Earlier this week President Joe Biden said the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan marked the ending of an era where the US tried to “remake other countries” by military means. But is the US really ready to give up the mantle of “leader of the free world”?
Under attack from the Republicans and from some of his own NATO allies for the way in which the US withdrawal from Afghanistan had led to the chaotic collapse of the pro-Washington government and the fall of Kabul, President Joe Biden came out fighting this week.
He told the White House press corps pulling out of Afghanistan after 20 years of military deployment was the right thing to do and added: “I was not going to extend this forever war. And I was not going to extend a forever exit.”
© REUTERS / CARLOS BARRIA
U.S. President Biden speaks about Afghanistan at the White House in Washington
Biden said he was “ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries.”
But Adriel Kasonta, a writer and political commentator, said he doubted the US would be able to give up interfering militarily or politically in the affairs of countries in Asia, Africa or Latin America.
Mr Kasonta, former chairman of the international affairs committee of the Bow Group, a British conservative think-tank, said he thought Biden was aware that most Americans were pre-occupied with other issues such as the pandemic and the economy and were unwilling to see another generation of troops sent overseas to fight a war in Afghanistan which was feeling as pointless as the conflict in Vietnam.
“But the Biden administration is trying to change their grand strategy and pivot towards Asia and I think the emphasis will be on the Pacific. The US military will be preoccupied with China,” Mr Kasonta told Sputnik.
Earlier this week it was confirmed the US Navy had signed a deal to build a base in the Federated States of Micronesia, a Pacific archipelago which is of great strategic value.
© AP PHOTO / LEE JIN-MAN
U.S. Army soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division’s 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team and South Korean soldiers take their position during a demonstration of the combined arms live-fire exercise as a part of the annual joint military exercise Foal Eagle between South Korea and the United States at the Rodriquez Multi-Purpose Range Complex in Pocheon, north of Seoul, South Korea. (File)
Mr Kasonta said the US was keen to portray China, Iran and Russia as a new “axis of evil” – a phrase originally used by President George W. Bush to describe Iran, Iraq and North Korea.
Mr Kasonta said: “There will be a strong push to say China is supporting Iran. I’ve read articles in the Israeli press saying the main antagonists are Iran and China and the US has to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.”
He said at the end of the day the US military-industrial complex had to justify the enormous amounts the Pentagon spends on weapons and infrastucture – last year it went up by four percent to $778 billion, three times as much as China spent and more than 10 times Russia’s outlay.
“The biggest victors of 20 years of war in Afghanistan were the defence contractors,” said Mr Kasonta, who pointed out a recent article in The Spectator which said the Afghan National Army had paid a US company £20 million [$28 million] for forest camouflage – despite Afghanistan not having any forests.
When the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended US military spending dipped for a while but then a new enemy emerged – the Islamist threat, which was erroneously linked to Saddam Hussein and Iraq by the dodgy dossier on Weapons of Mass Destruction.
© AFP 2021 / HANDOUT
This handout photograph taken and released on May 11, 2018 by Taiwan’s Defence Ministry shows a Republic of China (Taiwan) Air Force F-16 fighter aircraft (L) flying alongside a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) H-6K bomber that reportedly flew over the Bashi Channel, south of Taiwan, and over the Miyako Strait, near Japan’s Okinawa Island, in a drill
Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now over and Mr Kasonta says the Chinese present a useful new adversary to justify Pentagon spending.
Paul Craig Roberts, a former adviser to President Ronald Reagan, said the US needs a “sacrificial lamb” and they have it in China.
Mr Kasonta said: “If you portray yourself as the ‘defender of the free world’ and that is your motto then you have to maintain that brand and it is a matter of honour.”
He said: “It’s important for the military-industrial complex. It’s not presidents who are making the decisions nowadays. It’s the military-industrial complex. They have to have a new enemy.”
Spending on the military is around 12 percent of the federal budget – four times as much as it spends on education.
Mr Kasonta said: “It takes money away from US taxpayers who have been hit by the pandemic, by hurricanes and forest fires.”
But he said lobbyists for the military-industrial complex keep up a constant “war mantra” because it pays their salaries and boosts the profits of massive defence contractors like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics.
© REUTERS / EVELYN HOCKSTEIN
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris leaves her plane as she arrives at the airport in Hanoi, Vietnam, August, 24, 2021
Mr Kasonta said the Vice President, Kamala Harris, had already been identified as the “designated survivor” of the Biden administration.
She avoided the flak from the Kabul debacle because she was busy beating the drum for a future China conflict.
Harris visited Singapore and Vietnam last week and spent most of her time trying to woo them away from Beijing.
Mr Kasonta said the US had also been trying to use Taiwan to undermine China’s claims to ownership of the South China Sea.
He said that while it was unclear whether the power struggle with China would lead to US “boots on the ground” in various parts of the world, there would be increasing competition between Washington and Beijing.
“Whether it’s Mozambique or Djibouti, I think we will hear more about a scramble for Africa between China and the US. Wherever we will see an increased presence of China then the US will be there too,” concluded Mr Kasonta.