Thoughts about the emerging Cold War

 Thoughts about the emerging cold war:

Blog No. 210

This article was written at the end of February 2021 and published under the title ‘Facing an existential crisis: the culpable west’ in the May/June issue of the NZ International Review. The same issue also contained articles by NZ’s Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of Disarmament both of which making it explicit that NZ did not wish to see its membership of the Five Eyes intelligence gathering organisation extended into other fields of diplomatic activism targeting China.)

This article is written with the Doomsday Clock now advanced to just 100 seconds to midnight and humanity on the point of drawing into one, or both, the twin termini of nuclear warfare and unmitigated climate change. These perils call into question the continued survival of the global civilisation and possibly even of the species. At the core of the crisis lie the economic and political ideas being pursued by two competing cultural traditions. Survival will depend not on the triumph of one of these viewpoints over the other, but in their learning to better understand both themselves and each other and through that better understanding, work out a mutually beneficial means by which they can peacefully coexist and collaborate.

As it is a western culture that is instigating this destructive confrontation, the questions raised in this article may offend much that many western readers have been taught to ‘know.’ Before passing judgement on matters of such momentous import, readers should take time to read a selection of the footnotes accompanying this article.

“Since 1979, do you know how many times China has been at war with anybody? None. And we have stayed at war.” The U.S., he noted, has only enjoyed 16 years of peace in its 242-year history, making the country “the most warlike nation in the history of the world,”  (Quotes from a letter of advice from former President Carter to then President Trump.)(1.)

In attempting to foresee the future development of the international system it is impossible to ignore the salience of the USA and its determination to retain the multiple, post-WWII privileges that accrued to it as the world’s sole superpower.  The future will be determined by the outcome of its struggle to maintain that privileged position in the face of the resistance  to its unique dominance offered  by a resurgent China and its ever-closer, ally Russia.

The departure of Trump’s’ somewhat random and isolationist Republican administration has given rise to a collective sigh of relief among western elites involved in foreign affairs and not careful about what they wish for. With the possible exception of Israel and Saudi Arabia, there is now a common perception among West inclined nations that there will be fewer unwished for surprises; that US policy will become more predictable and that things will change for the better under a dependable, internationally-oriented Democratic administration set on reestablishing American primacy and business as usual.

One of the notable phenomena of the Trump era was the flight of prominent neo-con and neo-liberal interventionists from the Republicans to join the more interventionist Democratic party in waiting.  Consequently Biden’s foreign affairs team, though remarkably similar to Obama’s, has been super-charged with a fresh intake of interventionist hawks eager to defend and advance the freedoms, the democracy and the human rights of which, the USA claims to be the embodiment.  

The Biden team will be more rational and more attentive to the science of climate change and pandemic. As it has plans that call for their fullest cooperation, the Administration will also be more attentive to the concerns of America’s allies.  To reinforce the loyalty of its European allies, the new administration will probably moderate both its hostility to Iran and the fullness of its compliance with the wishes of Israel and Saudi Arabia. 

That does not mean that the developing Apartheid state of Eretz Israel, with its unwritten constitution and its as yet undefined borders, will not be allowed to continue its consolidation and expansion. While Trump had signed an agreement to remove all US troops from Afghanistan by end of May this year, it was done in the face of bitter Pentagon hostility. It now looks as though, as with other American legal undertakings such as the JCPOA and the Paris Agreement, that the agreement with the Taliban will be unilaterally postponed.  (2.) So too will the American withdrawal from Syria.

The shift in the Pentagon’s focus on the War on Terror to fresh preparations for a conventional and potentially nuclear war against Russia and China will continue and be ramped up, but less recklessly.  Likewise, preparations for cyber warfare and war in Space will also be boosted. That does not mean that inconsequential ‘third world’ civilian deaths in ‘defensive’ American drone and other strikes are likely to stop anytime soon. (3.)

In Asia, American naval forces will continue to ensure ‘freedom of navigation’ of a South China Sea that they would so dearly like to blockade to the despite of China. For the latter, the maintenance of freedom to navigate that sea is a matter of existential concern.  New Zealand will come under renewed pressure to become a more enthusiastic member of the Five Eyes alliance and to join the ‘Quad’ against China. This is already evident in the increasing attempts to inveigle NZ into participating in a joint Five-Eye confrontational diplomatic role (4.) and into compromising its membership of the TPNW by persuading it to be used to launch satellites on behalf of the US military. (5.)

These preparations for war are intended to make money for the beneficiaries of the increasingly militarised American economy. However, were war to actually break out between the USA and its allies and the powerful and nuclear armed states such as Russia and China, the cost would negate all the immense profits made in its preparation. For this reason, there will be fresh steps taken to reapply measures designed to prevent either side in the game of nuclear brinkmanship unintentionally taking one step too many.  Nuclear arms control will reappear on the agenda. (6.)

