The DSA Anti-War Think issued a call for submissions in response to the U.S. national security/defense strategy documents. The following are the first pieces to come in. They have not been edited and the publication of their remarks is not an endorsement of any writer’s point of view. Please submit here by May 1st to participate in this conversation.
R.L. Stephens, DSA National Political Committee & Director of the DSA Anti-War Think Tank
The recently unveiled National Defense Strategy by the Department of Defense contains a number of alarming and deeply disturbing components. Penned by war criminal and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, most of the document contains empty platitudes, saber rattling, and pseudo-philosophical rhetoric in an attempt to provide intellectual credibility to the war department. Yet beneath all of this exists an attempt to manufacture the justification for more war, in addition to prolonging the endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Of course, the 2018 National Defense Strategy poses serious questions for active duty military personnel and veterans alike. The so-called Global War on Terrorism ushered in an endless bloodlust of violence in the Middle East and South and Central Asia. As the scope of US imperialism has slowly crept into Africa and other parts of the Middle East, the new National Defense Strategy seeks to expand US hegemony even further across the globe.
There is no question that for the past few years, active duty soldiers have been continually primed for wars in Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. Field grade officers and senior NCOs will often inform younger personnel that they need to be ready to brave the ‘Ukrainian forests’ to vanquish Russian foes. Other times there will be war games that theorize the invasion of North Korea. A good number of the war games carried out by initial entry trainees, cadets, and active duty personnel alike see them up against the ‘Arianians;’ perhaps the most obvious cipher of recent memory.
Each and every one of those involved in this imperial war process has no value to the chain of command other than being another body in formation. Those in power merely see cattle, ready to be marched to the next profitable slaughter.
Although the official strategy remains classified, the unclassified synopsis clearly states that “[i]nter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.” In short, the United States seeks to encroach, antagonize, and invade other nation states in order to expand their imperialist presence across the globe.
According to the DOD, the perceived threats to United States hegemony comprise three general categories: “strategic competitors,” “rogue regimes,” and “terrorist threats.” Mattis categorizes China and Russia as the first, North Korea and Iran as the second, and various factions in the Middle East and South Asia, e.g. ISIS, al-Qaeda, et al. as the latter.
In keeping with the DOD’s abject lack of self-awareness, those above categories are the result of various accusations: China using “predatory economics,” Russia’s “[violation] of the borders of nearby nations,” the DPRK’s “outlaw actions and reckless rhetoric, and Iran continuing to “sow violence” in its attempts to undermine “Middle East stability.” Any rudimentary analysis of U.S. foreign policy would demonstrate that the claims laid against other nation states are the actions of the U.S. itself, in its unbridled imperialist aggression.
As socialists, we must be prepared to not only oppose such imperialist aggression, but also provide a counter strategy of our own, in order to secure the livelihood and material dignity of our comrades, here and across the world. By understanding and resolving the contradictions of the DOD’s national defense strategy, we as socialists can more effectively challenge the narrative peddled by the United States government, and grind the imperialist war machine to a halt.
Many veterans of the past 16 years have displayed the moral courage and fortitude to resist the military’s imperialist ventures in the Middle East. Now more than ever, veterans and dissident military personnel must reject the ambitions of a ruling class which seeks to grind their bodies into further profit. Yet, the scope of resistance is not limited to the United States. American resistors must learn and follow the example of those occupied, terrorized, and brutalized by the United States military. Committing to an internationalist antiwar movement is a revolutionary imperative, and a moral necessity. Humanity depends on it.
Army Veteran & DSA
US hegemony and the fall of US empire should be a part of, but not all of what a good anti-war movement situates itself in opposition to. Simply opposing ‘regime change’ rather than the imperialist/military interests of a brutal, global capitalist class is a losing strategy for an international antiwar movement. We need to oppose the economic conditions that necessitate war, which prompt men and women to enlist in an imperialist military and that devastate the working poor in other countries.
Greater Baltimore DSA
In response to the potential question “If the ‘War on Terror’ is no longer primary, does that mean it was/is lost? What was the so-called War on Terror in the first place?”, I feel there is much more to be said about the latter half than the former.
