimmer, if more focused. Most of us will fare equally badly under either of those outcomes, though defense contractors and others in what President Dwight Eisenhower first dubbed the “military-industrial complex” will have a field day. Domestic needs like health, education, infrastructure, and the environment will suffer either way, while prospects for peace and climate stability will recede.

A country without a coherent plan for advancing its national interests is a sorry thing. Worse yet, however, as we may find out in the years to come, would be a country forever on the brink of crisis and conflict with a beleaguered, nuclear-armed rival.

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  1. Disturbed Voter

    I don’t consider either an enemy. I don’t have enemies because I don’t go around messing in other people’s business. Un-American of me? Matches George Washington’s policies, not Leo Strauss. If the major parties are deranged, remember to vote 3rd party or register Independent and act accordingly. Voting for the two main parties, only encourages them.

    1. jgordon

      Your comment sparked a thought in me: if you don’t consider yourself an enemy of China/Russia/et al, then what are you exactly? If you are an American, then I presume that somehow or another you pay taxes to the American government. In the parlance of our newspeak world that makes you a “material supporter” of the US government and its policies. If the matter ever came to a court room, the prosecutor would not spare you simply because you didn’t like what they were doing with the money you gave them.

      So here was my thought: at what point does a citizen have the moral OK to not support a currency issuer (her government) by failing to participate in the tax scheme? Or does she ever have that right? I am suddenly thinking of the process of Germany becoming Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Was there a certain point where up till then paying taxes to the Nazi government was the morally responsible and proper thing to do, immediately after which subverting and sabotaging the Nazi government instead became the right thing to do? Or were German citizens always under a moral obligation to change their Nazi government in a stately, peaceful, democratic way, while dutifully paying their taxes to the Nazi currency issuers? And doesn’t this kind of a question have some impact for any regime that systemically engages in morally reprehensible, or just plain bat-shit crazy, activities? I’m specifically not naming any names here. Just airing some general questions.

    2. bh2

      We again see a large and powerful empire choosing its next enemy despite the observation by Sun Tzu that there is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare. Unfortunately, there is also no instance of an empire (or a majority of its citizens) taking that lesson to heart.

      1. Victoria Pasternak

        Sun Tzu is in good company with the scriptures which assert that foolishness on the part of leadership results in ‘perpetual war’. In OT times, kings in harmony with Jehovah had peaceful reigns. Whereas those in opposition had non stop war.. What does that say about us?

  2. Tinky

    The quote from McCain embedded in the post provides clear insight not only into the rank dishonesty of the “war hero’ himself, but of how far down the Orwellian path the U.S. is at present.

    Truly remarkable.

  3. readerOfTeaLeaves

    As an American, I observe that the GOP hysterics appear to be losing their grip on reality. The Dems are almost as bad, and Obama’s foreign policy group is embarrassing.

    All these people are ‘worried about China’, yet if they googled a few basic public health stats and got a sense of China’s growing diabetes problem, they’d get a bracing dose of reality. ( The US also has a diabetes epidemic.). No nation with rising rates of diabetes is going to be all that formidable; they’re metabolically compromissed.

    Meanwhile, Obama appears go be letting hedge funds run policy on Russia. How else explain why Victoria Nuland, a former Cheney aide, abets turmoil in Ukraine?

  4. digi_owl

    Honestly i can’t say i see much difference between Crimea and USA going into Panama to secure the canal.


    Russia had, since the Soviet era, naval bases on Crimea. Since the Soviet Union dissolved, they had been renting them from Ukraine.

    In effect, grabbing Crimea meant securing Russian interests before Ukraine jumped ship to EU and NATO.

    Never mind that Crimea only became “Ukranian” in the 1950s, given as a gift by the Soviet premier.

    Meh, international politics is inherently dirty. There are no white hats roaming around there, only black ones (and the token gray).

    1. PIGL

      Exactly. Efforts to entice Ukraine into the EU and NATO were directed against Russian warm water naval ports. Crimea was going to remain Russian to no matter what anybody else said about it. pretending to be outraged by this counter-stroke is frankly delusional.

