A World War III is becoming more likely. Both nuclear-armed superpowers, the United States and Russia, have been on high alert for some time now. Kurt Campbell, a specialist in Asian affairs, is leading an aggressive Cold War-style offensive against China, the economic powerhouse of Asia, in his role as Asia coordinator for the Biden administration. All three powers are now part of the current multilateral constellation. To understand the complexities of the current environment, it helps to review John Bellamy Foster’s essential study, “The New Cold War on China,” published in the July/August 2021 issue of Monthly Review.
In what could be a precursor to a larger confrontation, there is a perception that the retreat of troops occupying Afghanistan represents an intensification of the preparations for war with China. In the lead-up to such a war, it would be necessary to reconsider the human and strategic cost of this chaotic retreat.
The world witnessed the heartbreaking images of the debacle that was the occupation. It is hard to believe Joe Biden when he says that this humanitarian and military disaster represents the strength of the U.S., or worse, that it is an example of precision. There were scenes of thousands of adults and children at the airport in Kabul running aimlessly down the runways behind huge military aircraft, fleeing retribution. In the wheel well of an aircraft that would carry them to safety from the Taliban, they found dead bodies. Many others fled as well, complicit in the violence of empire in a country full of Guantanamo-style prisons, always beyond the reach of U.S. federal courts, just the way bigwigs like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney prefer them.
This humanitarian and strategic embarrassment in front of the whole world, including the voting population of U.S. allies in the Group of Seven and NATO, was well summarized by Sylvie Kauffmann, opinion writer for the French newspaper Le Monde. She pointed out the deep geopolitical impact of the Kabul airport debacle and the self-inflicted humiliation of the U.S., economic and political powerhouse of the world, which spent almost $1 trillion on the war in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2017.
According to the Office of the Inspector General, in the Government Accountability Office’s 2017 report, the U.S. sent 16,643 pieces of equipment, 599,690 weapons, 29,681 pounds of explosives, 208 aircraft and 16,191 pieces of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment.*
Far from having a free market, the U.S. has a military-industrial complex whose leaders were unable to cobble together an evacuation of its troops and personnel or those of its allies, from both within and outside Afghanistan. The evacuation has been, as Kauffmann says, “the all-consuming debacle, born from the U.S.’ analytical and operational errors, [that] raises a series of fundamental questions about its role in the world.” Are the brutal occupation and its failed military evacuation part of the preparations for a risky war with China?
This humiliating evacuation comes after 20 years of the illegal and brutal occupations of Afghanistan, Iraq and five other Middle Eastern and North African countries. These occupations were complete with bombing, and fell under the “program of stabilization and reconstruction.” Naturally, this reconstruction was full of repression and corruption in the form of cost-plus military contracts. But the chaotic execution of the military evacuation and resurgence of Taliban rule in the form of a blitzkrieg campaign which followed can be explained by this very stabilization. Throughout the process, the U.S. took over all functions essential to state sovereignty and administration: foreign relations, defense, and economic policy. This is the classic colonial scheme for the periphery under the International Monetary Fund-World Bank regime. Similar situations can be found in Afghanistan, Iraq and the rest of the Middle East under programs designed by Carlos Pascual (former U.S. ambassador to Mexico), and with the support of then-Vice President Biden. The same Biden who is now trying to distance the U.S. from its oligarchic colonial project, which has left Afghanistan in ruins and chaos, although perhaps with a new native oligarchy now inclined to invest in the country following the discovery of significant mineral deposits. This discovery was made, of course, by the Pentagon in 2010, in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey.
In his notes on the domestic and foreign impact of the military evacuation, Moisés Garduño García, professor at the College of Political Science at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, very perceptively places the emphasis on Russia and China. He points out that “unlike 20 years ago,” and in contrast to the “U.S. retreat, the Chinese and Russian embassies have given no indication that they will withdraw before the Taliban take Kabul. This projects an air of political pragmatism on the part of the Taliban that matches the tactical prowess they demonstrated in retaking most of the provinces without major military operations.”
To be continued….
*Editor’s Note: This data, accurately translated, could not be verified.