Current US Hegemony In Asia Pacific by Bobby Tuazon
Peace Researcher 28 – December 2003
This is based on a paper bearing the same title that was first read in a Power Point presentation during a Workshop on Asia-Pacific, sponsored by Bayan and the International League for Peoples' Struggle, at the Conference on War and Globalisation on March 1, 2003, held at the School of Economics, University of the Philippines, Quezon City, Philippines. The conference was sponsored by IBON Foundation. Bobby Tuazon works at the Center for Anti-Imperialist Studies. It was written during the build up to the Iraq War.
Over the past two decades particularly after the fall of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European revisionist bloc of countries, the United States has waged wars and covert operations in many countries. Unlike during the 40-year Cold War when such actions had to contend with impediments arising from the Soviet veto power in the United Nations and by the existence of strong liberation movements, the recent years saw the United States displaying its unipolar power with arrogance and self-righteousness.
We have seen this, for instance, in its wars against Afghanistan and Iraq where President George Bush, the Pentagon and the State Department have time and again declared or hinted that they will not be bound by international law, by institutions like the United Nations, or by world public opinion including appeals by Pope John Paul II and the former South African President, Nelson Mandela, as they decided the fate of Iraq in the pretext of disarming Saddam Hussein's regime of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). And as the whole world knows, not one single WND has been found in Iraq by the US and its fellow colonisers. Ed.
To a growing number of people in the world today, however, it is clear who the greatest threat to international peace and security is. Eight out of ten Americans, according to a recent Time magazine poll, see the US as the world's greatest threat. Very distant second and third are North Korea and Iraq, respectively.
Many people, whether here at home or abroad, ask what really drove George Bush and other superhawks in their tenacity and arrogance to attack a nation of 26 million who continued to suffer the effects of the 1990-1991 Gulf War, years of economic sanctions and deprivation and continuous bombings despite fruitless calls from UN members to stop what appeared to be an insane war. A former Justice Minister of Germany likened Bush to Adolf Hitler. Nelson Mandela doubts that Bush can think coherently. These are of course remarks by leaders meant to warn the world about a cowboy and a Rambo gone berserk.
There is no question that the war on Iraq had another agenda to it, which is in relation to the control of oil and the perpetuation of American hegemony and world domination.
I will not dwell on the economics of the US war on Iraq and instead share some insights related to the greed of the Bush Administration to perpetuate American hegemony and world domination. First of all, the US war on Iraq, dubbed as the continuing "War On Terror," is part of a coherent world strategy that was conceived more than ten years ago.
Roots Of The Grand Strategy
The Bush regime's grand strategy for domination and hegemony of the world extends beyond the "War On Terror". This ambitious strategy can be traced in: the Defense Policy Guidance (DPG) of 1992 and the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), founded in 1997.
The DEFENSE POLICY GUIDANCE of 1992 is a top secret blueprint for world domination prepared by the Department of Defense (DoD), of then US President George Bush, Senior. Its vision is a world dominated by the unilateral use of US military power to ensure Pax Americana; to assert the US national interest; and prevent the rise of any possible power competitor for the future.
DPG particularly stresses that America will not be bound to its partners and to international laws and institutions while it stresses a more unilateral and pre-emptive role in attacking its perceived enemies (terrorist threats and confronting rogue states seeking weapons of mass destruction or WMDs).
The blueprint also says that a war on terrorism must be launched. This war to be launched by the American Empire must be seen as a façade and just a part of a bigger strategy of projecting US military power around the world, especially Eurasia, and cutting loose the multilateral bonds that have constrained Washington's freedom of action and power.
The PROJECT FOR A NEW AMERICAN CENTURY (PNAC, 1997), on the other hand, envisions to consolidate and preserve Pax Americana through the 21st Century primarily by military power/hegemony and secondarily, by economic hegemony. In other words, to create a truly global empire by military force. "At no time in history has the international security order been as conducive to American interests and ideals. The challenge of this coming century is to preserve and enhance this 'American peace,'" its vision partly says.
In 2000, an election year in the United States, the men behind PNAC came up with a report, "Rebuilding America's Defenses - Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century". Its authors acknowledged that the paper was based on the 1992 DPG.
Four Core Missions
The "Rebuilding" report has Four Core Missions for US military forces:
* Defend the American homeland;
* Fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars;
* Perform the "constabulary" duties associated with shaping the security environment in critical regions;
* Transform US forces to exploit the "revolution in military affairs".
