Endgame for Beginners: The US push to retain empire is part of an older plan

It has come to this: Americans on 25 November are likely to send to Capitol Hill as their forty-seventh president either an 82-year-old who often stumbles, mentally, verbally and physically, or a 78-year-old whose vocabulary and truthfulness are limited and who faces multiple charges of corruption. The choice each candidate makes for vice-president will be critical, as either could inherit the top job before 2028. If Joe Biden runs and loses, he will presumably concede defeat; if Donald Trump loses, the Capitol Hill insurrection of 6 January 2021 is likely to be repeated with greater force. The prospects for the United States are dire.

The 2024 presidential campaign grinds on as always. State by state, convention by convention, the candidates offer familiar promises, each with his woman standing by her presidential man. Voters will hear Biden repeating the conviction he formed decades ago during the Cold War—that America is the leader of the free world, the indispensable and exceptional nation. Trump, having had one try at making America great again, will tell them he will make it great again (again). Electoral fraud will predictably occur again, and each side will either accuse the other of it or blame Russia and China, yet again.

New ways of war

To make a clean break with so many ‘agains’, a younger, smarter president might abandon America’s wars against Communism or terrorism. He or she might opt for doing away with war altogether as a means of resolving America’s differences with others. Instead, lacking such a candidate, Americans have devised a devious new way of war-fighting: by proxy.

The effort to repel Russia in Ukraine resulted from the US aim to destabilise or overthrow President Putin. War in Ukraine, by proxy and contract fighters, as well as by stage-managed media, has become another of America’s losing, and failing, wars.

A consortium of ten partner states from which the United States can distance itself—and from the outcome too—was quickly formed in the Red Sea in December 2023 for another war, against the Houthi of Yemen, with them as the proxy enemies, Iran as the real enemy and Israel as the real ally. The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) is effectively fighting as a US proxy for control of the Middle East, including Sudan.

A third proxy war is in prospect in the South or East China Sea. A US team-building process has long been underway in Japan, South Korea, Australia and lately the Philippines, making a mockery of these nations’ commitments to abstain from the threat and use of force.i If the next US president wants war against China, he should be cautioned by the Pentagon, whose simulations have repeatedly found that in an expeditionary war against a well-armed state defending its homeland, the US will lose. The president might also consult Sun Tzu about first knowing your enemy.

The United States has acquired a reputation in both Beijing and Moscow for being an untrustworthy negotiator—one whose undertakings can capriciously be rejected by Congress, or by the next administration. Fighting to retain its status as the world’s military superpower is of no use if it is unwilling or unable to deliver on its promises.

The United States lost credibility in Ukraine and Afghanistan under Biden; its relations with Iran, Yemen, China and Russia were degraded under Trump, those with Iraq, Libya and Syria under Bush and those with Somalia under Clinton. Despite spending vast sums on weapons, devastating many countries, assassinating and deposing numerous leaders and ending or damaging millions of lives, it has not won a war since 1945. Yet when asked in a televised interview if the wars in Israel and Ukraine risked US over-extension, Biden said, ‘No. We’re the United States of America for God’s sake, the most powerful nation in the history—not in the world, in the history of the world’. So the United States goes on planning for more wars, to be fought for it by others.

Plots for war

A plan for wars in the Middle East, dated 21 September 2001, was revealed by Wesley Clark in 2007. The Pentagon targeted seven countries—Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Syria—to take advantage of Russia’s weakness and to achieve pro-US regime change within five years, as well as to protect Israel. All resulted in failed or failing states. The reasons for this outcome include the failure of successive administrations in Washington—despite decades of American foreign policy expertise—to understand that leaders of Middle Eastern countries who wanted to control their nations’ own resources would resist being dominated again by the Western infidel who had been their colonial master.

The Pentagon list was modelled on a much older plot which was revealed in a Hebrew journal, Directions, in February 1982. The Yinon plan, named after its author, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official, proposed a long-term project in which the governments of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq would be overthrown to create a cordon safeguarding Israel.ii

Early plans for US global domination were spelled out in the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance document. Its first purpose was to deter any nation with aspirations to challenge America’s political, military or economic supremacy. Its second was to protect America’s shared values and interests in Israel. From the 1992 blueprint for US global domination, neoconservative American supporters of Israel devised an agenda similar to the Yinon plan, omitting Egypt and Jordan. The ‘Vulcans’ formed the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) in 2000, and produced Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces, and Resources For a New Century.

