The world has just witnessed two intimately linked pivots made by the USA, the country that is the last in a long line of “leading Western imperialists”. The USA has just pivoted away from its so-called “War on Terror” and is now pivoting towards a New Cold War, this time against China.
It is a chilling prospect.
The USA had to scramble in undignified haste from Afghanistan, having lost a 20-year war against groups of Taliban insurgents. The USA thus pivoted away from its main focus on this supposed “War on Terror”. But, this caused immediate consternation amongst arms-producing capitalists in the USA. Until they were reassured – with even more “undignified haste” – that never mind, there are even bigger contracts coming up for grabs. And this is the second pivot.
We refer to the setting up of the new military alliance between the USA, Britain and Australia. It is called the horrible name: AUKUS. The alliance was welded together over the awarding of contracts for eight new US-built nuclear submarines at about $3 billion each, to be supplied to Australia. The UK’s role is, of course, minor. Boris Johnson, having steered the UK out of Europe found itself out in the Cold. The USA’s interest was to tie the UK into the alliance so that criticism of the USA breaching anti-nuclear-proliferation-treaty-obligations could later be borne on wider shoulders. This role for the UK is not new. Blair gave a bit of shoulder-widening for Bush’s totally illegal and utterly merciless war against, and occupation of, Iraq. Some things are too crude for the USA to get away with all on its own.
It is believed that the arms contracts that launch this new military alliance will go to one or both of the only shipbuilding companies in the U.S.A that can build nuclear submarines, General Dynamics and Huntington Ingalls, with sub-contracts out into the larger arms producing industries in the USA, with some crumbs falling from the table into the coffers of UK arms factory owners. The real crumbs-getters are the working people, doomed to no better place to work than in making the tools of war.
So, the hawks that had seemed to be retreating as the US forces fled Afghanistan, were only readying for a more hawkish geo-political strategy. And the crest-fallen arms producers and arms dealers could begin to smile again, almost at once.
They smile, even as the whole world becomes a much more dangerous place with all those arms.
President Biden has been outrageous in his constant attacks, Trump-like, against China. His main narrative is, in paraphrase, “China, you stay in your corner, because I’m coming for you!” The USA’s “corner” is everywhere.
The sudden springing on the world of this new Anglo-Saxon alliance based on a nuclear submarine deal in the Pacific Ocean provoked the immediate fury of China, its main target. Thus Biden successfully pivoting to a new Cold War. But being set up in indecent haste, there were unforeseen consequences. The USA-UK-Australia deal provoked the ire of France because it automatically cancelled billions of dollars of contracts France had with Australia to supply conventional submarines, and France was so furious for being blind-sided and tricked this way that it immediately withdrew its Ambassador and staff from Washington. This is the first time this has ever happened. There were sharp words for the USA from Germany and from the European union, itself, for having this whole new “thing” sprung on them, supposedly close allies who will no longer be treated like dirt, as they were by Trump. The New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promptly announced they will not allow the nuclear submarines in their waters, as they never do. President Joko Widodo immediately took the unprecedented step of actually dis-inviting Australia’s right-wing Prime Minister Scott Morrison from a state visit to Indonesia just days before Morrison was due to arrive.
So concerned was the UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres that he warned on the eve of Biden’s UN address that, “We need to avoid at all cost a Cold War that would be different from the past one, and probably more dangerous and more difficult to manage.”
At the UN General Assembly the next day, Biden said “we’re not seeking – I’ll say it again – we are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs.” Biden’s repetition calls for the reply: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” whether Biden is lord or lady. In any case, Biden had in the breath just before protesting too much in his double-denial given a perfect clue to his real intentions. It was a sentence copy-and-paste direct from the USA’s Cold War rhetoric of yesteryear, “We’ll stand up for our allies and our friends and oppose attempts by stronger countries to dominate weaker ones, whether through changes to territory by force, economic coercion, technological exploitation or disinformation.” In other words, Biden has declared a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs. Which is why he has to deny it twice. He has just made his stance clear as a bell. And he will soon be awarding contracts to US nuclear submarine builders to hot things up, reminding us that the Cold War was always potentially a hot one.
As Joe Biden was speaking at the UN, and pretending the USA was the greatest protector of human rights in the universe, his own border guards in Texas, riding horse-back, were whipping Haitian refugees, whipping them like so many cattle, trying to make them turn back to Mexico. It was sickening to behold. So much for human rights. As he was speaking at the UN about human rights for women in Afghanistan before unblocking Afghanistan’s sovereign funds, well-known American woman musician Britney Spears was going to Court to try to get out of her own downright “slavery” situation right in the middle of the United States. 13 years a slave. At the same time women in Texas, the federal courts now statute, are criminals if they seek abortions after 6 weeks – when most women would not even know they were pregnant – even in cases following rape or incest. So much for a country protecting women’s rights.
