Policing the Brave New World Order
excerpted from the book
Brave New World Order
by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer
Orbis Books, 1992, paper
President George Bush State of the Union Address, January 29,
"The end of the Cold War has been a victory for all humanity."
Michael Klare Director of Peace and World Security Studies
Hampshire College, October 8,1990
It seemed to many Americans that the end of the Cold War was
a God-send for the United States, an opportunity to gather our
energies and prepare for the new challenges of the twenty-first
century. While this would appear to be the preferred outcome of
the Cold War I fear that the actual outcome will be rather different
and far less attractive.... The Cold War system that has dominated
our lives for so long will be replaced, not with a new system
of international peace and stability, but with a new war system
of interminable conflict between the industrialized countries
of the North and the underdeveloped forces and nations of the
South.... While such conflicts may not appear to have the connected,
coherent character of the struggle between East and West they
nevertheless add up to an ongoing systemic and global struggle
for wealth and power. . . . Unless things change radically in
the months and years ahead I believe that this struggle between
North and South will come to dominate American life and society
every bit as powerfully and pervasively as did the global struggle
between East and West. It will also erase all the benefits that
might have come at the end of the Cold War.
... The "Soviet threat" was the glue that held U.S.
society together. It fed a national mythology of the United States
as a "benevolent superpower" up against the "evil
empire"; it justified the maintenance of more than 375 U.S.
foreign military bases and the deployment of more than half a
million U.S. troops (before the Gulf War) on foreign soil; it
provided ideological cover for the use of these troops and bases
to support more than 200 U.S. military interventions in the Third
World; it led to enormous wealth and power for the military-industrial
complex and the managers of the U.S. National Security Establishment;
and, it diffused internal tensions in a society divided between
rich and poor by focusing attention on a "common enemy."
For all of these reasons the end of the Cold War led to a national
identity crisis reflected in an unprecedented internal power struggle
over the future of the nation.
The "Threat of Peace"
Some U.S. Ieaders understood that economic power would ultimately
determine leadership and status in the emerging world order and
that U.S. economic well-being required a shift away from military
priorities. However, Michael Klare notes, the idea of a shift
from military to economic competition was "a terrifying prospect
for ... those leaders who for so long have directed the National
Security Establishment.... For these leaders whose identity is
so closely tied up with being number one, the loss of our paramount
status as a superpower is an unacceptable prospect."
For years the power and privilege of the U.S. military and
National Security Establishment were directly linked to the Soviet
threat. It was the Cold War that fed institutional interests and
personal ambition and prestige. The prospect, or inflated prospect,
of a conventional or nuclear confrontation in Europe was used
to justify huge military expenditures and expensive weapons systems.
Approximately $150 billion of each year's military budget was
directly or indirectly related to the defense of Western Europe.
In 1987, when U.S. and Soviet negotiators came to an agreement
on details of the INF (Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces) treaty,
the Spokane Chronicle's headline read, "Peace may not be
best for Boeing; upcoming (INF) treaty may lead to cuts in defense
budget." The Defense News warned at the same time that "defense
related stock-trading values have fallen so precipitously *n the
past two weeks that one Wall Street analyst says investors appear
to be reacting to the 'fear of an outbreak of world peace.'
The end of the Cold War was a far more serious threat to the
military industrial complex than the INF treaty. The December
1989 issue of National Defense: Journal of the American Defense
Preparedness Association warned that cuts in military spending
would result *n cancellations of major weapons systems. The industry,
however, was going to fight to "hold the line" on such
cutbacks, especially on weapons systems already in development.
The news was not all bad, the journal reported, because "the
coming Decade of Uncertainty will be a time of unprecedented opportunity
for Special Operations Forces (SOF) and Low-Intensity Warfare
Defense industry journals and military service reports in
the aftermath of the Cold War reflected a palpable sense of anxiety,
even panic. The Cold War thaw offered the possibility that many
billions of dollars could be shifted from the military to other
purposes. A substantial peace dividend seemed likely in light
of U.S. poverty and economic decline. As a result, there was a
desperate search among the various military branches and weapons
producers for institutional legitimacy and for an ongoing role
in a world order that had unexpectedly changed. A section of the
May 1990 issue of the Marine Corps Gazette entitled "On the
Corps' Continuing Role" illustrates these dynamics. It says
The world is "in the midst of historic and promising
transformations in the global security environment," experiencing
changes more sweeping than any since the outbreak of World War
II.... That the Cold War is over and the threat of global conflict
has greatly diminished are widely held perceptions. Hopes for
a "peace dividend" continue to be voiced, and major
cutbacks in defense expenditures are regarded as virtual certainties.