  5. Sally

    The problem is that the U.S. govt only operates for the 1% elite. And the elite can not allow Russia and China to dump the fiat backed petro $, and replace it with either a gold or silver backed currency. If that happens goodbye IMF , the world bank, The international clearing sytem for payments. And most important, the ability to keep printing money to expand Americas military. In the old days Kings would have to have the gold or silver if they wanted to fight endless wars. Now they just keep the printing presses going. (the Iraq war is now up to about €2 trillion. Good luck that ever being paid off)

    In 1990 the BRICS accounted for about 20% of the world economy. 25 years later it is over 50%. America is an Empire in financial decline. like all the other empires in history more of her wealth is spent keeping the Empire in line. While spending at home is cut back on her own people.

    The big difference from all other declining empires in history is she has the military cabability to destroy her successors with Nuclear and chemical weapons. Imagine the Roman Empire if it had nukes, and the means of firing them? They didn’t. And their army all melted away when there was no money to pay for it.

    America has the ability to go down in flames, and take everybody else with her. The elites would rather lose it all than lose their wealth. So they talk openly about fighting two nuclear wars with China and Russia at the same time. Their motto seems to be “if we can’t own it nobody else will.” Do politicians like McCain really believe it, or are they just insane?

    1. Doug Terpstra

      In my senator John McCain’s case, dementia and insanity appear to be comingled. His unhinged militarism clearly mark him as unfit to chair the Armed Services Committee, but the merchants of death couldn’t imagine a better candidate.

    2. RUKidding

      John McCain is highly compensated to be completely insane. He was also highly compensated to help build up ISIS or whatever they’re called today. John McCain is a traitor to what the USA is alleged to stand for albeit John MCain does indeed embody what the USA stands for now: nutty policies developed by the 1%’s puppets to enhance and enrich the 1% at the expense of everyone else.

      He who dies with the most money & toys WINS!!!1111!!!

      Damn the torpedos! Full Speed Ahead!!!!111!!!

  6. Je' Czaja

    Johan Galtung, founder of the discipline of peace and conflict studies, correctly predicted the collapse of the USSR. He predicts the end of the US empire by 2020. All empires end, 100%. This does not mean the end of the US Republic, just the end of the empire. This would entail a few years of floundering around doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result: the definition of insanity.

    1. James Levy

      The US won’t go down without a fight, and it will take as much of the world with it as gets in its way. Austria-Hungary went to war in 1914 because they believed that a great power could not allow Serbian terrorists to get away with killing the heir to the thrown and remain a great power. They were counting on the Russians to step aside, knowing that if the Russians did intervene they were very likely doomed. But they went to war anyway, even with the Czar signaling that he, too, was worried about his great power status after losing the war to Japan and was surrounded by advisers and generals demanding that Russia not back down. And the Kaiser was getting the same message loud and clear from his own politico-military elite.

      America is a nation in thrall to its own fanatical notions of exceptionalism. Without us, there is only darkness. We will not retreat back into affluent insignificance the way the Dutch did. Our political and military elite will use every weapon in their arsenal to stay “on top.” I believe the American Imperial Project will go on long after 2020, and may well end in a nuclear holocaust.

  7. Kokuanani

    In its inability to choose among China, Russia or ISIS as the US’s “worst enemy,” the philosophy of the Obama administration seems to be to “fight all of them,” – i.e., throw more and more money into weapons, defense contractors, the military, etc.

    You just never know where that next attack is coming from, so let’s be prepared for ALL of them. Meanwhile, our country falls apart from within.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Sequester hurt defense budgets, and with the NSA, TSA, the F-35, and so forth being on full display, voters are wondering why they can’t have nice things. Behind the veil of security and patriotism is where you will find graft.

      Obama is beholden in to the crooks, but Americans in many ways have been threatened for too long to care. Obama’s statements about ISIS should have destroyed him, but fear mongering has gone on so long no one cares. Obama and his fellow travelers still want to find a way to continue the graft, so they are throwing everything they can at the wall hoping anything will stick.

      1. Sally

        The ‘nice stuff’ is the military economy as far as politicians like McCain is concerned. It provides a manufacturing base still made in the US because they want to keep a lot if the technology secret. So it provides well paying jobs for many of the U.S. States.

