George Kennan, the warfare state and something about China...

Sunday, January 2, 2022 11:06 PM

Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial complex would have to remain, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy,”  [source: George Kennan, At Century’s Ending: Refections, 1982-1995, (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1996) pg.118.]

Dear Friends + Interlocutors,

The above quote by George Kennan was sent to me by Pentagon expert Chuck Spinney. It is most apropos of the current moment. Spinney knows what he is talking about and so of course did Kennan.

Spinney regards GWOT, the so-called “Global War on Terror” as a nice “bridging operation” to keep “defense budgets” at Cold War levels in the gap between Cold War I and Cold War II. 

That’s one simplified way to look at it, starting with George Bush Sr.’s unilateral proclamation about The New World Order, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Next came Operation Desert Storm against Saddam Hussein in 1991, the NWO in action.

Iraq then got hit with a decade of U.S.-led murderous sanctions which killed hundred of thousands. Concurrently, the Palestinians were conned and abandoned by Bill Clinton at Camp David, and next, they were officially thrown to the dogs by George Bush, Jr. from day-one of the Cheney Regency in January 2001. 

All of which madness precipitated the 9/11 terrorist blowback by Sunni Muslim fanatics, and ushered in GWOT. Rien n’arrive par hasard. Step by step. Certainly it has all worked out well for the American military-industrial complex, not to mention the Israel Lobby

An honest, thoughtful and less grandiose approach would have been for Bush Sr. to have declared peace in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union and stop with the outsized, unseemly and triumphant proclamations.  

But in that case, as Kennan points out, a shock–perhaps an unacceptable shock–would have befallen the American economy. Washington’s warfare state is a drug. The withdrawal symptoms were calculated to be too great. One way or another, the game had to continue. 

And it did, in spades. So here we are at last full circle, engaged in Cold War II, back against Russia…and now contra China, to boot. Two fronts at once. Well, three fronts, if you count the  bogus threat from Iran concocted by Israel. Brilliant.

Below, foreign affairs commentator Eric Margolis gives Papa Joe Biden far more credit than he deserves in claiming that Biden is moving away from a wartime economy. Nevertheless, Margolis is on target generally. He seems perplexed and even a bit mystified. So am I.



by Eric Margolis || November 11, 2021

In an age of TV politicians, President Joe Biden is a figure from another age. He is deeply unexciting and suffering from advanced age – a time in life which the great Charles de Gaulle compared to a `shipwreck.’

No mobs of baseball hat-wearing yahoos are about to storm the Capitol for Biden’s sake. However unexciting he may be, President Biden has acted with courage and foresight to enact what America so badly needed: moving away from a wartime to a peacetime economy.

America’s economy has been on a full wartime footing since the Vietnam War. The US Navy alone operates 11 big deck attack carriers, and twice that number of small carriers. 

A French admiral told me ruefully over a very nice dinner one night that the US Navy’s budget alone was larger than his nation’s entire military budget. US annual military spending amounts to nearly half the world’s total military outlays.

When invited to the Pentagon to consult on the Mideast and Afghanistan, I have always been amazed by the beehive of activity there. America’s vast military-industrial complex was in overdrive. 

It looked to me like America’s number one activity was war. Not big ones, like WWII, Korea or Vietnam but many small conflicts all over the globe – what British imperialists used to call ‘little wars.’ 

As many Americans have noticed, their huge nation has been falling apart. US infrastructure has been rusting or crumbling since the early 1960’s. Bridges, railroads, telecommunications, airports, seaports, and highways have not been adequately renovated or restored. 

For example, key bridge tunnels in my native city, New York, have become perilous due to lack of maintenance and modernization. Politicians love to spend billions on glamor projects but hate spending on basics.

No president since Eisenhower has dared to seriously rebuild or repair the United States. Compared to effectively modernizing Europe, the US often looks thirty years behind and depressingly backwards.

Unfortunately, Biden’s renewal plans, which will cost upwards of 2.5 trillion dollars are to be financed by higher taxes. The imminence of such increases and printing of billions of newly minted dollars has of course ignited a storm of inflation, now running at over 6.2% in the US alone. 

Meanwhile, the Pentagon continues to spend trillions of dollars preparing for more small wars and gearing up for a big-time conflict with China.

It would have made better sense to raise the hundreds of billions needed to finance the anti-Covid campaign and Biden’s national renovation campaign by extracting the money from the terribly bloated military budget. 

That would have been the other act of courage needed by the Biden White House. But Biden has not so far been able to even shut the totalitarian Guantanamo prison due to opposition from southern Republicans and, of course, the military. 

Biden and his team realize that the coming head-on competition with China will require a modernized United States. Otherwise, it might look more like an updated version of the creaky old Austro-Hungarian Empire than the champion of the western world. 

While the US has been wasting trillions on its little colonial wars (‘war on terror’), China has been investing in infrastructure and a brand-new military. Having now been defeated in Vietnam and Afghanistan, the US military risks a much bigger shellacking by China. 

The balance of military technology is fast turning against the United States as a major Pacific War looms on the horizon. In that event, the US will be at a serious geostrategic disadvantage by being forced to fight a war thousands of miles from its home bases on the US West Coast while China’s military will operate virtually next door to its home. 

This is a war that the US should at all costs avoid. No one can even adequately explain what winning a war with China entails. How do you defeat a colossus on the other side of the world’s largest ocean? 

Better fix US infrastructure and avoid a fight. As US founder Ben Franklin said, ‘no good war; no bad peace.’

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2021