To carry out the Four Core Missions, the United States must:
* Maintain nuclear strategic superiority globally;
* Increase active-duty strength of today's force from 1.4 million to 1.6 million;
* Reposition US forces by shifting permanently-based forces to Southeast Europe and Southeast Asia, and by changing naval deployment patterns to reflect growing US strategic interests in East Asia;
* Modernise current US forces selectively (such as sending more attack submarines to Asia; more electronic support, helicopters and aircraft for the Marine Corps);
* Develop and deploy global missile defences in order to provide a secure basis for US power projection around the world;
* Control the new "international commons" of space and "cyberspace" and pave the way for the creation of a new military service - US Space Forces - with the mission of space control;
* Exploit the "Revolution in Military Affairs" (RMA)
* Increase defence spending gradually to a minimum level of 3.5% to 3.8% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), adding $US15 billion to $US20 billion to total defence spending annually.
Specifically, the PNAC project also advocates:
* A much larger military presence spread over more of the globe, in addition to the roughly 140 nations in which US troops are already deployed;
* The US needs more permanent military bases in the Middle East, Southeast Europe, Latin America and in Southeast Asia (where no such bases exist);
* The US will consider developing biological weapons in decades to come;
* Iraq is just the beginning, a pretence for a wider conflict (probably more "regime removals") in the Middle East;
* In Iraq, according to PNAC co-chair Donald Kagan, the US will establish permanent military bases in a post-war Iraq. "We will probably need a major concentration of forces in the Middle East over a long period of time...If we have force in Iraq, there will be no disruption in oil supplies".
* Pinpoints Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Syria and Iran as "dangerous regimes".
The Brains Behind DPG & PNAC
DEFENSE POLICY GUIDANCE (1992):
* Defense Secretary Dick Cheney (now Bush's Vice President)
* Paul Wolfowitz (now US Deputy Secretary of Defense)
* I Lewis Libby (now Dick Cheney's chief of staff)
PROJECT FOR A NEW AMERICAN CENTURY (1997) Founding Members:
* Dick Cheney (now US Vice President)
* Donald Rumsfeld (now Bush's Secretary of Defense)
* Paul Wolfowitz (PNAC's ideologue, now Defense Deputy Secretary)
* Condoleeza Rice (now Bush's National Security Adviser)
* Zalmay Khalilzad (an Afghan Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] asset became senior director of the National Security Council; now Bush's special envoy in Kabul to follow up oil pipeline project)
* Jeb Bush (brother of George and now Governor of Florida)
* John Bolton (now Under Secretary of State)
* Stephen Cambone (now head of Pentagon's Office of Program, Analysis and Evaluation)
* Eliot Cohen & Devon Cross (now members of Defense Policy Board, which advises Rumsfeld)
* Dov Zakheim (now Comptroller for the Defense Department)
* Bruce Jackson (now with Lockheed Martin, a major defence contractor)
* William Kristol (of the conservative Weekly Standard which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, owner of international media giant Fox News and a leading supporter of the war against Iraq)
* Donald Kagan (also ideologue, now co-chairs PNAC)
Some of the DPG and PNAC men are old Asia hands, i.e., those who have advocated a more aggressive and militarily-oriented US hegemony in Asia including Southeast Asia. The men behind DPG and PNAC, led by Bush himself, lead the elite circle of 100 powerful men who occupy the top positions of the US government bringing with them their connections to the oil industry and the military-industrial complex.
PNAC, meanwhile, gave birth to the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which funded anti-Saddam opposition and heir presumptive, Ahmed Chalabi (an Enron-like businessman wanted by Jordan for bank fraud).
For more on Chalabi, read Foreign Control Watchdog 102, May 2003; “Stop Thief: Sadly It’s A Common Story. A Desperate Addict Turns To A Life Of Crime”, by Murray Horton. It can be read at http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/02/06.htm. For more on Rupert Murdoch’s support for the Iraq War, read Watchdog 103, August 2003; “Who Owns New Zealand’s News Media? Can We Afford To Let Them Own Our News?”, by Bill Rosenberg. This can be read online at http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/03/07.htm Ed.
PNAC is staffed by men linked to groups like Friends of the Democratic Center in Central America which backed the US's bloody covert operations in Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 1980s; and the Committee for the Present Danger, which during the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan pushed for a "winnable" nuclear war with the former Soviet Union.