        The surveillance state is another part of the perminant war time economy. Lost of jobs in the military or private contractors with no bid contracts. Oversight is virtually zero on costs. Just keep spending more money and it goes to the right sort of people.

        Welfare for WASPS is as true today as ever. In fact it’s a lot worse. America needs endless wars now to keep the giant MIC going and the funding spigot kept open. But who’s going buy the paper debt anymore? Not China, or Russia it would seem. So we must invade.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          It has nothing to do with jobs. If jobs was a factor at all, there would 2 students to a classroom. Teachers, solar panels, buses, and so forth have known costs. There is no room for graft, and teachers might give money to campaigns but will never provide an income with which to hookers and blow.

  8. timbers

    There is one nation that doesn’t seem to be able to get along with anyone else.

  9. Adam Salcedo

    The South China Sea a.k.a. West Philippine Sea is an important economic trade route and USA could not just let China occupy and build military bases on the islands there.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Ah, the Conventional Wisdom of Deadendia speaks… All those years playing The Game of Risk (TM), of which the goal is what, again? Global military dominance? And so China is doing what, threatening to cut off those “economic trade routes?” Impose tolls on “trade?” And of course the US Imperial Massive Global Containment of Everywhere, with bases straddling every “trade route” and dirty fingers in every political economic pie on the planet, is wonderfully benign and beneficial…

  10. sufferinsuccotash

    The air of babbling incoherence that seems to hang over Inside The Beltway discussions of foreign “policy” is not an illusion. Fact is, the US currently has no foreign policy at all, just a dog’s breakfast of legacies perpetuated by domestic politics and entrenched interests.
    If there’s any historical parallel here, it’s with Germany in the 20 or so years prior to World War One. After Bismarck’s departure Germany was basically headless as far as foreign policy-making was concerned. The result was the alienation of one ally (Russia) and one friendly neutral (Britain), leading to the creation of a hostile alliance (the Triple Entente) which virtually guaranteed that Germany could not win the war which eventually took place.
    The present-day US seems bound and determined to stage a similar performance, manufacturing a hostile alliance (Russia & China) with no compensating strategic advantages whatever.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Versailles on the Potomac is determined to remain pre-Caesarian Rome, but inevitably, the provinces won’t tolerate second class status forever and will look to Persia or Mithradates. That leaves two options. Repression or reform to keep the empire. The oligarchs don’t care about the empire or the homeland as much as their piece. Reform would reduce them in stature through their lifetime anyway, and what fun is that? Repression is the only response the oligarchs and petty, shallow types such as Obama can envision.

      Our politics is a fight between Catiline and Cicero with ancient families hovering in the background. Slavery is all the rage. TPP is about undermining law standing laws and removing the control of the people.

      Short of a Caesar like reform, the oligarchs will have to launch preemptive strikes or see the empire fall.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Your comment about Persia reminded me of a snarky post I made elsewhere about the new Asian Infrastructure Bank:
        “Maybe the US can join, get in on the action, they have a few chairs left all the way at the back, China gets the veto vote, Asia partners will vote as a bloc, so Kerry or Lew or whoever we send can maybe try to drum up support from France (lol) or Saudi (lololol) or maybe Iran (lololololol)”.

        The World’s Apex Bully has run out of “friends” on the playground, what a surprise given how we spy on friends and bomb anyone (financially or otherwise) who doesn’t like the jackboot on their neck. Hilary pressuring Sweden to roll over for Monsanto, the US telling the WHO they will pull $400M in funding if the WHO says unkind things about how bad sugar is for people…the list is pretty endless.

  11. DJG

    Obama (and let’s not forget Baby Bush) is an example of running government like a business. Obama is all tactics, no strategy, combined with bad slogans from his incompetent marketing department. Pivot toward Asia? As opposed to what? Crisis in Ukraine? Who caused it? Intractable Iranians? I wonder why.

    Yet we must have “rivals,” as in his team of rivals (another expression for a claque of incompetent department heads kept in check by infighting). We must have rivals so as to be able to burn through trillions, enriching the war profiteers, corporations unwilling to pay taxes, and the foreign-policy consultants.

  12. Eureka Springs

    Well I for one have met the enemy and that enemy is U.S.

