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The Trump Administration: The new Cold War

(Contributed)
 
A recent media release from the United States Defence Department has revealed a new generation of counter-insurgency training provision. It is specifically intended for use in the Asia-Pacific region and forms part of wider initiatives to reassert traditional US hegemonic positions.
 
The military planning has far-reaching implications for progressive-minded people and their democratic organisations with all the hallmarks of an attempted return by the US to Cold War positions.
 
New jungle warfare training at Scholefield, Hawaii
 
A media release in March, coinciding with the start of massive US-led military exercises off the Korean peninsula, announced the Pentagon was training personnel in 'the first jungle school the US army has established in decades'. (1) The training, at US Schofield Barracks, Waikiki, Hawaii, is a major military facility in the Asia-Pacific region and home of the 25th Infantry Division.
 
The Schofield military facilities, covering 18,000 acres, also has dense woods, cliffs and a waterway and their official website describes the base as being used for training personnel to 'prepare for deployment to the theatre of operations to perform combat operations as part of corps counter attack'.
 
It is, perhaps, not coincidental the Schofield military facilities are situated near to the US Pacific Command (PACOM), the regional defence and security base. The PACOM facilities have a stated command which includes the US 7th fleet with a range from South Africa to Australia, the 5th fleet which covers the northern part of the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf and the 3rd fleet with a range from Australia to Latin America.
 
The media release about the Schofield facilities also left readers with no ambiguity about US military planning for the wider region. It noted 'the course is part of a program to train soldiers for exercises and potential combat on terrain that looks more like islands and nations in the Pacific than arid Afghanistan and the deserts of the Middle East'. (2)
 
Jungle warfare training and counter-insurgency provision for US-led military drills tended to be superceded with developments following 9/11 and led to concentration upon the Middle East and wider planning to deal with supposed Islamic terrorism. Jungle warfare was also closely associated with the Vietnam War period and marked by brutality and repression. Following declassification of military documents in the 1990s the Pentagon sought to distance itself from unfavourable publicity.
 
Other factors also came into play for the maintenance and furthering of class and state power: the US tended to rely more upon the economic strategies during the New World Order during the 1990s as a means of controlling the vast region. Numerous so-called Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) were designed as a means of containing and encircling China. One layer of FTAs, therefore, tended to rest upon defence and security alliances centred upon allies. The planning has, however, been shown to have failed, in a spectacular manner. The continued economic growth of China has therefore thrown previous US military planning into disarray.
 
Western countries have had problems with low economic growth rates and decline for many years. There is little indication of any upturn in the foreseeable future. China dislodged Japan some years ago as the second-biggest economy in the world and is now set to topple the US within the next decade. Chinese diplomacy has also extended influence through the wider region effectively challenging traditional US hegemonic positions. For most countries across the region, a successful future now lies with strong links with Beijing, not Washington. 
 
The new US 'jungle school' military planning has to be seen in line with classic counter-insurgency provision and Cold War diplomatic positions. It is marked by neo-colonial ambitions and a preoccupation with military supply-lines in the most dynamic sector of the global economy. In fact, the defence department media release about the Schofield military facilities quoted Brigadier-General Stephen Michael, who stated, 'The jungle school gives that focus, it reinforces that we're in the Pacific', and, 'you got to fight in the tough environment of the Pacific'. (3) 
 
What the media release did not clarify is counter-insurgency provision has two specific military uses: to contain insurgency movements which threaten the existing status quo and to deal with remnants of previous political systems following 'regime change'.
 