Inevitably, the diversion of such huge sums of money and attention away from social goods such as the elimination of poverty, improved education, health and infrastructure and the taking of nuclear gambles with the continued existence of the population, requires either its consent or ignorance. The gaining of the former depends on the maintenance of the latter. The control of what appears in the western mainstream and social media (and more importantly, what does not) will continue to be prioritised, so too the illusion of democratic consent.

The confidence with which the above assertions about US policy can be made is based on an understanding of the growth and positioning of the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) within the USA and its allies.

 This is the Military-Industrial complex that, so long ago, Eisenhower warned was in danger of usurping the US government. In the interim, it has done so and has used its vast cash-flow to suborn the Congress. According to Christian Sorensen, in his just published ‘Understanding the War Industry.’  (7.)  What used to be known as the Military Industrial Complex should now be more accurately referred to as the Military-Industrial-Congressional triangle.  It is the MIC and the protection of its self-interest that accounts for the continuity of expansionist US foreign policy no matter what party ostensibly holds the reins of constitutional power.

US foreign policy was traditionally in the hands of a State Department over which the establishment elite, through membership of The Council on Foreign Relations, exercised an intellectual stranglehold. Though now being resuscitated under Biden, under Trump, the State Department was first gutted and then by-passed. Its decision-making powers were largely usurped by the reconfigured MIC that in hindsight clearly thwarted what were Trump’s attempts to bring it into line with his isolationist inclinations. (8.)  

Ever since the mid-nineteenth-century, the USA’s foreign policies were heavily influenced by a belief in America’s ‘Manifest Destiny.’ By the end of WWI, the Manifest Destiny meme had fused serendipitously with the ‘global domination’ meme that is still adhered to by The Council on Foreign Relations. (9.) The existence of the Council can itself be traced all the way back to Cecil Rhodes and his Secret Society of the Elect. Rhodes’ concept was of a world to be dominated by the Anglo-Saxon  (British and American) establishment.  (10.)   (‘Even though being colonised might hurt, it is for your own good!’) Some of that ideology, which might at a stretch be interpreted as ‘philanthropic,’ still lingers on.

However, over the past several decades, a further fusion of foreign policy ideologies has taken place. Under neo-liberalism, government functions have been replaced by privatisation.  Key defence functions, such as naval construction and arms manufacture, once the province of the state, have now been privatised. Even mundane functions such as base maintenance, catering, cleaning, waste-management, landscaping and construction, are no longer carried out directly by the armed services. All this, as well as many actual combat and other war-making and intelligence duties (now also sub-contracted to unanswerable private companies of mercenaries) (11.) have been privatised and corporatised.

The more the profits derived from these activities accrue to the ever expanding membership of the MIC, with its vast network of bases and  privately owned manufacturing plants across the USA and among its allies overseas, the greater the reliance of local communities, at home and abroad, on its employment and  its both over- and under-the-table largesse. As the MIC’s network expands, there is a commensurate growth in the baleful political influence it exercises over the policies of national and international governments.

Though the MIC has now taken the driving seat and still makes full use of ‘patriotism’ and claims of philanthropy, it only uses those quaint sentiments as the saddle that enables it to ride the tax-paying pig. The new, controlling mechanism of the US Empire, the new ‘Deep State,’ is not concerned about anyone’s good, other than that of its own elites. Its function and dedication is simply the sum of multiple individual and corporate interests coming together to distill the essence of capitalism, red in tooth and claw: the extraction and misspending of ever increasing sums of money from the wallets of American and other nations’ citizenry. Its dreams of global domination are motivated purely by self-interest and greed. Winners take all: no longer is there an ideology (other than MAGA) or a code of conduct dampened by moral scruples.

Sorensen paints the picture of a rogue feedback system, now totally beyond the control of any external authorities. Congressmen depend for their seats and their livelihoods on the generosity of this vast conglomeration of providers of services and munition to the militarised state. Unsurprisingly, they pass laws and regulations to ensure ever more wealth is garnered for distribution to the elites on the inside of the MIC establishment.

Associated interest groups clustered around the military, secret intelligence agencies and quasi- governmental front organisations (such as the National Endowment for Democracy that was so active in the Ukraine, Hong-Kong and Xinjiang) benefit from America’s militarisation. (12.) Included as passengers on the gravy-train, are multiple trade associations, international banks, Big Oil, the media, academia, captured think-tanks, the Israeli lobby and civilian lobby groups such as the National Rifle Association. These all see benefit from the USA’s militarisation and add their influence to the MIC’s ever increasing drumbeat for war preparations.