    As this post makes perfectly clear all participants in the neoliberalcon ring of lunacy are
    hell-bent on manufacturing enemies… whether that be local to federal police or internationally focused NGO’s, police (DEA, Homeland Security) to all of the DOD.

    There are no debates in this country. Everything is prepackaged – shrink-wrapped. Decisions are most certainly never based on merit of data or argument. “U.S. interests”? Spit! Entirely too much secrecy and surveillance allowed, too much corporate owned pressaganda, too much money for a few, too little rule of law or real choices allowed in so much as conversation much less within the parties (once again made perfectly clear in these pre-primary times), ultimately all limited to a neoliberlcon digitally fixed two evil voting booth.

    This has never been a Democracy… even so the Republic is completely broken, criminals are still in charge! We will always be working towards the next war.

    1. Noonan

      Washington is the enemy. They must invent foreign adversaries to convince the masses otherwise.

  13. Doug Terpstra

    When was it that “Russia began to menace its neighbors.”? That presumption is regularly presented as a given without any factual basis. The post also seems to imply that we must choose one or the other as public enemy #1, presumably with Hillary as the lesser of two weevils. But since we can never have too many enemies, we’re most likely to call it a tie and target both.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Hillary is the most prominent Iraq War supporter in the lot. She isn’t the lesser evil. Jeb may have voted for t he Iraq War, but….he didn’t. Hillary has a voting record demonstrating how evil she is.

      1. Sally

        While what you say is technically true, Jeb Bush was a signature to the famous open letter in 1998 to President Clinton urging him to attack Iraq. He was on board before 9/11. He is very much part of the New American century brigade. “Mass spectrum dominance of all land, sea, air and space.” They couldn’t be clearer in their demands, and aims.

        As a major Wall Street player said their ideal Presidential race for 2016 is Jeb vs Hillary because Wall Street gets what it wants no matter who wins.

  14. jsn

    I’m open to the possibility that Russia harbors imperial ambitions, but the claims here all originate in our own agnatology machines.

    I agree that US politicians are delusional and that something in the DC water may cause idiocy, Jim Grant has proposed that air conditioning destroyed the United States by making the malarial swamp on the Potomac habitable year round. But if we’re going to claim Russia has imperial ambitions don’t we need some evidence?

    Crimea has been part of Russia for several hundred years and the “invading” force had been stationed there for equally long. Eastern Ukraine is integrated into Russian industrial standards and supply chains, an artifact of it having been one of the centers of Russian military production until the dissolution of the USSR, and, because of this happenstance has a population with no real prospects in western Ukraine now governed by thugs openly hostile to them. Nuland directed and funded a coup in Kiev and seems to be sponsoring a civil war now in the east and our agnatologists call that Russian aggression.

    So where is real Russian aggression? I remain open to the possibility it’s out there, Putin’s behavior in Chechnya has certainly been no better than ours in Iraq, except that he’s stabilized the rubble, which feat we can’t seem to master.

    Baltic, Polish and Ukrainian claims are no doubt well founded in historical fears, but Russia’s historical fears are real too.

    1. Vatch

      I’m reluctant to jump in here, since these discussions can become acrimonious, but I want to correct one point, namely this assertion:

      “Crimea has been part of Russia for several hundred years”

      Crimea didn’t become part of Russia until 1783, and it became a separate non-Russian republic within the Soviet system in 1921. In 1944 it again became part of Russia, and in 1954 it was transferred to Ukraine. So it is an exaggeration to say that Crimea has been part of Russia for several hundred years.

      1. jsn

        Thanks for the clarification, precision is almost always better. The opposite of agnatology! Would it be fair to say it has been economically integrated with Russia for several hundred years?

  15. RUKidding

    It’s almost like the USA has to create enemies even though none really exist.

    Oh wait….

  16. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    The enemy is super wealth concentration.

    Instead of opposing billionaires, Chinese, Russian or otherwise, workers are mobilized to compete and fighter workers of other nations.

    1. Vatch

      Yes! The top 0.01% of any nationality, including Americans, should be considered public enemy number one.

    2. JTMcPhee

      One cavil — it’s the people who arrange and connive and profit from and serve their pleasure and their false gods by “being successful and loved,” in one sick way or another:

      ” Gross Gets Personal: ‘I Just Wanted to Run Money and Be Famous’

      At Pimco, Bill Gross built a reputation as the world’s best bond trader. Now, at Janus Capital, he’s managing a much smaller fund—all while being measured against his younger self.”