The hypocrisy is so flagrant. The USA, under Trump, recklessly broke the International Treaty with Iran, reducing it, in his words, to having been a mere “deal”, as if it were an arrangement between two mafias and not a binding multi-lateral international treaty. Anyway it was a Treaty that lifted crippling sanctions on Iran in exchange for Iran not to develop nuclear energy, just energy. Trump then re-applied the sanctions, even more crippling this time, and widened them to apply to any country that continued to respect the original International Treaty. The European countries should really have been warned about the nature of the US state. President Biden has not righted this wrong. But perpetuated it. And now this President Biden shares nuclear-propelled-arms with a country that does not have nuclear arms, clearly in breach of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Of course, neither Biden nor Morrison or Johnson have signed the Treaty for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, which none of the nuclear-weapons countries have so-far signed. This same President Biden is just now busy preparing to send more arms money later this year to Israel, which has nuclear arms in defiance of the non-proliferation treaty, even though the left-wing Democrats this past week bravely blocked the inclusion of this arms-money in the Bill granting finance to for general government expenditure.
All this to say that the Cold War, with its constant dangers, is back. Back with even more dangers on board. For example, a new Cold War can prevent the industrial countries – including the USA and China – coming to important agreements on limiting industrial pollution and deforestation that combine to cause climate change, massive health problems, more virus infections jumping across species, and possible multi-species- collapse.
Biden’s detonating of a new cold war is pivotal. It pivots to something truly awful to imagine.
One fine American commentator, William Rivers Pitt, reminds us, in a Truthout editorial of 23 September that AUKUS comes as the embodiment of the “pivot to Asia” that Obama promised when he was US President. Obama used already-very-hawkish language that was only made worse by Trump’s later attacks on trade with China and indeed racist attacks on China. Pitt compares the trigger for this New Cold War against China with the notorious moment of the start of the original Cold War against the Soviet union, which took the form a long telegram from US diplomat in Moscow, George Kennan, in February 1946. Remember that, at that time, the Soviet union was a US ally, and just five months before they waged war as Allies with a capital A, together against Nazi Germany. Kennan was asked by his bosses why the Soviet union was reluctant to join in setting up the IMF and World Bank. His answer could have been, say, that the USSR preferred institutions under multi-lateral control (like UNCTAD finally was). And frankly the IMF and World Bank, we now know, had such a disastrous history of wreaking havoc that Kennan might have said the USSR predicted it. Instead the diplomat came up with what he “thought” the USSR leadership “thought” about the world’s future, and then this pseudo-psycho-analytic gobbledygook, or poppycock if you will, then became the mainstay of American Cold War rhetoric from then on for 50 years. The long telegram included ludicrous terms like their enemy is “neurotic”, a “malignant parasite”, the “instinctive sense of insecurity” of Russians from time immemorial, and their supposed congenital “fear of more competent, more powerful, more highly organized societies”, and that the Soviets seek nothing other than “patient but deadly struggle” against others who are strong, and they are supposedly full of “great displays to impress outsiders.” McCarthyism then took this Cold War hysteria to a whole new level of witch-hunting on a scale that it is hard to forget. Since we are in the world of pseudo-psycho-analysis, we could say that all that Kennan rhetoric is mere “projection” on to the other what is true of the self.
But, on a more grave note. This awful AUKUS, with its ill-fated birth pangs and its massive arms contracts for American firms, bodes ill. As does the Cold War it is kicking off.
P.S. Why is it always nuclear submarines in these hideous deals? When the UK stole Chagos from Mauritius in the 1960s, and then ceded part of the stolen goods, Diego Garcia Island, to the USA for its enormous military base, the USA paid the UK in ... Polaris nuclear submarines. Which incidentally, when they are serviced on Diego Garcia breach the binding International Treaty for a Nuclear Arms Free Africa (Pelindaba Treaty). And talking of human rights, the UK and USA just literally banished all the people living on the whole of Chagos, forcibly removing them. And broke the UN Charter by splintering Mauritius as an illegal condition for Independence. Anyway the ICJ has now statuted that this was totally illegal, and that Chagos, including Diego Garcia, must at once be de-colonized and re-united with Mauritius. But, so far, might continues to be right. Only, it never can remain right forever.