In it, the neocons recommended huge increases in military deployments and budgets, and proposed the need for ‘revolutionary change’. To achieve that would require ‘a catastrophic and catalysing event—like a new Pearl Harbour’. Just a year later, on 11 September 2001, such an event occurred, and this led the Pentagon to produce its list of targeted countries. Congress quickly passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists and the anti-terrorism PATRIOT Act,iii which like the war plans had been drafted in advance. Bush had decided two months earlier to invade Afghanistan, and had planned a war against Iraq from January 2001. The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington provided the rationale he needed.

Bush declared a ‘war on terror’ which continues today. He told America and the world, ‘Either you’re with us, or with the terrorists’. Any state or entity that the United States and its allies declared to be terrorist faced war or sanctions. The Bush doctrine of unipolarity, military domination, pre-emptive (aggressive) war and regime change still rules. Catastrophic, catalysing events were still being contemplated when in January 2018 Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton again spoke about the need for ‘a major event where people pull together’.

PNAC folded in 2006, and the following year a successor, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) was founded by Michèle Flournoy, a board member of the military and intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, and Kurt M. Campbell, currently Biden’s Indo-Pacific ‘czar’. Contributors to the US $6 million annual budget of CNAS, which sponsors America–China war simulations, include dozens of military contractors, weapons manufacturers and other large corporations. Its mandates are US security and military affairs, terrorism, irregular warfare, natural resources (such as oil and rare earths) and the rise of ‘Asia’ (implying China).

Obama-era appointees to this thinktank for war and militarism included the neocon Robert D Kaplan. Another was Victoria Nuland, wife of another neocon, Robert Kagan: she was a key participant in Ukraine’s 2014 Maidan coup and then became an undersecretary for political affairs in the Biden State Department. Many of the senior members of PNAC and CNAS are enthusiastic Zionists. The influence of Israel on CNAS, and on like-minded British and Australian organisations, is clear from the Murdoch media.

The Pentagon list still applied in 2017 when Trump imposed a travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen). Yemen replaced Lebanon, but otherwise the targeted states were the same as those on the neocons’ list. Soon all of those states, including Lebanon, were in economic and political chaos, and none had become supporters of the US.

Homeless in Gaza

Successive American administrations have been complicit in Israel’s war planning. A striking contrast appears between the hostile American reaction to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the US support for Israel’s repeated assaults on Gaza and the illegally occupied Palestinian territories. As Roger Harris observes, if Putin in February 2022 had flattened Kyiv in the way Israel has been destroying Gaza and evacuating the West Bank territories since December 2023, the US would loudly have condemned Russia for genocide, war crimes, and violations of human rights and international law.

Instead, Western values, Israel’s right to self-defence and the need to ensure Israel’s monopoly of force in the region are the rationale for ‘peace’ in the Middle East, Biden has said, ‘Were there not an Israel the United States would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region’. The Biden administration has repeatedly sought to expedite sending additional ammunition to Israel for its war against Gaza, bypassing the normal procedures of the Arms Export Control Act. President Biden has also stated that ‘We’re not going to do a damn thing other than protect Israel. Not a single thing’. Israel is at the core of the enduring US plan to remake the region and the wider world in America’s image.

Despite Israel’s dependence on US weapons, its leaders have not only ignored polite US appeals for restraint but have openly defied them, calling for Gaza to be flattened, erased or destroyed. On 10 October 2023, a military spokesman declared that the IDF’s ‘emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy’. When Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said no restraints would apply and that the IDF would ‘kill everyone we fight’, he meant all Palestinians, not only Hamas. As President Isaac Herzog claimed, ‘It is an entire nation out there that is responsible’. Israeli leaders refer to all Palestinians as ‘horrible inhuman animals’. A retired IDF general anticipated Gaza becoming a place where no human being could exist, and where severe epidemics in the south would ‘bring victory closer’. A West Bank settler told David Shulman that ‘What we are doing to these people is actually inhuman … But if you think about it clearly, it all follows inevitably from the fact that God promised this land to the Jews, and only to them’. What Netanyahu’s ultra-right seeks is an Eretz Israel operation, claiming everything ‘from the river to the sea’—that is, from the Euphrates to the Nile.iv Hence Israel’s outrage at Hamas claiming its own territory from the river (Jordan) to the sea (Mediterranean). We await the decision of the International Court of Justice on this enduring matter.

In its support for Israel the United States, a founder of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has become increasingly isolated from the rest of the world. Both governments, in Tel Aviv and Washington, despise the UN, where in December 2023 only nine states—representing less than 1 per cent of the world’s population—voted in the General Assembly against a resolution for a Gaza ceasefire. The non-binding resolution was endorsed by 153 countries (including Australia), making up 89 per cent of the world population. In the Security Council, the United States was alone in vetoing a pro-Palestinian resolution.