  17. Nick

    I’d have to say, the above information is out of date. The US is actually showing progress with it’s pivot to Asia. A deal is progressing toward re-opening several major American military bases in Philippines. Closer ties with Vietnam are paying off with arms sales and training. Of course, we all know the US is encouraging Japan to build out it’s own already significant military capabilities. Significant resources are being directed to counter Chinese espionage, such as the construction of Cyber Command.

    Indeed, I’d wager a signing of a nuke-deal with Iran would put the pivot from the Mid-east toward Asia full steam ahead. If sanctions are lifted on Iran, they’ll flood the market with cheap oil, thus further blunting Putin’s military ambitions. Who knows which way that’ll go though.

    1. Steve H.

      – Significant resources are being directed to counter Chinese espionage, such as the construction of Cyber Command.

      Lets flood them with 14 million security profiles and crash their servers!

      Paul Kennedy writes about imperial overstretch, and his Rise and Fall analysis goes directly to military spending as non-productive. The self-licking perversity is that more money is demanded to counter the effects of handing over the jewels to the kingdom, when massive resources were already invested to create the problem in the first place.

      And encouraging Japan is as much about sticking them with a bill for their F-35’s as actually building up any capacity for self-defense.

    2. Sally

      “Arms sales” The American economy in all its glory.

      “Significant resources are being directed to counter Chinese espionage”……. I guess you have never heard of NSA.

      Read The New American century. It really is quite clear what the American elites demand of the rest of the world. Why do you think 1% of a nation of 300 million should rule over 6 billion people?

    1. sid_finster

      Money shot.

      Without an enemy, the masses might start asking uncomfortable questions, or worse, someone may propose a solution that the elites don’t like.

      With an enemy, asking questions is at best untimely and at worst, unpatriotic. “We don’t have time for that now! We have to fight Slobo Milosevic!”

      1. Lambert Strether

        Man, I hate the locution “the masses.” You know, an undifferentiated lump to be given form, kneaded by some vanguard, and most definitely having no agency.

  18. shinola

    How many military bases in other countries does China have? How about Russia?

    What would the U.S. do if there was a violent coup in Mexico or Canada and a government installed that was too friendly towards Russia or China? The U.S. would just try to find a diplomatic solution, right?

    Yeah, right.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Gosh, what would happen if there was a peaceful transition? If the NDP lead holds into August, the media will go into overdrive. Our electeds will reference the loons and refer to dangerous business investment climates in Canada.

  19. Barmitt O'Bamney

    Stupid Big Brother! You’re only supposed to be at war with Eastasia or Eurasia one at time, not both at once. While attacking one, you must befriend the other and profess the eternal bond between your peoples. Be hostile with China and ally with Russia. Or ally with China and be hostile with Russia. And freely switch love-hate partners as needed, but go to bed and to war with them one at a time. Taking on both at once is how you end up alone in an underground bunker with a pistol in your mouth. Orwell would be shocked today to see the staggering sophistication of the modern police-thought control state – and the drooling idiocy of its leadership.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I think the goal is to separate Russia and China. Samantha Powers might have the morality of Kissinger but not the intellect. Instead of further integration, the West is using sanctions and humiliation as well as out right slaughter which the Chinese and Russians are too smart to fall for. Obama is probably fuming that Putin hasn’t lashed out.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Speaking of the Chanel-suited Berkeley gals that unleash all of this fascism on the world, I happened to run into Susan Rice in the little airport at Chiang Mai, she was travelling with her girlfriend and obviously hoped no one recognized her. I rocked up and spoke truth to power, and it was immensely gratifying

    2. Sally

      I think China and Russia have come to the conclusion that if they stand alone America will take them out one at a time. Hence all the various deals they are signing.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        Right, and if they just keep “standing”, America will take itself out.

  20. Gaylord

    The forces of greed have taken over US society and will bring about its destruction. Prepare (mentally) for the worst.

  21. Synoia

    America’s grand strategy, its long-term blueprint for advancing national interests and countering major adversaries, is in total disarray.

