The US empire stands on its last legs and is in absolute decline. At home, the number of unemployed has hit a record high, standing now at some 28 percent of the population, more than it was during the worst years of the Great Depression in the 1930s and with no hope of recovery in sight. Abroad, it is lashing out wildly in mad provocations, attempting to ignite conflicts it cannot hope to win.
True to form, instead of working to bring their own people out of poverty and destitution, the imperialists continue to pour money into new forms of warfare, with the very real prospect that more people than ever will be plunged into destitution and want.
And now we hear that “the US navy is spending billions of dollars on unmanned systems and recently awarded contracts for the development of ten large crewless surface vessels over the next five years”. (US unleashes drone armada to confront China by Michael Evans, The Times, 11 September 2020)
Instability in the Indo-Pacific
The Indo-Pacific region, comprising all land and sea between the Indian Ocean and the central Pacific, lies over 10,000km from the geographical centre of the United States. Despite this distance, the US finds it absolutely unacceptable that any independent military should have even a presence there, never mind the ability to stand up to American firepower.
With some $5tn-worth of trade flowing through the South China Sea annually, the region lies at the centre of global maritime trade.
The Asian region is home, of course, to China, a country that the US sees as the one of the greatest threats to its waning dominance of the globe. With this in mind, the Americans frequently conduct war games in the region, preparing for a conflict that most of its leadership regards as inevitable.
“US Marine Corps director of expeditionary warfare, Major General Tracy King, has expressed the growing concerns emerging within Washington, saying: ‘The most destabilising event in the 21st century is going to be when China can achieve conventional parity at a time and place of its choosing.’” (US DoD war games raise concerns about China’s military parity by Stephen Kuper, Defence Connect, 31 August 2020)
As with so much in the minds of the arch-reactionary leaders of the US, reality stands on its head.
No-one in their right mind views the ability of China, or any other peace-loving people, to match the military might of rapacious US imperialism as a ‘destabilising event’, much less the greatest of the century.
Indeed, as we have seen so many times – in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and so many other countries – when the US deems a non-cooperative nation to be weak, it pounces viciously upon it, often backed up by its faithful lackeys in Europe and the middle east, leading to massive loss of life, great internal strife and the ruination of entire countries. In short, destabilisation of the highest order.
China knows this full well, as do Russia, north Korea, Iran and others. To them it is a matter of survival to build up their military capabilities in order to avoid conflict, not to encourage it, as they much prefer normalised relations and global peace to war.
“The Chinese military opposes and is not afraid of the US side’s recent escalating provocations against China,” Wu Qian, a spokesman for the Chinese ministry of defence, said at a press conference late in August.
“Some US politicians, in pursuit of their selfish interests, are sparing no effort to undermine the relations between the two countries and the two militaries, and are even attempting to create incidents or military conflicts,” he noted.
“The Chinese military will resolutely safeguard China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests, as well as the peace and stability in the region and the world.”
Wu urged the US politicians in question to “understand the reality, act with reason, stop provocations and help put the relations between the two countries and the two militaries back on the right track”. (China urges US to stop military provocations, Xinhua, 27 August 2020)
These provocations are continuous, and are in flagrant violation of political and military norms. In the last days of August, for example, the US flew a “U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft into an airspace used for live-fire exercises by the Northern Theatre Command of the People’s Liberation Army.
“The trespass severely affected China’s normal exercises and training activities, and violated the rules of behaviour for air and maritime safety between China and the United States, as well as relevant international practices,” reported Xinhua. (China opposes US military aircraft trespass in no-fly zone, Xinhua, 26 August 2020)
Such incidents, which are many and often, drive home the utter absurdity of comments by the US ruling class and its military that China is to blame for the lack of stability in the region. The blame lies solely with US imperialism and its insane quest for world dominance.
Just imagine the reaction of the US if it were to detect a Chinese or Russian spyplane in or even close to its air space. Absolute hysteria would be putting it lightly.
Drone warfare plans
And so we come to the decision by the US navy to begin running unmanned war games, the first of their kind, in the Pacific next year. Warships without crews will be present alongside underwater drones and pilotless aircraft.