The United States has repeatedly distanced itself from commitments under the UN Charter. It is not a party to the International Criminal Court or the International Court of Justice, even though it invokes them against its enemies whenever that’s convenient. It has vetoed resolutions in the UN Security Council (UNSC) 88 times, fewer than the 126 vetoes by Russia (USSR), but many more than the eighteen by China. By January 2024, the US had vetoed UNSC resolutions on Gaza three times. Although The New York Times reports that Biden has admitted Israel’s bombing was ‘indiscriminate’, his administration has not formally assessed Israel’s apparent violations of international humanitarian law. It has dismissed South Africa’s allegation to the International Court of Justice of Israeli genocide. Instead, the US has transferred US $147.5 million worth of artillery shells and other weapons to Israel.

Moving east and south

While the United States imposes starvation sanctions on its enemies and spends trillions on worse ways to kill them, some economies in Europe face collapse. For more than a decade, the Rest have been moving away from the West. Since 2013, without resorting to military solutions or seeking regime change anywhere, China has established the Belt and Road initiative, offering its New Silk Road and Shanghai Consensus development model to any interested nation. By 2023, some 150 countries were cooperating in Belt and Road. In 2010 BRICS included China, Russia, Brazil, India and South Africa, with 40 more nations from the Global South seeking to join, forming what’s now the global majority.

This is the latest manifestation of what began in the 1950s as the Non-Aligned Movement, and became the Group of 77 developing countries. None seeks aggressive war; some adopt armed neutrality; fifteen nations have no armed forces.v Across Eurasia, modern transport, communications and energy infrastructure bring peaceful progress that many have never known.

Australia: A foreign policy black hole

The American light on the hill, shining from the self-appointed exceptional, indispensable leader of the free world, is now dimmed, even if the blood-red tide it has loosed is not. John Pilger disdained the term ‘US foreign policy’, preferring ‘US designs for the world’. Yet Australia seems stuck in a time warp, with fewer independent foreign policy designs of its own than ever. Two irrevocable agreements block Australia’s view of the world like blackout curtains. The value of the ANZUS treaty has always been exaggerated; the AUKUS arrangement is of no demonstrable value at all.

For decades, successive prime ministers have outdone each other, ingratiating themselves to Americans, using wince-making terms of mateship and physical attachment. After 2001, they competed to offer more to the United States: forces for the ‘war on terror’ anywhere; access to Australia for US forces; interoperability and interchangeability with Australian forces; emplacement of US military and intelligence people in Australian agencies; and more money. Under AUKUS, Australian taxpayers are about to pay undisclosed but huge sums for weapons which, if they are aimed at China, will be uncompetitive or ineffective by the time they are delivered. They will contribute nothing to Australia’s security, and their presence makes Australia a proxy target for US enemies.

John Howard says he wouldn’t vote for Trump, but a second Trump administration could change US designs for the world in ways that might even end Australia’s foreign policy blackout.vi Trump as president hated loss-making treaties and wars. Re-elected, he will likely say the US shouldn’t sell its scarce nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. He might even abrogate ANZUS. While we wait for the outcome, it’s in Australia’s national interest to dispense with servile dependency and create an independent foreign policy for the first time, ever.

i See the UN Charter 1945 and the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia 1976.

ii Oded Yinon, Estrategia le-Yisrael bi_Shnot haShmonim, 1982, 49–59.

iii This is an Act designed to deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and across the globe, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes.

iv The Land of Israel (Hebrew: אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל, Modern: ʾEreṣ Yīsraʾel, Tiberian: ʾEreṣ Yīsrāʾēl) is the traditional Jewish name for an area of the Southern Levant. Genesis 15:18: ‘On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates’. The river of Egypt supposedly indicates the Wadi El-Arish that lies on the Mediterranean Sea in the strip of land between Gaza and Egypt, but it is also often seen as the Nile. Rex Williams, personal correspondence, 4 January 2024.

v These are Andorra, Costa Rica, Dominica, Granada, Kiribati, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Monaco, Panama, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Vatican City.

vi Troy Bramston, ‘Trump unfit to lead, I wouldn’t vote for him: Howard’, The Weekend Australian, 30–31 December 2023.

About the author

Alison Broinowski

Dr Alison Broinowski, formerly an Australian diplomat, is an author writing on Australia’s interactions with the world, and a member of Australians for War Powers Reform and of World BEYOND War.

More articles by Alison Broinowski

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