    Not at all. America’s grand strategy is to imbed its profit seeking culture trans-nationally, as evidenced by TPP, TAP, and TISA.

    The strategy delivers rents to major corporations. It abandons any noting of neding “a people” or a “nation state” to exist.

  22. EoinW

    Like the gangsters who hijacked German democracy in the 1930s, America’s gangsters are motivated by one thing: hatred of anything different. We know how this ended for Germany a decade later.

    China, Iran, ISIS, Russia, Syria, the more the merry when it comes to enemies and generating fear. ISIS is really just a PR enemy. Iran is most likely the next hot spot because it’s that type of war that gang of NATO bullies thrives upon. For the sake of the rest of the world I hope China/Russia can act economically to bring us to our knees and put an end to our terrorism. The sooner they do act the more lives they’ll save.

  23. Henry

    The problem for the United states is that after the Cold War the focal point of its foreign policy was no longer relevant (the USSR). The ranks of the State Department and the think tanks were soon taken over by the Neocons, whose only interest was protecting and looking after the Interests of Israel. As they infested ever corner of the State Department and controlled the decision making process, every other aspect of foreign policy was neglected. Only situations that effected Israel were important or ever considered. Most of the people put in positions of power were there because of their rabid devotion to Israel. Today, the United States’ world foreign policy is floundering because of this hijacking of its foreign policy apparatus by the Neocons. The U.S. is paying the price on the world stage!

  24. Dao

    If you choose to make someone your enemy and take hostile actions, then it is very hard for that someone to be not your enemy.

  25. Paul Tioxon

    I am not sure how much Russia is really assessed as a threat other than for the pubic consumption of right wing think tanks position papers. It collapsed as the USSR and it has hardly recovered to be even a shadow of its former military self, much less an industrial, economic or energy exporter of 1st tier status. It had to buy naval ships from France, since it has no industrial capacity to build a real navy. And the ridiculous notions coming from Russian government officials about NATO, swallowed wholesale by otherwise educated Western observers are not that hard to comprehend. Non-Russian Europe, especially after the freeing of entire former nations from Soviet control, are in a process of becoming a part of unified Europe in fits and starts with the 3 necessary components of any civilization.

    The European Union, The Euro-Zone and Nato together are the civil society, the political economy and the military of a single nation state in a poorly formed set of treaties, competing authorities, legislative bodies, but still, moving towards what can best be articulated as a United States of Europe. As such, the USA will again be relatively less powerful because of the rising power of a sovereign unified European Nation of nations. As such, a unitary social order speaking with one voice, one set of policies, will be less influenced by the USA.

    The people who have the most problem with this is of course are Russian leaders. I witnessed an interview with the Russian government official on VICE being interviewed where he declared he had no idea why there is a Nato. Existential threat from Russia aside, whether as PR or minimally possible, the amalgamation of France, Spain, Italy, Germany and the rest of Europe, Poland, Romania etc into a nation will have its own unified military command, even if it is not called Nato and the US leaves Germany. Russia will have to face that united European entity, just as it faces the current mess of fragmented pieces of a incrementally constructed European Union with its Euro currency and Nato Command Structure. With or with the US Government on European soil with military bases, a nuclear armed Europe with an army, navy and air force will face Russia just as Russia faces the rest of the world with its own military. And when you are the largest nation on earth with a border from the Pacific touching China, Japan, the US as well as Western Europe, a dozen and half nations altogether, that all have armies, navies etc. it should not be seen as anything but the normal state of affairs for nations to have military force at their command.

    Russia is a smaller and weaker remainder of a failed USSR. If you think the USA has entered its decline, just how can you see a Russia in its current form as much as any kind of threat to the USA’s interests other than on a very much smaller scale and much more manageable than at any time during the Cold War. If anything meets the definition of competition for the world and the ability to project power, extract wealth and diminish our influence, it is China. That does not automatically mean war, although it usually has in the past with colliding empires. But the decline of the USA does not seem to be absolute but relative. This means that our ability to influence by diplomacy, threat of force or economic ties has not disappeared due to loss, but that other nations have built themselves up with a capacity to ignore demands from the USA. While the traditional sphere of influence of politics may assert itself with China that should be no surprise to the USA.

