By Stephen Gowans
The New York Times ran an article today about Washington’s plans to strengthen its military presence in Australia. Australia is to be used by the US military “as a new center of operations in Asia” from which the United States will seek “to reassert itself in the region and grapple with China’s rise.”
The problem for policy planners in Washington is that “China has become the largest trading partner with most of the countries in the region, undercutting American economic influence.” And so the United States will beef up its presence in the Pacific to prove that “it intends to remain a crucial military and economic power” in Asia.
In simple language this means that China has secured export and investment opportunities in its own backyard and that US corporations, banks and investors want them for themselves. So Washington will use its military to take them away from the Chinese.
For obvious reasons, China thinks this smacks of old-fashioned gun-boat imperialism.
Not so curiously, the headline of the Ian Johnson and Jackie Calmes article announcing Washington’s plan to muscle China out of economic primacy in the region put a chauvinistic spin on the story: “As US looks to Asia, it sees China everywhere.”
Imagine China setting up military bases in Venezuela and sending aircraft carriers to the Gulf of Mexico in order to “assert itself in the region.” How strange would seem a newspaper headline that read: “As China looks to the Gulf of Mexico, it sees the United States everywhere,” as if this were an unexpected discovery.
The New York Times’ headline could have been more aptly written this way: As China looks around its neighborhood, it sees the US military everywhere. But then this would have made US imperialism uncomfortably obvious.
An article by Johnson and Calmes’ New York Times’ colleagues Nada Bakri and Rick Gladstone, also in today’s edition of the newspaper (“Syria faces new threats as opposition seeks allies”) is equally worthy of comment. Their article used “one human rights group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” as a source for the number of people killed in recent clashes with Syrian government forces.
One might get the impression that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is a neutral human rights monitor without a political agenda. After all, Bakri and Gladstone refer to it as “one human rights group”, and nothing more.
Were it an opposition group seeking to overthrow the Syrian government we might think twice about trusting it as a source of unbiased information.
Well, think twice.
A statement posted to the group’s website on November 15, 2011, makes clear that it is more than just “one human rights group.” In the statement, the group calls for a no-fly zone over Syria “in accordance with its duty and commitment to echo the voice of Syrian Popular Revolution.”
The Observatory makes no secret of the reason it wants “the international community” (which is to say, Nato) dropping bombs on Syrian military installations and Assad supporters: “the acceleration of overthrowing Syrian brutal regime.”
Meanwhile, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the group of US-allied oil autocracies that had been acting as arms and propaganda suppliers to Libyan rebels, played a key role in pushing through the recent Arab League suspension of Syria.
The Council has also become a key to Washington’s plans to continue to dominate the Persian Gulf, even as—or rather, precisely because–US troops are being withdrawn from Iraq.
Both US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have said that the United States will “maintain a large military presence in the region, in part as a counterweight to Iran.” The US military will rely on “the six nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. While the United States has close bilateral military relationships with each, the administration and the military are trying to foster a new ‘security architecture’ for the Persian Gulf that would integrate air and naval patrols and missile defense.”
It’s not only China that is hemmed in by the US military. As Iran looks around its neighborhood, it too sees the US everywhere.