Bush's Strategies And Doctrines
When George Bush took over as President of the United States in 2001, the DPG and PNAC became a reality. Translating the two blueprints for US global hegemony and domination in just two years of his presidency, Bush defined his government's military strategies and doctrines:
* National Security Strategy (NSS, September 17, 2002)
* Pre-Emptive Doctrine (June 2002, West Point speech)
* Nuclear Posture Review (January 2002)
* Quadrennial Defense Review of 2001 (September 30, 2001)
* Theory of Less Casualties, New Weapons Technology and the Training of Surrogate Armies
* Unilateralism and the Manipulation of Temporary Coalitions
* Regime Change or Regime Removal
Basically, the Bush regime's world strategies and military doctrines assert American internationalism (spreading America's "democratic values" throughout the world) and unilateralism in which the United States will not be bound by international law and global institutions or by invocations of national sovereignty and territorial integrity; warn against potential competitors who intend to challenge American unipolar power; the acquisition of more bases and military stations beyond Western Europe and Northeast Asia; the right of the US to strike first against security threats (pre-emptive doctrine) under which the US is justified to use nuclear weapons; increase America's forward deployed forces and the conduct of more military trainings and joint war exercises.
America's Economic, Geopolitical And Military Interests In Asia Pacific
For more than a century, America has considered itself the dominant hegemonic Power in Asia Pacific, having conquered American Samoa, Hawaii, Guam and the Philippines and invaded China to repress the 1900 Boxer Rebellion; it has also fought three major wars in Asia Vietnam, Korea and the Pacific War of World War 2. US trade with Asia Pacific surpasses that with Europe, with more than $US500 billion in trade and investment of more than $US150 billion. About 400,000 US non-military citizens live and conduct business in the region.
Meanwhile, SOUTHEAST ASIA (population: 525 million) has a combined Gross National Product (GNP) of $US700 billion and is America's fifth largest trading partner and $US35 billion direct investment (1998) in the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore; most of Fortune's Top 500 transnational corporations (TNCs) have significant interests in the region. There are vast oil and gas reserves in Indonesia and Brunei; as well as in Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.
To the United States, furthermore, Southeast Asia is "a place of great geopolitical consequence" because it sits astride some of the world's most critical sea lanes. According to the Council on Foreign Relations which advises Bush, more than $US1.3 trillion in merchandise trade passed through the Straits of Malacca and Lombok in 1999 (nearly half of the world trade) including crucial supplies from the Persian Gulf to Japan, South Korea and China. The South China Sea, particularly the Spratly and Paracel island groups, are believed to have significant oil reserves".
These sea lanes are a strategic part of the network of oil extraction, production and distribution which is being consolidated by the United States linking the Caspian and Gulf regions, Asian oil and natural gas fields and markets and the American mainland.
Bush Regime Strategic Thinkers/Advisers/Power Players Specialising In Asia Pacific
* RAND Corporation (funded by Pentagon particularly US Air Force; formerly chaired by Donald Rumsfeld with Zalmay Khalilzad as senior consultant);
* Council on Foreign Relations;
* Center for Security Policy (which is also identified with Rumsfeld) - headed by Frank J Gaffney Junior with eight top chief executive officers [CEOs] from defence contractors on its board);
* Carlyle Group (headed by Frank Carlucci, ex-Deputy Director of CIA and former Defense Secretary of Reagan; with former US President, George Bush Senior, and former Philippine President, Fidel Ramos, as Asian advisers). Carlyle is actually the US's 11th largest defence contractor with significant interests in Asia;
* Heritage Foundation (official Rightwing think tank of the Republican Party)
In 2001, RAND came up with a report, "The United States and Asia: Toward a New US Strategy and Force Posture" (Lead Author: Zalmay Khalilzad). This report recommends shifting US forces toward the Philippines, Guam, Southeast Asia and other countries close to Taiwan.
A year earlier, this think tank in a report, "The Role of Southeast Asia in US Strategy Toward China," also stressed that China's emergence as a major regional power over the next 10-15 years could intensify US-China competition in Southeast Asia and increase the potential for armed conflict. "Economic growth in the region, which is important to the economic security of the US, depends on preserving American presence and influence in the region and unrestricted access to sea lanes," RAND said.
The COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS, on the other hand, in a Memorandum to Bush in May 2001 ("The US and Southeast Asia: A Policy Agenda for the New Administration") argued for a more assertive US military stance in the region: "The (Bush) Administration should preserve a credible military presence and a viable regional training and support infrastructure" specifying "high-priority efforts" in the areas of "joint and combined military training exercises and individual and small group exchanges and training".
The HERITAGE FOUNDATION also said that the "war against terrorism" would ultimately be pursued in Southeast Asia with or without the express approval of local governments.
Again, PNAC envisions some specific operative plans for Asia Pacific:
* In Asia, deploying more troops to beef up the presence of 100,000 US forces to address new challenges for the 21st Century;
* Key to coping with the rise of China to great-power status is the increase in military strength in East Asia and Southeast Asia;
* A heightened US military presence in Southeast Asia will provide the core around which a de facto military coalition (a la the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation [NATO]) will be formed;
* Reduce the frequency of aircraft carrier presence in the Mediterranean and the Gulf while increasing US Navy presence in the Pacific;
* For this reason, it is preferable, for strategic and operational reasons, to create a second major home port for a carrier battle group in the southern Pacific - in the Philippines or Australia;
* Establish a network of "deployment bases" or "forward operating bases" to improve the ability to project force to outlying regions. Prepositioned materiel would speed the initial deployment and improve the sustainability of US forces when deployed for training, joint training with the host nation, or operations in time of crisis. (e.g. the Military Logistics Supply Agreement, between the US and the Philippines).
The CARLYLE GROUP, which is worth $US13.5 billion, a private empire which operates in the shadows of government, military and industry and spans three continents including Asia; owns companies making tanks, aircraft wings and other military hardware.
In the company are former US President George Bush Senior (head of the Asia advisory board); former British Prime Minister John Major; Frank Carlucci, who was President Reagan's Defense Secretary; former Philippines President Fidel Ramos (Asia advisory board); and other world leaders.
Carlyle has large investments and big acquisitions in South Korea, Taiwan and China. Carlyle has a $US4 million infrastructure project in the southern Philippine island of Basilan, part of the joint US/Philippine military exercise, Balikatan 02-1.
At this point, let me summarise that most public declarations and policy statements made by the US government emphasise that the targets of America's current security objectives are to prevent the rise of a regional hegemonic Power like China, "regime change" in North Korea for possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), to wage war against "transnational terrorism" and insurgencies and other security threats.
But the secret reports, security strategies and doctrines of the US government that give emphasis on the use of military power reveal beyond reasonable doubt that the main objective is to consolidate and preserve US hegemony and domination in Asia Pacific and the whole world. The objective is to prolong Pax Americana through the 21st Century.
Current US Hegemonic Operations In Asia-Pacific
* US maintains the largest military command here (US Pacific Command [PACOM]). PACOM interacts with the armed forces of 14 of Asia Pacific's 45 countries;
* The number of US troops on land and afloat in the region has surpassed those forward deployed in Europe: 100,000 troops are based in Japan (60,000) and South Korea (37,000), with the rest in Guam, afloat or on various attachments.
* US-Japan alliance - the lynchpin of US security in the region, with Japan playing an increasingly aggressive role;
* Bilateral military alliances with Australia, Thailand and the Philippines; reinforced by access or basing agreements with Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka;
* A stronger military partnership with Australia;
* New strategic partnership with India and Pakistan;
* Plan to reinstall its military bases in Southeast Asia (either in the Philippines, Vietnam, Australia, Indonesia or Singapore)
* Laying the ground for a regional military alliance or treaty in the guise of fighting terrorism
The September 11, 2001 events, which ignited Bush's "war without borders" (or "Operation Enduring Freedom") were seized upon by Bush to reverse the decline of the US military presence in Asia Pacific and to aggressively assert US hegemonic interests. They:
- Opened the "second front" in Bush's "war without borders" using the Philippines as a template (or model) for greater military presence and power projection in the region. The Philippines will serve as the epicentre in the new US military strategy in the circumference of Asia Pacific.
- Increased military aid to Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines and other countries; increased arms sales;
- Increased military training and funds to support these;
- Increased "forward deployed forces" and enhanced their capability through the deployment of Special Operations Forces, covert operations, war materiel and other equipment;
- Launched offensive moves against North Korea, hastened plan to build a missile defence system in the Korean Peninsula.