Changes of this magnitude bring periods of "agonizing
reappraisal." Clearly, the United States is entering a new
era of reexamination of its defense needs. Policy, strategy, Service
roles and functions, force structure, weapons systems, and budget
levels all come under serious review.... The purpose of this section
is to help put this challenging period in perspective and to encourage
thinking about the Corps' future ... [to] detail the specific
capabilities that Marine Corps forces possess across the spectrum
of warfare . . . [and to consider different] approaches the Corps
might consider as it comes to grips with harsh budget realities.
The mood of this and other publications and reports was somber
but realistic. "Widely held perceptions" of reduced
global conflict made a peace dividend almost inevitable. This
prompted among the branches of the military a strategy of damage
control. First, the size of the "peace dividend" could
be limited by finding new enemies and inflating the dangers of
old enemies, such as drugs and terrorism, to replace the Soviet
threat. Second, the focus of the conflict could be shifted from
East/West to North/South, emphasizing the instability of the third-world
nations as a threat to our national security. Third, despite earlier
reluctance the strategy of low-intensity conflict could be exploited.
Each branch of the military and each company, for that matter,
hoped to demonstrate that it had unique capabilities for dealing
with these new issues of "national security," thus shifting
the cost of any peace dividend to others while maintaining its
piece of the budget pie.
The Search for Enemies
The post-Cold War search for enemies began immediately. U.S.
military branches that had expressed reluctance about U.S. military
involvement in "drug wars" suddenly began citing "narco-terrorism"
as a serious threat to U.S. national security. General A. M. Gray,
Commandant of the Marine Corps, in March, 1990, warned Congress
about "narco-terrorism" and stated that "drug use
and trafficking will continue to undermine both international
and domestic stability.'' The next month the U.S. Army Chief of
Staff, Carl E. Vuono, highlighted "the scourge of drugs"
as a threat to U.S. national security.
The "war on drugs" is particularly suspect as a
stand-in for the Soviet threat. "The only thing we know with
certainty," according to Michael Levine, a former Drug Enforcement
Agency (DEA) undercover agent, "is that the Drug War is not
for real. The drug economy in the United States is as much as
$200 billion a year, and it is being used to finance political
operations." U.S. foreign policy uses the so-called drug
war as a over to expand greatly its military presence in Latin
America and ... there are friendly ties between U.S. covert operations
and international drug traffickers.
It also is futile, as past efforts have shown, to use military
force to attempt to stop the drug flow at the source without addressing
the economic realities of hundreds of thousands of poor campesinos
who depend on such production for survival. The use of force on
the consumer end is equally problematic. A police and prison approach
to drugs within the United States takes funds away from much-needed
treatment centers, targets the poor rather than a much larger
group of affluent users, ignores the social conditions that make
drug trafficking attractive to many youth suffocating in inner
cities, leaves the bankers and other elite economic sectors that
garner most of the drug profits largely untouched, puts police
in constant danger, leads to greater violence in neighborhoods,
and threatens to erode civil liberties.
In short, the drug war is a failure in terms of stated objectives.
However, it serves two important functions for the military and
broader National Security Establishment. It is a convenient cover
for a greatly expanded U.S. military presence in Latin America,
and it helps hold off the threat of a peace dividend.
Drug-related threats to national security are not the only
enemies called on to replace the Soviet threat. There is also
the ongoing specter of terrorism. General Gray warned that "nationalism
and terrorism are on the rise." Terrorism, he said, "will
continue to be the preferred means for radical nations and groups
to achieve their ends since it is an inexpensive means of warfare."
Shift of Focus to the Third World
Newfound enemies which focused on drugs and terrorism were
part of a broader effort in the post-Cold War environment to transfer
national security concerns from Europe to the Third World. "Our
national interests no longer are focused primarily on east to
west," General Gray told Congress, "but have evolved
to include north and south.'' General Carl E. Vuono, U.S. Army
Chief of Staff, also stressed the preoccupation with third world
Because the United States is a global power with vital interests
that must be protected throughout an increasingly turbulent world,
we must look beyond the European continent and consider other
threats to our security. The proliferation of military power in
what is called the "Third World" presents a troubling
picture.... The growing challenge of insurgencies, subversion,
international terrorism, and the scourge of drugs-often grouped
under the term "low-intensity conflict"-constitutes
yet another serious threat to our interests.... As a global power
with economic, political, and security interests spanning the
world, the United States cannot ignore those political threats
to those interests.