    In 1950, as the poorest nation in the world and barely 5 years since we dropped two A Bombs on Japan, the Chinese invaded N. Korea and went to war against the US Army, not the same men and machine that fought WWII, but still the reputation of the victors over Japan, with all of the heavy weaponry that they did not have that eventually ground their forces to pieces and drove them back. The Chinese, Mao, did not back down from confrontation. It was considered imperative to stand up to the USA, even when the Communists had barely consolidated their own power over all of China. That is a lesson an even wealthier and better equipped China has not forgotten. The misleading lies from the duplicitous General D. MacArthur should not be forgotten for dragging us into a war with China when it need not have happened at all. Lies from the military got us into a war with China in N Korea, Lies got us into a war in Viet Nam. Lies got us into a war with Iraq. What goddamn mess are the lies they are telling now going to get us into? The Chinese aren’t going to be dictated to 50 or 100 miles off into the Pacific from their shores, why should they? Diplomacy is called for. We have both built up to much real estate to just start bombing one another in a war. Very unlikely! We both trade with each and now, plan on expanding that trade with a newly expanded Panama Canal, that opens next year. Rivers up and down the East Coast have been dredged for over a decade in preparation. That is hardly the arms race of a classic military buildup.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Russia is a threat to arm sales. Why does a country need more than a F-16 type aircraft to deal with thugs? The answer is they don’t. If Russian anti-aircraft weaponry catches on, good bye F-35. No one will buy it. Computers, energy, specialized heavy industry, and agriculture are sectors Russia has been growing a represent a treat to U.S. profits.

      Versailles on the Potomac needs to prevent a Chinese trade empire through Russia and former Soviet states and protect our captured markets in this case NATO. If Russia isn’t a threat, why do we need NATO?

  26. Praedor

    Ugh. There has been no Russian aggression, no resurgence. Officially taking BACK the Crimea that Kruschev improperly simply gave to Ukraine in the 50s (done in a manner that no one would recognize as legit if done today) is not aggression. All the aggression was on the part of the US and NATO. The coup, an illegal coup, was driven by the US. The replacement government was literally hand-picked by the US. The entire operation was an attempt to drag the Ukraine and its huge farmlands and gas fields under US control. The FIRST item of business to pass after the US installed the coup government was to push through a deal to frack the fuck out of Eastern Ukraine. Monsanto and Con Agra have been drooling to take over the Ukraine’s farmlands so they can push GMOs into Europe one way or another. Behind it ALL was the US seeking to push the Russians out of their huge naval base in Crimea and, thus, push the Russians out of the Black Sea. THAT was the aggression. Russia responded properly and with more restraint than the US would if Russia pushed a coup in Mexico and selected the replacement government.

    Beyond that, there is absolutely NO sign of any “Russian Aggression(tm)” anywhere. All I see are countermoves by Russia to provocations and attempted coups by the US/NATO left and right. Consider, NATO started moving heavy weapons into border countries, in complete violation of previous agreements not to and when the Russians respond with literally modest balancing moves, it is all hair-on-fire AGGRESSION! Bullshit. What it is is Obama and the Deep State having a stroke over the fact that they cannot control Putin and Russia (and by extension China) the way they did Yeltson. Putin wont privatize everything and hand it all to US corporations. Putin wont accept the Washington rules and wont genuflect to the US. Boo-hoo. China wont either but China is so far up the US and West’s economies that they are virtually untouchable. Russia is NOT deeply entwined with the US/Western economies so it is an easier target, plus you get the “benefit” of creating out of nothing a New Threat(tm) to drive up “defense” spending and get the same old defense industries up and running full taxpayer dollars steam ahead. There is nothing else to drive any economy because financialization is a bust overall, the western economies can only limp from one downturn to the next so let’s see if a new Cold War can fire up a lively economy again…on pure debt, as usual.

    There’s no Russian aggression. None. Merely countermoves to US/NATO aggression.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      You sound like a Putin lover! Yaaarrgh!

      But in all seriousness, this is a repeat of the post 9/11 spending scams and nothing more. The money to train the “Syrian rebels” went somewhere. If it was spent on solar panels, the thieves couldn’t hide behind classified.

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