By Pierre Marshall and Robin Coleman
This post is an attempt at predicting the next moves of the world’s foremost imperialist power. As a disclaimer it shouldn’t be taken too seriously, instead it should be taken as our reflection on the balance of world power at the moment.
With the recent media storm surrounding the events in the DPRK it would seem as though it is inevitable that the US will be drawn into a conflict there sooner or later, however, North Korea doesn’t really fit the bill in terms of the kind of country that the US would choose to attack, given modern historical precedent. If we look at the pattern of conflicts where the US have been involved in the last 20 years we see resource motivated involvements in countries that are in what US foreign policy brainchild Zbigniew Brzezinski calls “the Eurasian Balkans” (Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia) as well as the air strikes on oil rich Libya. Whilst there were immediate political reasons for all of these military excursions, a closer study of American geostrategy reveals that these are secondary excuses to the main goal. Take the 1992 Defence Planning Guidance for instance – which formed the still dominant Wolfowitz foreign policy doctrine. In this now declassified document, it is admitted that
In the Middle East and Southwest Asia, our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region and preserve U.S. and Western access to the region’s oil.
It would be reasonable to apply that the same rule still applies. Likewise, the neo-conservative think-tank – Project for A New American Century, stated in the late 1990s that
While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Why should North Korea break the pattern? It does not – as far as we know – have a resource base significant enough to warrant military intervention on that reason alone. A war in the DPRK is not lucrative as a stand-alone endeavour, and should be therefore ruled out as the country that the USA would most likely choose to attack next. A more likely candidate is Iran, which was also mentioned in the same PNAC document that called for regime change in Iraq. The imperialist scholar and current Obama adviser Brzezinski, who we have already encountered, has identified the Eurasian Balkans as the bridgehead for 21st century conflict, an area he calls “the region of percolating violence”. Brezezinski has identified burgeoning demand for energy as the primary reason for the geostrategic importance of this area tomorrow. This is admitted fact, not wild speculation. A US-friendly Iran would also significantly encroach on the Sino-Russian sphere of influence in Central Asia.
The second candidate would probably be Syria. It’s placed in a strategic location where taking it would deny Russia its outlet to the Mediterranean, provide security for Israel in halting support for Palestine, and further isolate Iran in the region. A full intervention would likely be supported by the Arab monarchies (Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates) and of course Israel. The Syrian Arab Army is weakened by a holy war with the new mujahideen, a civil war with the ‘Free’ Syrian Army, and an emergent Kurdish separatist movement in the north. The country is vulnerable and I’m confident that a massive deployment of US troops and tanks would result in a swift military victory. However, at the moment the Syrian Arab Army is slowly winning the war, and the nationalism of the Syrian government still has some traction amongst the population. An invasion would certainly provoke the national sentiments of Syrian patriots to form a simmering resistance. While the US would win the war they would also have to deal with the multitude of ethnic, tribal and religious rivalries which have been exacerbated by conflict. The US is actually quite good at dealing with this kind of post-war low-intensity conflict situation, they’ve had a lot of experience with it in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has the advantage of creating the atmosphere of a full-scale war which justifies huge military spending without incurring unreasonable casualties.
So far we’ve been ticking down the unofficial Axis of Evil: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Iran, Syria, North Korea. Next down are Cuba, Zimbabwe, Belarus, Turkmenistan, Myannmar, Somalia, Eritrea, Russia, China, and most of Latin America. Now I’m going to deviate from this pattern and propose a new and significantly less likely situation, one in which the US intervenes in a European country.
I’d say that the current trend in Europe is one of decline, one in which the Euro crisis combined with neoliberal measures have created a fantastic economic collapse which is set to continue well into the next few years. The political response has been a polarisation of the political spectrum. In the Czech Republic communists have made impressive electoral gains, and I think such successes will be seen in other countries too. There is an emergent pan-European protest movement which, although leaderless and lacking direction nevertheless shows up strong social tensions. This protest movement would not have existed in the relatively stable years from 2003-2007 so what we are dealing with is a new thing. The downside of this is that the forces of the left have been met with a response from the right; the support for the Left Front in France was matched by an increase in votes for the National Front. In Greece the electoral gains of Syriza and the Communist Party of Greece were matched by a surge in popularity for Golden Dawn (a fascist party). In Hungary, the Netherlands, and even in Britain, populist far-right parties menace the legislatures as a shadowy ‘third force’. Communists are in a similar electoral position in Moldova.
So given this situation, lets think the unthinkable, imagine that one day a socialist government comes to power in one of the Western European states. Now take another mental leap, imagine if the Euro and the European Union collapses or undergoes some fundamental structural changes which exclude some countries and divide the European continent. One of the proclaimed aims of EU/NATO was to maintain a steady peace between the imperialist countries. In this hypothetical scenario I’ve described there would be no legal barrier to stop the remaining imperialist countries from fighting amongst each other, or worse forming together to crush the socialist and non-EU countries. The North Atlantic ocean is controlled by the USA on one side and Europe on the other. In case of a split in Europe the USA would need to intervene to keep control of the largest ocean, and therefore the world.
Another consideration is that while the US may remain the world’s leading imperialist power, it will not necessarily remain the world’s leading power in general. The rise of China as a world power has occurred without the aggressive military adventurism so characteristic of US behaviour. There’s a great potential here for a new cold war, one which is fought through cyber-attacks and covert destabilisation programs. The battlefield of this new war would not be the jungles of Vietnam but the trading floors of the world stock exchanges. It’s an interesting possibility.
Lastly I want to point out that the attention of the international community changes very quickly. This post was first written at the time of manufactured crisis on the Korean peninsula. Now South Korea and the USA are carrying out new military exercises and provocations against the North, the news remains silent. There was a major French/AFISMA offensive on Gao in Mali and the British media almost completely ignored it. The struggle of trade unions and other popular forces in Bahrain has long since been forgotten by the western press and Iran has also temporarily disappeared from our televisions. Tomorrow, next month, next year, there will be a new war and another rogue state to worry about. As for where the USA will attack next? I think your guess is as good as mine.