The geographic and ideological shift in enemies from the Soviet
Union to the Third World and from an East-West to a North-South
conflict is justified by the military on economic grounds. Poverty-induced
social turmoil, according to General Gray, threatens U.S. access
to vital raw materials and resources located throughout the Third
The underdeveloped world's growing dissatisfaction over the
gap between rich and poor nations will create a fertile breeding
ground for insurgencies. These insurgencies have the potential
to jeopardize regional stability and our access to vital economic
and military resources. This situation will become critical as
our Nation and allies and potential adversaries become more and
more dependent on these strategic resources. If we are to have
stability in these regions, maintain access to their resources,
protect our citizens abroad, defend our vital installations,
and deter conflict, we must maintain within our active force
structure a credible military power projection capability with
the flexibility to respond to conflict across the spectrum of
violence throughout the globe.
General Maxwell Taylor had warned years before that "as
the leading 'have' power" the United States "may expect
to fight to protect our national valuables against envious 'have
nots." The U.S. war against the poor, according to General
Gray and other U.S. military leaders, would take on greater urgency
in the post-Cold War period where inequalities would be more pronounced:
In many regions, poverty has become institutionalized with
little hope of relief. Within the next 20 years, the earth's
population will be approximately 150 percent of today's level.
Eighty percent of this population will reside in the developing
nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.... Competition for
limited resources, such as food, water, and housing, will continue
to make these regions breeding grounds of discontent. Already,
insurgencies are ongoing in the Pacific, Latin America, and Africa.
Their numbers will increase, perhaps dramatically, in the short
Thus U.S. military leaders were taking aim at the peace dividend
by challenging critics who believed that there was a conflict
between superpower military and superpower economic status. A
shift away from U.S. military priorities, according to General
Gray, would not lead to economic revitalization but to economic
vulnerability, because U.S. military power guarantees U.S. businesses
access to raw materials and markets:
Our superpower political and military status is dependent
' upon our ability to maintain the economic base derived from
our ability to compete in established and developing economic
markets throughout the world. If we are to maintain this status,
we must have unimpeded access to these markets and to the resources
needed to support our manufacturing requirements. In addition,
our ability to operate successfully and confidently within these
markets and to protect our citizens abroad is dependent on the
stability of the regions in which they are located.
That is, in the post-Cold War world U.S. economic well-being
will depend on the effectiveness of the U.S. military. General
Gray countered the economic revitalization issue in another way
as well. In contrast to those who emphasized the folly of trying
to compete with Western Europe and Japan while gearing research
and development to the military sector he stressed the importance
of the military sector and emphasized its utility to the civilian
Many of the technologies that will be applied to the battlefield
of the next century have already been identified. Directed energy
and laser weaponry, improved sensors, robotics, stealth, and
superior space systems are already being developed. Genetic engineering
and other biotechnologies will lead to capabilities in chemical
and biological weaponry never before envisioned.... If our Nation
is to maintain military credibility in the next century, we must
continue to exploit affordable new technology. Fiscal restraints
and responsibility will require that the development and exploitation
of technology have both civilian and military applicability.
The military's constant theme in these documents is that although
the Cold War has reduced U.S.-Soviet tensions the United States
is a nation under attack in a turbulent and hostile world. A peace
dividend is not only shortsighted, but it may be fatal to the
nation's security. "Economic and political instability threatens
nations in all regions of the world," General Gray told Congress.
"Conflict of some type in each of these regions is ongoing
and likely to continue. If we are to maintain our position as
a world leader and protect our interests, we must be capable of
and willing to protect our global interests. This requires that
we maintain our capability to respond to likely regions of conflict."
The arguments advanced by the military and defense establishment
are flawed and self-serving to say the least. Social turmoil and
instability are consequences of poverty and social inequality
within and among nations. However, to seek to resolve these conflicts
through military power, and without a measure of economic justice,
is both fruitless and dangerous. If the United States chooses
a path of economic justice it can reduce social tensions and gain
access to necessary resources by purchasing them. If it forsakes
economic justice social turmoil will undoubtedly increase. However,
third-world countries need to sell their resources and the policing
function of the IMF ensures that they do so.
New Support for Low-Intensity Conflict
Along with the search for new enemies to replace the Soviet
threat after the Cold War, the U.S. military suddenly reversed
itself and became an enthusiastic supporter of low-intensity conflict
(LIC), a Pentagon term which describes threats to U.S. interests
in third-world countries that are less violent than conventional
or nuclear wars. LIC also refers to the U.S. strategy of protecting
perceived interests in light of such threats. According to one
definition from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, LIC is a "limited
politico-military struggle to achieve political, social, economic,
or psychological objectives. It is often protracted and ranges
from diplomatic, economic, and psychosocial pressures through
terrorism and insurgency."