The defence department media release did, however, reveal further information about the nature of training provision with their jungle school and direct linkage with previous brutality and repression. It was noted 'instructors in training pored over old army jungle manuals' as they sought to 'relearn everything' and to 're-acquire long-lost skills'. (4)
 
Declassified documents reveal imperialists’ fascist mindset
 
Studying some of the declassified documents from the US Defence Department provides a chilling picture of what the military regard useful long-lost skills. Adversaries, for example, are defined as 'those who oppose the US Defence Department' during 'peacetime and all levels of conflict'. (5) 
 
Adversaries, being monitored by US-led intelligence agents in civil society, were subsequently categorised onto black, grey or white-lists following the infiltration of 'a wide array of groups'. Training documents, from the period, show 'small group penetration', together with 'psychological warfare techniques' and 'interview and interrogation techniques' a major priority for military and other personnel. (6)
 
The definition of the 'enemy', from a variety of documents, would tend to indicate the US-led offensive was directed toward the whole of civil society not merely insurgents. The US Army's Project X, for example, was established in the mid-1960s as part of the wider program. Used initially in the Vietnam War, it was later used elsewhere. (7) In Vietnam, it included the Phoenix Program which was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians thought to be associated with the Vietnamese Communists. The program, later exported to Argentina, was used in the Dirty War period between 1976-82. Once again, the merest hint of contact with subversive elements through intelligence agents, was regarded as sufficient evidence to justify widespread detention and 'disappearances' of civilians. The Argentine military junta subsequently exported the counter-insurgency model to Central America under the tutelage of the US. Installed in Honduras, the US-backed training provision for the Contra to destabilise the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, resulted in tens of thousands of innocent civilians being abducted, tortured and killed. 
 
Democratic institutions, as defined by the project, were equated with terrorism: insurgents are regarded in the same light as 'political adversaries' of the ruling elite. Foreign policy objectives appear concerned with total control of a subject society and elimination of viable political opposition.
 
A sub-section of one declassified document dealing with 'impersonation' described the enemy in very broad terms as 'one assisted by his ability to hide his arms and merge at short notice into civilian population. He may disguise himself as a priest or woman or impersonate a policeman or soldier but is most likely to appear as a normal village peasant'. Presumably, using such a definition, US-led intelligence agents were expected to assess an entire civil population in the name of defending society from 'terrorism'.
 
Indoctrination procedures, accompanied by abductions of family-members to pressurise those being questioned, also included the indiscriminate use of Sodiopentathol (truth serum).
 
Another sub-section of a declassified document dealing with correct procedures for dealing with prisoners of war was immediately followed by a section dealing with 'burials'. 
 
Throughout the many declassified documents numerous references to the military working cooperatively with civil administrations has thrown light upon the concept of 'regime change'. One declassified document acknowledged limitations of military personnel: 'while the unit cannot undertake long term government functions, it is capable of exercising supervision over four civil affairs categories' and then listed government functions including labour and finance, economic functions, public functions and dealing with displaced peoples'. The senior military personnel concerned had a clearly defined role with the establishment of civil administration composed of 'puppets' to serve military interests.  
 
References, likewise, to correct conduct when military personnel deal with civilian populations is further evidence that newly installed puppet-type civil administrations serve the interests of the US and its allies. Numerous pages of 'Relations with Local People' contain lists of correct and incorrect behaviour including the 'mopping up' process of dealing with the remnants of the previous political system. It was supposed to be kept well-guarded, subject to higher levels of classification and noted 'deliberate mopping-up will be required even when the enemy is overrun and surrounded' and do not 'tell locals anything about military matters'.
 
If, however, sensitive information was revealed in the course of military matters, those concerned were expected to behave 'in such a way as to assure secrecy or concealment of the operation and its sponsor, and to permit plausible denial by the sponsor in the event the operation is compromised'.
 
Within a culture of lies and deceit, US-led forces were able to justify military occupation of a country under the pretext of countering terrorism to install puppet administrations with the specific intention of the exploitation of local labour and resources. It was nevertheless considered outside standard ethical behaviour to 'interfere with local women' and 'livestock belonging to local people'.
 