“The operation is the latest manifestation of concerns in the Pentagon about China’s ability to threaten America’s carrier strike forces in the Indo-Pacific region,” according to the Times. “Beijing’s navy has long-range anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles, developed specifically to keep US warships out of the region.”
How shocking! No mention, of course, from the Times that it is a fundamental and inalienable right of all nations to protect themselves and their sovereignty from invaders. Or that this is a situation that the mad dogs of the US ruling class have thrust upon the peaceful Chinese nation via unending threats of economic sanctions, as well as military provocations and threats. (US unleashes drone armada to confront China by Michael Evans, The Times, 11 September 2020)
However, in the wild eyes of US imperialism, any threat, real or perceived, to its rapidly declining global dominance cannot and will not to be tolerated.
Previous “US defence department war games have revealed the startling level of Beijing’s military parity with the US and its allies, with many in the US defence establishment concerned about the outcome of any armed confrontation in the Indo-Pacific.” (US DoD war games raise concerns about China’s military parity by Stephen Kuper, Defence Connect, 31 August 2020)
For ‘concern’, read that the US is quite rightly fearful of receiving a thrashing should open conflict break out – a thrashing that could very well sound the death knell for American imperialism.
In light of China’s ‘startling level of military parity’, the US is eyeing up the increased use of drones and other unmanned war machines in an attempt to regain the upper hand, hoping to be able to put itself in the position of attacking China’s naval vessels without taking any human casualties itself.
According to Rear Admiral Robert Gaucher, director of maritime headquarters with US Pacific Fleet, the US is“shooting for early 2021 to be able to run a fleet battle problem that is centred on unmanned. It will … be on the sea, above the sea and under the sea as we get to demonstrating how we can align to the [US Indo-Pacific Command] directives to use experimentation to drive lethality.”
Navy department leaders say that unmanned systems will play a huge role in future maritime operations — particularly in the Pacific should a conflict break out with China. (The Navy Is preparing for a major unmanned battle test in the Pacific by Gina Harkins, Military.com, 9 September 2020)
Such unmanned weapons of war include the Sea Hunter, a 132ft autonomous anti-submarine vessel, the largest uncrewed ship in the world, which is expected to get its first trial in the planned 2021 war games.
It is likely to be the joined by the Unmanned Undersea Vehicles Squadron One, which operates drones to gather intelligence on enemy ships and submarines and to clear mines, the MQ-25 Stingray, an aerial refuelling drone, the MQ-8C Fire Scout, a helicopter, and the MQ-4C Triton, a long-range signals intelligence drone. (US unleashes drone armada to confront China by Michael Evans, The Times, 11 September 2020)
The move towards the increased use of drones in the US arsenal is part of the “modernisation and complete force structure renewal” of the US Marines, which is changing its tactics in order to “counter Beijing”. The effort is being driven by US Marine commandant General David Berger with oversight by defence secretary Mark Esper.
“As part of this focus and force structure overhaul, the Marines are returning to the light, fast and aggressively agile force responsible for the successful Pacific island hopping campaign during the second world war, albeit with a suite of advanced capabilities, ranging from long-range rockets and artillery, fifth generation platforms like the [notoriously expensive and unreliable] F-35 and a suite of overhauled infantry models.”
Later in the above quoted article, we get a glimpse into the twisted minds of the military top brass.
As Major General Tracy King gloated: “We’re gonna have Marines out there sinking ships. You know I’ve even talked to our undersea guys about Marines out there sinking submarines so some of our inside forces can stay hidden and let our adversary worry about me and my hundred guys running around crazy (!) on some island, instead of these capital assets that are really the heart and soul of the joint force.” (Defence Connect, 31 August 2020, op cit)
‘Running around crazy’ is a particularity candid and apt description of US military operations, in which soldiers lack the most elementary discipline and moral fibre, engaging in a whole manner of well-documented war crimes such as looting, rape and indiscriminate killing. Such barbarous antics stand in stark contrast to the highly disciplined armies of China, Russia, the DPRK and others.
Abject poverty at home, but always money for war abroad
These lofty modernisation plans do not come cheap, however.
