A main question for Ukraine since it became an independent state was who or what could potentially guarantee its security. In the first years after 1991 the Ukrainian government thought that it could secure itself. It had inherited some Soviet nuclear weapons and it tried to bring those to use. But it failed to circumvent the security locks the Russian engineers had integrated into the nuclear warheads. There was also pressure from the U.S. to get rid of those devices as the Ukraine at that time was prolific in selling its Soviet era weapons to various shady actors around the world. Ukraine, together with Belarus and Kazakhstan, was pressed to enter the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The Pentagon on Thursday released its 2022 National Defense Strategy (NDS), which names China as the “most comprehensive and serious challenge to US national security strategy” even as the US is spending tens of billions on a proxy war with Russia. The NDS was first briefed to Congress back in March, and a short summary was released that said China was the top “threat” facing the US. The strategy names Russia as an “acute threat” but not as serious in the long term as China. “Unlike China, Russia can’t systemically challenge the United States over the long term. But Russian aggression does pose an immediate and sharp threat to our interests and values,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told reporters. The strategy said China and Russia pose a greater threat to the US homeland than any terrorist groups.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) reported on Friday that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) searched through the electronic data of Americans 3.4 million times in 2021. The searches were revealed in the ODNI’s “Annual Statistical Transparency Report Regarding the Intelligence Community’s Use of National Security Surveillance Authorities” for calendar year 2021. The data shows that there was nearly a tripling of these unconstitutional searches from 1.3 million in 2020. In typical fashion the ODNI report waives away this intensification of the surveillance state by claiming it was a technical matter related to vital national security matters, the details of which are never explained.
For every State Department embassy, consulate, and mission there are nearly three U.S. military bases overseas. The disparity between the 277 U.S. diplomatic installations and the estimated 800 U.S. military bases abroad symbolizes how dangerously militarized U.S. foreign policy has become. Thankfully, across the political spectrum — and even within the U.S. military — there is growing recognition of the problem. Last month the Biden administration announced the Pentagon will conduct an urgently needed “Global Posture Review” to ensure the deployment of U.S. military forces around the world is, as President Joe Biden said, “appropriately aligned with our foreign policy and national security priorities.” This review offers a historic opportunity to close hundreds of unnecessary military bases abroad and improve national and international security in the process.
The first month of the Biden presidency was a flurry of climate action, sweeping away the openly denialist intransigence of the Trump administration. After re-entering the Paris Agreement and canceling the Keystone XL pipeline on Day 1, President Biden swiftly rolled out an array of climate-related executive orders calling on all agencies to factor climate into their work. Top among them was an order to “center the climate crisis in U.S. foreign policy and national security.” As part of this order, officials from across more than a dozen intelligence agencies, including the CIA, will produce a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) over the next four months on the national and economic security impacts of climate change, a high level of analysis for topics designated as significant threats to the United States.
If there’s one central lesson to take from 2020, it’s that the country with the most well-funded “security state” in the world is also one of the least secure places on Earth. Facing a deadly pandemic that ravaged the globe, the United States leads the world in overall deaths, and is fourth in deaths per 100,000 people. Our cutting-edge, top-of-the-line, trillion-dollar “national security” apparatus was not only helpless in the face of an actual danger, but repeatedly made that danger far worse by foreclosing on a more humane social response — and unleashing violence on the very people hardest hit. This horrific fact should be a wake up call that challenges the very premises of how we perceive “threats” and danger as we enter the 2020s.
Before and since China passed the national-security law (NSL) for Hong Kong, many in the West have expressed concern if not outrage, accusing Beijing of taking away the Special Administrative Region’s freedom and reneging on the “one country, two systems” architecture. The US was particularly incensed, rescinding Hong Kong’s special trade status and imposing sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials suspected of being complicit in making the NSL a reality. Western media were quick to let the world know 600,000 Hongkongers had expressed opposition to the NSL, but there was hardly a word about the more than 2.9 million and 1.7 million people who signed petitions, respectively, supporting the law and demanding that the US stop meddling in the city’s internal affairs.
The United States is fully capable of protecting its citizens. Yet what the present pandemic drives home is this: doing so, while also creating an environment in which all citizens can flourish, is going to require a radical revision of what we still, however inaccurately, call “national security” priorities. This does not mean turning a blind eye to mass murder. Yet the militarization of U.S. policy that occurred in the wake of V-E Day has for too long distracted attention from more pressing matters, not least among them creating a way of life that is equitable and sustainable. This perversion of priorities must now cease. So, yes, let’s mark this V-E Day anniversary with all due solemnity. Yet 75 years after the collapse of the Third Reich, the challenge facing the United States is not “Never Again.” It’s “What Now?”
Crazy times! As we move through this time of health and economic crisis I find myself reflecting on the importance and power of language. Trump recently said of the fight to deal with COVID19 that it is “our big war... It's a medical war. We have to win this war. It's very important.” And yet, this sort of rhetoric is nothing new. Presidents have long declared wars – J Edgar Hoover on crime, Lyndon Johnson on poverty, Richard Nixon on drugs, and now Trump's war on a virus. We know how well how those previous “wars” have gone. And now we face a crisis that is harming people and devastating our economy, while we would have been far better prepared to protect lives had we invested proactively in public health programs.
Donald Trump’s failure to act decisively to control the coronavirus pandemic has likely made the Covid-19 pandemic far more lethal than it should have been. But the reasons behind failure to get protective and life-saving equipment like masks and ventilators into the hands of health workers and hospitals run deeper than Trump’s self-centered recklessness. Both the Obama and Trump administrations quietly delegated state and local authorities with the essential national security responsibility for obtaining and distributing these vital items. The failure of leadership was compounded by the lack of any federal power center that embraced the idea that guarding for a pandemic was at least as important to national security as preparing for war.
For far too long, the United States has been wastefully spending its precious budgetary resources on a nineteenth-century military strategy and a strategic arms policy that has brought no advantages to the American people. For the past three decades, our national security policies have been ineffectual and irrelevant to the genuine threats we face today. These threats do not emanate from Russia or China. Rather, they stem from an underfunded and highly vulnerable public health system, a cyber world that is out of control, and a crumbling infrastructure. In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave a grade of D-plus to the nation’s infrastructure, with the lowest grades going to roads, bridges, mass transit, and water management systems.
In its latest budget request, the Trump administration is asking for a near-record $750 billion for the Pentagon and related defense activities, an astonishing figure by any measure. If passed by Congress, it will, in fact, be one of the largest military budgets in American history, topping peak levels reached during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. And keep one thing in mind: that $750 billion represents only part of the actual annual cost of our national security state.
The morning after Trump's assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes in Iraq, Clearing the FOG co-hosts spoke with Ajamu Baraka, the national coordinator of the Black Alliance for Peace about how people should understand what happened in the larger context of US imperialism and what the action means for the broader peace movement. Baraka also talks about the almost three-year-old Black Alliance for Peace and its current focus on the law enforcement surge domestically in seven US cities, four of which are predominantly black, known as Operation Relentless Pursuit. For the full program, which includes a discussion of the most recent antics by Juan Guaido in Venezuela and what has been learned about the situation in Iran and Iraq, click here to listen to or read the transcript of the show.
With the backing of the mining industry and anti-regulatory groups, the Trump administration has been seeking to expand mining on public lands and further loosen environmental rules under the banner of weaning the United States off importing minerals deemed “critical” to national security. This move may have particular implications for the struggling U.S. coal industry and its promoters, which have begun rallying behind efforts to extract some of these so-called “critical minerals” from coal and its by-products.