US hegemony in Asia Pacific is a reality and is the concrete expression of an American Empire that is undergoing consolidation with a vision that will last through the 21st Century.
I submit that the debate on whether there is really US imperialism or a global American Empire should now be put to rest. In the United States itself, there is a growing advocacy or acceptance even in many conservative circles, institutions, think tanks, universities and media that there is indeed an American Empire. The only distinction which they want the world to believe is that, unlike empires in past centuries, this American Empire is "benign" and "benevolent" and is performing a role which no other nation can in order to preserve "democracy and freedom" across the globe and resist threats posed by "evils," "rogue regimes" and forces of radicalism.
But this American Empire is something the American people themselves loathe simply because they also suffer under the rule of the US oligarchs and their freedoms and civil liberties continue to be threatened. It is an empire imposed upon the world by America's ruling regime on behalf of corporate giants, the military-industrial-media complex, oil oligarchs and other elite interests. It is an empire that is supported by Rightwing power players, militarists, free market ideologues, Jewish neo-conservatives, leaders of the Christian and Catholic Right and anti-socialists. Under Bush the military-industrial complex is no longer invisible - it has become the most visible, most articulate and most aggressive driving force behind America's wars for world hegemony and domination today.
In order to preserve the American Empire that will rule the world for as long as can be sustained, the strategists and politico-military leaders of this grand project are more and more relying on the use of military power precisely because America's economic power is on the decline. America's Rightwing leaders and militarists believe that economic impositions through the instruments of the Bretton Woods institutions (the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade-World Trade Organisation) no longer suffice to preserve American hegemony and domination of the world. With arrogance and self-righteousness, they believe that the American Empire cannot exist under current international law, ethical concepts, multilateralism and global institutions like the United Nations because of the constraints and impediments that these pose on America's will and action. To them, concepts of national sovereignty, territorial integrity, self-determination and dignity are just concepts best learned only in school. To them, the concept of Pax Americana should be asserted through unipolar military superiority, warlordism, aggression, moral absolutism and a global ideological offensive using US media oligopolies. Their ideological offensive centres on drumming up an apocalyptic conflict between "Good and Evil".
It is clear how this strategy is being applied in Asia Pacific and across the globe under the Bush Administration and I personally do not see any change coming even if Bush is no longer President of the United States. Using the pretext of "war against terrorism" and other so-called threats to the security of the region, the US government is increasingly and steadily deploying its forces, rebuilding its military bases, securing stronger and more reliable military alliances and security partnerships, gaining more access to ports, airfields and air spaces. But soon the combat missions that we now see in the Philippines, particularly in Mindanao, will be replicated throughout the Philippines, in Southeast Asia and other parts of the Asia Pacific. America's objective in Asia Pacific is to maintain a strong military power never seen before in the entire history of the region.
US military power in the region addresses the American Empire's strategic objectives to contain the rise of power competitors such as - but not limited to - China, and deter the growth of other threats to its hegemony including revolutionary movements and the rise of independent regimes.
Because Asia Pacific is a vast mass of land and sea territory with huge economic and geopolitical potentials, and because it is contiguous to the American mainland and its Pacific territories, this region remains of strategic interest to the United States. Without a strong power projection in Asia Pacific, America's drive for global hegemony and domination will be threatened.
To the peoples of Asia Pacific however the threat to their independence and security is and will always be US imperialism. So much blood has been spilled because of US imperialism, which has been asserting itself here for more than a century. The independence, sovereignty, freedom, self-determination and economic growth of many nations - including the possible reunification of countries divided by post-WW2 US intervention in the region - are always threatened because of US imperialism. Tensions and instabilities particularly in the Korean Peninsula, between China and Taiwan, and other hot spots in the region are heightened because of US interventionism.
But, just as the previous world wars led to the rise of independence and liberation movements throughout the world, the US "war on terrorism" has led to the reawakening of the peoples of Asia Pacific to the real threat to humanity. More and more peoples are standing up against US imperialism. Especially in Muslim countries, the "war against terrorism" is beginning to appear as a war against the world particularly against Muslims who oppose foreign domination. Today, the more US imperialism displays its arrogance and military power, the more resistance it will generate.
George Bush has declared a "war against terrorism" - a "war without borders" and without time limit. This, he said, is America's "war of the century." Let us instead turn America's "war of the century" into the "Century's War Against US Imperialism".