That American families are increasingly unable to feed, clothe and house themselves is a problem that does not concern the ruling class in the least. They will claim there is not the money available to help, but this parasitic class has no qualms about spending countless billions of taxpayer dollars on military hardware.
The Sea Hunter war machine cost ‘just’ $20m to develop. In early September, the US navy awarded nearly $42m in contracts to six corporate merchants of death to develop new unmanned surface vessels; and the navy wants still more – some “$2bn to build 10 large unmanned surface vessels over the next five years”, in fact.
However, the navy’s fun has been temporarily halted by those politicians in the US Congress who “remain sceptical about whether the navy knows what it wants out of the drone ships”. This has led members of the House armed services subcommittee on seapower and projection forces to try to block the service from buying any of the vessels next year. (The navy is preparing for a major unmanned battle test in the Pacific by Gina Harkins, Military.com, 9 September 2020)
The 2020 US budget for what it} terms ‘defence’ was a $768bn, though real expenditure is estimated to be as high as $924bn. For 2021, the proposed official budget sits at $740bn.
According to Swedish think-tank Sipri (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute), a leading authority on military expenditure which has collected such data since 1949, the US spent $731.8bn on its armed forces in 2019, accounting for 38 percent of the global total. China, by comparison, spent $261bn, while Russia spent a mere $65.1bn.
How likely is total war between the US and China?
Despite the mad ravings of the majority of US politicians and military, there are those within the country’s elite who do appear to retain some degree of sanity.
The fact that China is in possession of “the world’s largest navy, with a battle force of 350 ships that includes 130 major surface combatants” gives them pause for thought. “By comparison, the US navy has 296 deployable ships. China’s ground-based missiles have a range of 500km, compared to the 300km range for US ground-based missiles in theatre.
“Experts roundly agreed that immediate conflict remains unlikely, given the huge costs in lives and treasure. Moreover, the nuclear weapons on both sides certainly serve to make leaders more cautious.” (What war with China could look like by Todd South, Military Times, 1 September 2020)
Let us note at this point, however, an important lesson of history: when imperialism becomes desperate, it rides roughshod over any such considerations. Before the outbreak of World War 1, for instance, “The big banks and brokerage houses of course understood that two heavily-armed alliances were on a potential collision course but there had been episodes of sabre-rattling for several years, defused each time by diplomacy.
“Opinion had been influenced by Norman Angell’s best-seller, The Great Illusion (published in 1909), arguing that war had become impossible because global trade and capital flows were too closely interlinked.” (The shock in store for markets – what if Trump refuses to go by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph Economic Intelligence, 29 September 2020)
Yet as we know only too well, a devastating world war broke out just the same! And, indeed, the article cited above continues by pointing out that “within the next decade or less, straining relations coupled with increased Chinese military capability could bring events to the brink”.
General Charles Brown, chief of the US air force has “warned that the next war – a war with a peer adversary like China or Russia – is likely to be highly contested and could see ‘combat attrition rates and risks – that are more akin to the World War 2 era than the uncontested environment to which we have become accustomed’ since the Gulf War.
“‘The US risks losing such a war if its military does not adjust to this new reality,’ Brown soberly noted.” (Ibid)
Of course, the US is very much at risk of losing that war even if it does‘adjust to this new reality’, since China or Russia (or both) would find themselves fighting a just, anti-imperialist war in defence of their homelands and of world peace, adding massively to troop morale, whereas the US would once again be fighting an unjust war of plunder and spoliation.
The US is a mad, senile beast in the final stages of its life, facing downfall and total collapse. We must resolutely expose and oppose its ever-increasing drive towards all-out war with China and Russia.
Should such a war break out, though we all hope it will not, we must work for the defeat of the US and our own imperialist rulers should they come down in support of the aggressor.
Meanwhile, we must also do everything in our power to prove to workers that this drive to war is a product of the capitalist system of production, with its ever-deepening crises of overproduction, and of the imperialist domination of the globe, which leads to regular and desperate struggles for redivision or reconquest of markets in pursuit of profit.
Imperialism means war. Only by replacing it with a workers’ state and a planned economy will we finally be able to usher in an era of global peace and prosperity.