Hence the system initiates ever more costly research projects, develops fantastical weapon systems and strives to continuously turnover stocks through premature obsolescence, their sale to other nations, or their expenditure on the heads of unfortunate third parties. Hence too, arises the need to keep the American people and American allies in a state of continuous paranoia. The subordination of the mainstream media, the militarisation of a whole society and endless wars are the inevitable outcomes of such a self-centred system.

Lest anyone believe that the MIC and its corruption of political systems is a problem exclusive to the USA: the MIC is alive and well on our doorstep and contaminating New Zealand’s own policy making. (13.)

Take as an example an important component of the MIC’s drum-beat for war in Australia that is provided by the ASPI.  “The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) is a defence and strategic policy think tank based in Canberra, founded by the Australian Government and partly funded by the Australian Department of Defence. ASPI’s 2018-19 annual report states that it received some funding from the Embassy of Japan and Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Australia, as well as from state governments and defence companies, such as Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, Thales Group, and Raytheon Technologies.”

Pay the piper and call the tune. Google ‘ASPI China’ and you will see a series of articles designed to show China in the least sympathetic light possible. ASPI is a war-mongering agency of the Australian Government and an example of the homage it pays to the American MIC .  The Chinese claim that — “ASPI runs a hawkish line on China in a bid to hype up the fear index and make it possible for its donors to sell more weapons to countries in the Asia-Pacific region,” would seem fully justified. (14.)

But for the existence of the MIC, the threats issued under its influence and the enemies deliberately conjured up or engendered by it, the citizens of planet Earth could settle down to a rational discussion as to how best to effect a global system of collective security. Instead, they live in a state of real and present danger and the vast majority of humanity live lives more fraught and more impoverished than need be.

The aspect of the USA’s renewed cold war that is of most immediate concern to NZ is the confrontation with its main trading-partner, China.  Today, China under the CCP seems confident in its direction and in the demonstrable success of its endeavour to make China a better place for its citizens. It appears to welcome the fact that through trade, other nations are also enriched by its progress. (15.)

From the CCP’s viewpoint, if the success of a single-party, socialist/capitalist hybrid impresses other nations to the extent that they might be inclined to follow China’s example, so much the better. However, China maintains a strict policy of non-interference in other nations’ affairs and does not attempt to force its system on anyone living outside its claimed borders.

The Chinese system is built around the principle of the wellbeing of the community being of greater concern to their government than the well-being of any one of its individual members. The western nations, in the Christian tradition, have a quite contrary view of the relationship of the individual to society as a whole. Leading western nations seek to minimize the involvement of the state in the lives of their citizens, while allowing them the maximum freedom to act as they would within, what are for the wealthy, ever less-restrictive guidelines. At the extremes, such as are to be found in the USA, untrammeled capitalists can enjoy huge personal freedom at the expense of fellow citizens and other nations. (16.) & (17.)

Under the western model, interest groups tend to coalesce into several competing parties. Progress is seen to result from adversarial struggle rather than consensus. In such societies the wealthy tend to gain political control, which they exercise to their own selfish advantage. A chasm can develop between the life opportunities at the two ends of the wealth scale.(18.)  This chasm weakens a society’s resilience in the face of adversity such as climate change is soon to inflict on everyone.(Compare the USA and UK’s failure in dealing with the Covid crisis with the success of China and Vietnam.)

In addition, the western Christian tradition is one of proselyting. Just as they seek dominion over nature as promised to them in their holy books, leading ‘Christian’ nations seek actively to persuade other nations to follow their system of government. Once again, the wealthy nations that came first to industrialisation were hugely advantaged. These wealthy capitalist societies were well placed to exploit the poorer late-comers to industrialisation. Of the thirty-seven members of the OECD, South Korea stands out as the only nation which is neither predominantly white, nor has a history of imperial conquest. Only South Korea, Japan, Israel and Turkey are not predominantly Christian.

The early to industrialise and mainly western, capitalist nations, as they struggled to determine which of their empires should have dominion over the rest of the world, were never challenged in their supremacy – except from within their own ranks. Ultimately, the USA, emerging victorious and enriched, rather than debilitated from the conflicts with Japan and Germany, was left to lead the others in defeating the sole serious ideological contender to capitalism. The communist USSR that had been so exhausted in its successful struggle with the thousand-year Reich, finally succumbed. For a couple of decades the USA, as sole superpower in a unipolar world, was left to dictate as it saw fit.

In their hubris, the USA and its western allies failed to notice that China, which though communist, was an economic basket-case and offered no threat to anyone, had quietly learned a lesson from Russia’s demise. Initially, as China set about converting its communist system into a socialist/capitalist hybrid, western capitalism saw nothing in the change other than a golden opportunity to move in and profitably exploit the vast pool of cheap and impoverished labour that had then come onto the open market.

