Unsurprisingly, China’s military high command has escalated accordingly. They’ve advised their South China Sea Command to prepare for war, made their own set of provocative gestures in the South China Sea, and also threatened to invade Taiwan should the Trump administration change America’s longstanding “One China” policy.
From the Chinese point of view, all of this couldn’t be more logical, given that President Trump has also unleashed a “trade war” on Beijing’s markets and intensified his anti-China rhetoric. And all of this is, in turn, consistent with the Pentagon’s increasing militarization of the entire globe.
Would that it was only Africa, Asia, and Europe that Washington had chosen to militarize. But as Dr. Seuss might have said: that is not all, oh no, that is not all. In fact, more or less every square inch of our spinning planet not already occupied by a rival state has been deemed a militarized space to be contested. The U.S. has long been unique in the way it divided the entire surface of the globe into geographical (combatant) commands presided over by generals and admirals who functionally serve as regional Roman-style proconsuls.
And the Trump years are only accentuating this phenomenon. Take Latin America, which might normally be considered a non-threatening space for the U.S., though it is already under the gaze of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). Recently, however, having already threatened to “invade” Venezuela, President Trump spent the election campaign rousing his base on the claim that a desperate caravan of Central American refugees — hailing from countries the U.S. had a significant responsibility for destabilizing in the first place — was a literal “invasion” and so yet another military problem. As such, he ordered more than 5,000 troops (more than currently serve in Syria or Iraq) to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Though he is not the first to try to do so, he has also sought to militarize space and so create a possible fifth branch of the U.S. military, tentatively known as the Space Force. It makes sense. War has long been three dimensional, so why not bring U.S. militarism into the stratosphere, even as the U.S. Army is evidently training and preparing for a new cold war (no pun intended) with that ever-ready adversary, Russia, around the Arctic Circle.
If the world as we know it is going to end, it will either be thanks to the long-term threat of climate change or an absurd nuclear war. In both cases, Washington has been upping the ante and doubling down. On climate change, of course, the Trump administration seems intent on loading the atmosphere with ever more greenhouse gases. When it comes to nukes, rather than admit that they are unusable and seek to further downsize the bloated U.S. and Russian arsenals, that administration, like Obama’s, has committed itself to the investment of what could, in the end, be at least $1.6 trillion over three decades for the full-scale “modernization” of that arsenal. Any faintly rational set of actors would long ago have accepted that nuclear war is unwinnable and a formula for mass human extinction. As it happens, though, we’re not dealing with rational actors but with a defense establishment that considers it a prudent move to withdraw from the Cold War era Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia.
And that ends our tour of the U.S. military’s version of Planet Earth. It is often said that, in an Orwellian sense, every nation needs an enemy to unite and discipline its population. Still, the U.S. must stand alone in history as the only country to militarize the whole globe (with space thrown in) in preparation for taking on just about anyone. Now, that’s exceptional.
Modified from Tomdispatch