Reason being, making a conflict “no longer primary” is a way of dodging a definite win/lose ultimatum entirely. We can’t claim a definite victory against global jihadism with a straight face, but we also don’t want to admit that the war we declared because of 9/11 has been a total disaster… so the “War on Terror” will continue indefinitely as background noise while other issues get more attention. The closest situation I can compare this to, is when a detective in charge of a cold case tells grieving family members that the investigation is still “open and ongoing” even though it’s at a complete dead-end and he’s moved on to other cases.
But the real question is what the “War on Terror” was in the first place. At least, what it hypothetically was supposed to be and what the American people have been told from Day One that it is. The specific aim of the “War on Terror” was to eliminate Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but this quickly was expanded to a broader objective of fighting Islamic extremism and global jihadism (which is much bigger than just Al-Qaeda and the Taliban).
To be clear, combating religious extremism and ensuring lunatics (of any religion) don’t carry out attacks on innocent people is certainly a noble mission to undertake… the problem is that the US government doesn’t really seem to be serious about stopping the spread of extreme religious ideology. It’s merely an excuse they use to achieve other objectives the general public isn’t normally privy to.
If the US and its allies were genuinely interested in stopping radical versions of the Islamic faith from spreading, Saudi Arabia wouldn’t be an “ally”. Saudi Arabia funds radical madrasas around the world which train Sunni jihadists, and promote a very extreme (and relatively new) version of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism. That Saudi Arabia is considered a US ally despite this, is a testament to how hollow the promise of fighting jihadism around the world really is.
I would love to see the DSA push for an end to the US’s relationship with the Saudi government. And not only should we end our relationship with the Saudis for moral reasons related to opposition to theocracy and terrorism, but also because as a nation we should strive to make the change from oil to alternative energy sources. DSA could argue that the US-Saudi relationship affects the issues of terrorism and environmental responsibility in very negative ways.
Karl Kautsky once noted that, “What Marx said of capitalism can also be applied to imperialism: monopoly creates competition and competition monopoly.” The unipolar balance of power in the international system after the end of the Cold War led to abuses by the US and its allies and resentment by much of the rest of the world. Despite the hubris associated with the American quest for “full spectrum dominance” its actual capabilities fell far short of those required to maintain its hegemonic position. This gap between necessity and capability led to openings that were seized by the so-called revisionist powers, who were compelled by the structure of the international system to behave in accordance with the very same imperial logic. Monopoly creates competition, and thus we are now living in a period of imperialist competition.
However, we shouldn’t overstate the parallels between 2018 and 1914. After WW2 the US constructed a system of international institutions (the UN, Bretton Woods, etc.) that came to encompass the entire world. While made to ensure US predominance, these institutions serve to facilitate diplomacy, coordinate trade, and bind together all the countries of the world. The so-called revisionist powers are now as invested in this system as the US, and to the extent that they seek revision they seek reform and/or reorganization of these institutions in their favor rather than their wholesale abandonment.
Because of this institutional mediation we are unlikely to see direct inter-imperialist war for the foreseeable future. What we are seeing already, however, is a series of proxy wars and interventions sparked by the possibility of certain countries moving from one nation’s orbit to another (Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, Georgia, etc.)
This leaves us with many responsibilities and opportunities as socialists. Theoretically, the decline of unipolarity means we must definitively abandon crude campism and embrace a new understanding of imperialism as being rooted in the logic of the international system and not the unique evil of one country. Practically, we need to rebuild the antiwar movement in the US. This can be done by incorporating a guns-or-butter angle in all of our domestic work, developing stronger rapid response networks in all of our chapters, and building an international association of leftist parties organizations that can succeed where the second international failed.
Finally, the decline of US hegemony poses a mortal danger to myths of American exceptionalism. This implies incredible risks as our government will struggle violently against such a decline, but if we can manage that decline by effectively restraining national security elites we may be able to fundamentally reshape our national self-concept in such a way as to tremendously improve our prospects for socialist transformation.