Gearing up for war on the world’s poor By William Bowles

17 December 2003

The UK government has just issued a White Paper on the reorganisation of the armed forces. It advocates a complete transformation of British military power in what can best be described as a mini ‘Project for the New American Century’. Geoff Hoon, the Minister of Defence has made it quite clear that the UK will perform a subsidiary role to the US, as the reorganisation will make UK military forces compatible on a technological level with US armed forces. Much as the Roman Empire had foreign armies on its payroll, in a pale parody of the British Empire of old, Blair’s ‘new’ imperialist army will no doubt perform in those areas of the world where the US imperium dares not set its hi-tech feet.

Under the guise of the ‘war on terror’ the UK will be able to project a:

“…much wider range of expeditionary tasks at a greater range from the UK and at an ever-increasing tempo” – Geoff Hoon

An indication of the kind of thinking of the ‘new imperialism’ is the headline used in the Independent (12/12/03 p. 4) to describe this new ‘smarter’ military that Hoon envisages:

“Slimmed and sophisticated new Army will make the UK the alpha male of Europe”
Christopher Bellamy, professor of military science and doctrine at Cranfield University

Ugh! Alpha male? Whose the monkey masturbating in this troop? How self-delusionary and ugly in mind and spirit these new centurians are when they expose themselves to public view.

It illustrates, in yet another irony of the post-Soviet period, of a return to the empire of old. No longer faced with the ‘Soviet threat’, it reveals that the projection of military force is clearly designed to target the countries of the former colonies, in other words the poor countries of the world, who are now potentially the 70 states that Bush has spoken of who pose a potential threat to the US hegemon.

Note too the use of the word “expeditionary” as an echo of the colonial period, when relatively small forces were needed in order to ‘pacify the natives’ across the globe but now, instead of the Marines and their muskets, it will be attack helicopters and satellite-guided weapons, all backed up with a global security apparatus of interlocked information systems.

It reveals the real reasons why attacks on civil liberties and the attempts to impose a global surveillance system are being created. Without total control over movements and knowledge about people, their beliefs and attitudes, imposing the imperium’s control will be difficult if not impossible to carry out. It reveals too that the imperium’s most dangerous enemy are its own populations!

In addition, there are two important issues involved here, the first of which is the degree to which the imperium can rely on its troops to be effective as a global ‘police force’ for the imperium. Much will depend on the level of casualties sustained and the degree to which the metropolitan populations will support such a strategy. The second is the strategy of privatising the armed forces (in yet another echo of an earlier age). It has been calculated that there are at least 20,000 ‘private military contractors’ operating in Iraq used to protect US assets as well as Iraqi collaborators. A tactic that had already been tested in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Clearly Iraq is being used as an experimental proving ground for the new imperial strategy in much the same way that Vietnam was used in an earlier period. The run-up to the current strategy included the invasions of Grenada, Somalia and Panama but where opposition was either minimal or effectively non-existent.

But will such a reorganisation of military force be any more successful than those used in Vietnam or currently in Iraq? If the experience of Iraq is anything to go by, the real problem resides not in the ability to achieve military superiority but in the ability to ‘pacify’ the unfortunate recipients of Western ‘democracy’ once the central state has been destroyed. Moreover, there are real limits to the use of this kind of power that again the Iraq experience has exposed.

As with all wars whether of the conventional or the new kind, fighting wars on several fronts is simply impossible unless sufficient forces can be mustered. And already, even those countries who on paper at least, count themselves as part of the ‘coalition of willing’ have shown they have no stomach for engagement once they start suffering even the most minimal number of casualties. Once more it’s the resistance on the part of the metropolitan populations that will be the deciding factor in the degree to which the imperium can bribe and blackmail countries to go along with its bankrupt strategy.

Unlike the earlier periods of imperial and colonial expansion – and even though an increasing army of unemployed people can be induced into joining a ‘volunteer’ army – will the imperium be able to pursuade them to go to war on behalf of the Halliburtons and Exxons as the imperium faces expanding opposition to its rule? There are only so many Saddam Husseins available to be demonised in the name of ‘democracy’ and even here, it took a dozen years to degrade Iraq to the point whereby it no longer had the ability to resist the US aggressor in any kind of meaningful way.

In an earlier age where the average citizen of the imperialist countries was not only illiterate but most had never travelled more than a dozen or so miles from their birthplace and completely ignorant of much of the world, is a far cry from the world of the Internet. And whilst it maybe possible to frighten people into supporting its policies over the short term, there’s a limit to how many times they can ‘cry wolf’.

Ultimately, the imperium’s strategy is fundamentally flawed, based as it is on a ‘quick fix’ approach to imposing its will on the world. Mesmerised by its hi-tech toys, it has obviously learned absolutely nothing over the past thirty or so years. In part it explains why it vehemently resists any and all comparisons to the Vietnam War experience where it too relied on massive military superiority, 500,000 troops as well as the US-created South Vietnamese Army to subdue the Vietnamese people. And all to no avail.

We already witnessing just how fundamental resistance to US rule in Iraq really is, when it has to disguise the identities of its locally recruited ‘militias’, something it never did in Vietnam. More and more, the occupation takes on the appearance of an occupying force of gangster terrorists, forced to wear balaclavas and operate in gangs, protected by heavily armoured groups of the US occupiers. The rising level of civilian casualties as people in greater numbers publicly demonstrate their hatred of the occupation will only serve to create even greater resistance.

This is clearly an occupation doomed to failure that in turn exposes the fundamental weakness of the imperium’s strategies. The ‘war on terror’, barely two years old, has already come to haunt the imperium and its incompetent ‘strategists’. In a strange irony, as disgusting as the public portrayal of Saddam’s capture was – that it even pissed off the Pope – it may well have the opposite effect than the one intended and reveal the corrupt mentality of these would-be masters of the planet.

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