Following declassification of the sordid documents, the US Defence Department was forced to purge itself of those responsible for the repressive measures as a means of distancing itself from the disgrace. Highly unfavourable publicity, nevertheless, took place. It was noted at the highest level, for example, 'the CIA seemed to specialise in hiring murderous thugs and military officers' and it was due to 'the bad habits of the Cold War'. (8)
 
And now, with the passing of more than two decades, former military practices have been brought out of storage for future use in the Asia-Pacific region. It is also interesting to note how the previous military practices have been updated and the reasons behind the changes.
 
Modern-day Asia-Pacific countries have experienced rapid economic growth and have rising urban-based middle-classes in recent decades. In many countries across the region manufacturing has also taken priority over traditional rural agriculture. Well-educated, urban-based people, are more likely to rely upon China for their prosperity and cannot necessarily be regarded by the US as supporters of traditional diplomatic positions. 
 
The Philippines and South Korea are two recent examples of former pro-US puppet governments being toppled by the will of the mass of civil population and being recently swept closer into China's sphere of influence. Their governments now do not support traditional US diplomatic positions. Both countries nevertheless remain highly-sensitive and strategically-placed, for US military facilities and supply-lines. 
 
Imperialists switch training from rural to urban focus
 
It is therefore significant to note the changing focus of counter-insurgency training provision away from rural theatres of operations to urban areas. A recent military exercise for Special Forces from Australia, South Korea and Singapore, for example, included 'planning a mock city with multi-story buildings for soldiers to hone their urban warfare skills'. (9)
 
The military exercises also included provision for soldiers to 'storm and seize control of a terrorist hideout' in an urban area and were accompanied by Australia and Singapore strengthening defence ties. The joint Trident combat drills have also included new agreements for sharing intelligence. (10) 
 
Recent references in the Australian media about a newly established Urban Operations training Facility at Mount Bundey, outside Darwin in northern Australia (left), provide further evidence the development of new counter-insurgency doctrines is well under-way. (11) The role of the Pentagon is also quite clear. In April, about 1250 US military personnel arrived in Darwin to use Australian military facilities as part of troop rotation planning for six months training and for use in rapid deployment in the region.
 
Likewise, recent references to the Asia-Pacific Stability Initiative (ASSI), a Pentagon military plan for 'increasing US military presence in Asia' is also under-way. (12) Australia is set to increase defence budgets from $32.4 billion at present to $58.7 billion by 2025-6 as part of the same military provision. (13) References to areas of specific interest which include 'hot zones including North Korea' leave little ambiguity about the nature of the military planning. (14) One can but speculate which other countries across the region the US regard as 'hot zones' and the timespan of their planning. We have entered a dangerous phase: The present presidential administration in the White House is dominated by a man who is a megalomaniac and compulsive risk-taker.  
 
A new Cold War and all which accompanies it is taking place in the Asia-Pacific region. And those who forget the lessons of history will have to repeat them over and over again.
....................................
 
1.     US army gets grip again on jungle warfare, Weekend Australian, 18-19 March 2017.
2.     Ibid.
3.     Ibid.
4.     Ibid.
5.     Website: US Army Foreign Intelligence Assistance Program, Declassified 15 November 1993,
        Army Regulation 381-20, Section 1.5.
6.     The Whores of War, Wilfred Burchett and Derek Roebuck, (London, 1977), page 31.
7.     Army's Project X Had  Wider Audience, Washington Post, 6 March 1997.
8.     Lead Editorial, The CIA Cleanses Itself, New York Times, 4 March 1997.
9.     Singapore's military training area in Australia to be tripled under $2.25 bn plan, The Straits Times, 9 May 2016.
10.   Singapore ministers hail strengthening of Singapore-Australia defence ties, The Straits Times, 6 May 2016; and, SAF's extended facilities, The Straits Times, 10 May 2016.
11.   Soldier 'died in live-fire attack', Australian, 12 May 2017.
12.   Turnbull talks up US presence in Asia, Australian, 10 May 2017.
13.   D-Day for defence's 10-year funding,  Australian, 8 May 2017.
14.   Spy funds boosted in terror fight, Australian, 8 May 2017.

 

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