It has only been in the last decade that Western political elites have awoken to the fact that the single-party socialist hybrid, arisen from the ashes of Marxist theory, was about to become a highly effective, technological and economic competitor. Though showing no inclination for territorial expansion or for military competition with the American empire in the west, the CCP’s obvious success represented an ideological challenge to the exploitative western capitalist system. 

Though Russia, as potential prey, was no longer an ideological challenger, western vindictiveness forced it into alliance with China. Western capitalism feeding off the carcass of Yeltsin’s defeated USSR, never forgave Putin for bringing the un-restrained feasting to a premature close. Both China and Russia are therefore, used as a single enemy to be defeated and if possible, for ease of digestion, dismembered.

As in the previous wars for empire: so in the current confrontation. The first requirement of the ruling elites was to ensure the obedience and consent of their own citizenry, who were required to sacrifice lives and livelihoods to the struggle. Out of the pyrotechnic rehearsals of the two World Wars, has developed a most sophisticated propaganda machine. In these wars, in which the continued hold on power and even existence of the ruling elites was threatened, the propaganda grew increasingly shrill and ever further removed from objective truth.  (19.)

The current carefully coordinated and rising storm of western anti-Chinese and anti-Russian sentiment being placed before and duly ingested by western populations is an indication of the extent to which, as in the wars against Germany and Japan, the West’s ruling elites now feel themselves to be under existential threat. They require that their populations are of the same opinion.

Hence we are starting to see a spate of atrocity propaganda comparable to that of the Bosche’s bayoneting of Belgian babies. Much is made of clearly faked reports of Russia’s use of nerve-agents to poison opposition leaders. (Why could the Russian state not produce and apply a lethal nerve agent on its second attempt, or was Navalny wearing rubber under-under-pants?) Repeatedly, western audiences hear of the brutal suppression of the Hong-Kong separatist protesters inspired by the USA’s National Endowment for Democracy. (No mention that no one was killed in the process of ending the violent insurrection.) Genocide in the Chinese province of Xinjiang and the systematic rape of Uighur women( 20.) is another favorite theme  that according to  Biden’s first conference call with China’s president , we will soon be hearing even more of.  (21.)

Though the West is only too familiar with Islamist terrorism (which is primarily a product of western nations’ aggressive actions beyond their borders,) there is no sympathy with the Chinese government’s humane and well thought out campaign to eliminate the danger from within its own borders.  No such obvious comparisons are drawn between for instance, China’s reactions to its Islamist insurrection in Xinjian with the British reaction to a Catholic uprising in Northern Ireland. No comparison is drawn between the Maze and the H-Blocks with Chinese reeducation centers.

When called on by their governments, the  war-mongering propaganda system is now so well established that the western media seem happy to promote whatever view of the ’enemy’ their government agencies desire. The sound of breaking glass, as dwellers in glass houses throw stones, is deafening.  

In drawing comparisons between the two systems the stone-throwers’ misdemeanors should also be considered. The Afghani   wedding parties struck by US drones: the alleged 500,000 Iraqi children dead as a result of US-inspired sanctions, (22.) the multiple deaths caused by US ally, India, in its violent repression of Kashmir, its Israeli ally in the Middle East, or its Saudi ally in Yemen should also be tallied. The list can go on endlessly – and nowhere has the evil empire of China dropped a single bomb on anyone!

The central tenet of the west’s prevailing doctrine of neo-liberalism is that the State’s involvement in citizens’ lives should be minimised and as many state functions as possible should be privatised. In the USA, as the nation furthest advanced down this path, the lobby for profit-making out of the privatised ‘security’ industries, with its vested interest in war and preparations for war, has become so powerful that it has now taken over the state’s legislature and executive. Until global public opinion can persuade the USA to bring its now rampant militarisation under control, there is no prospect of global confrontation being replaced by cooperation in international relationships.

This is a time, as none before, when the whole of humanity faces existential peril. It is a time when the nations of the world need to support each other and collaborate in meeting the threats of nuclear war, climate change and pandemics. Madly, at this time of peril for all life on Earth, the US and its western allies are preparing for nuclear war, striving to disrupt and dominate other nations and do all in their power to inspire hate and minimise cooperation between the western bloc and those nations that refuse to kowtow.


  6.  control-under-biden/
  7.  &
  10.       &
  22. This seems an improbable figure as Saddam’s record keeping would be lacking – but it was close enough for the US Secretary of State not to question it.

For those interested in pursuing the matter further has posted a Blog No. 207, which offers an anthology of lies and rebuttals generated by the East-West confrontation.

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