A detailed analysis of low-intensity conflict is available
elsewhere. The key point to be made here is that until after the
Cold War the U. S. military was a reluctant partner in LIC. LIC
required the military to develop nontraditional weapons and strategies
that were seen as a threat to high-technology systems on which
their huge budgets and prestige depends. Pentagon consultant Noel
Koch argued that the U.S. military needed significant reorientation
in the aftermath of the Vietnam war. However according to Koch,
such "a development has been strenuously resisted, and this
resistance has been centered in the U.S. military." The military's
resistance was a practical one: it associated low-intensity conflict
with low budgets.
Although LIC played an important role in U.S. interventions
throughout the 1980s, U.S. military leaders clearly considered
it a sideshow in which the main attraction was the Soviet threat.
The Cold War was their ticket to huge budgets and high-tech weapons
systems. The U.S. military in the post-Cold War period suddenly
shifted its rhetoric from a reluctant partner to an enthusiastic
supporter of low-intensity conflict. This was true because LIC,
like drugs and terrorism, was one of the few games left in town.
Present day low-intensity-conflict strategy is a response
to military and political failures that led to the defeat of the
United States in Indochina, a setting where the highly technological
conventional and nuclear weapons preferred by the U.S. military
were inappropriate. The U.S. military, which profited handsomely
from sophisticated weapons systems, believed that sufficient conventional
firepower combined with the threat of nuclear bombs would win
wars. Not only did the United States lack quick strike, highly
mobile, special operations forces (SOFs) capable of fighting guerrilla
wars, it also lacked a comprehensive strategy to control both
territory and "hearts and minds."
As stated above, U.S. foreign policy in the 1980s, despite
resistance from important sectors of the U.S. military, assigned
a significant role to LIC as a means to better intervene in third
world countries. The United States greatly improved its special
operations forces and developed a sophisticated strategy for third-world
interventionism that integrated political-diplomatic, military,
economic, and psychological aspects of warfare. It was a deadly
means of warfare against the organized poor in Central America
and other third-world countries where perceived U.S. interests
U.S. Iow-intensity-conflict strategy has also been shaped
by political considerations. The death of more than fifty thousand
U.S. soldiers in a protracted ground war in a far-off country
had serious political fallout. It resulted in what came to be
called the Vietnam Syndrome, the reluctance of U.S. citizens in
the post-Vietnam era to support the defense of "vital"
interests overseas through the projection of U.S. power, including
deployment of U.S. troops. This syndrome, lamentable from the
point of view of the U.S. economic and military elites, was one
target of the Gulf War.
The Vietnam Syndrome shapes U.S. Iow-intensity-conflict strategy
in a variety of ways. LIC emphasizes U.S. training and support
for surrogate forces, such as the Nicaraguan Contras or Salvadoran
military. These groups are a throwback to an earlier time in U.S.
history when the wealthy could hire replacement soldiers for their
sons. In its present form surrogate forces are funded and trained
to do the dying on behalf of U.S. national security interests.
This racist strategy allows many thousands of third-world people
to die with minimal U.S. public protest because it reduces the
number of U.S. casualties. LIC also limits public awareness, concern,
and debate through its use of disinformation campaigns and covert
U.S. conduct in the Gulf War reflects key features of LIC
even though the war with Iraq could not be considered a low-intensity
conflict. Common elements in U.S. LIC strategy in Central America
and U.S. strategy in the Gulf include the following:
* U.S. warfare strategy in both regions was shaped by the
Vietnam Syndrome. In Central America surrogate troops replaced
U.S. casualties in defense of "vital security interests."
In Iraq the same result was achieved through the largest aerial
bombings in human history. U.S. policy makers in both regions
acted with confidence, unfortunately borne out by events, that
the U.S. people would tolerate the mass slaughter of others as
long as U.S. casualties were light. According to Bob Woodward's
book The Commanders, General Colin Powell, head of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff, was more reluctant than President Bush to seek a military
solution to the Gulf crisis because of fears of the negative political
fallout for the U.S. military if U.S. casualties were unacceptably
* The U.S. government, in order to garner support for highly
questionable policies in Central America and the Gulf, targeted
the U.S. people with disinformation and propaganda.
* A major purpose of U.S.-sponsored wars in both regions was
intimidation through mass destruction. CIA director William Casey
boasted that U.S. sponsorship of the Contras in Nicaragua was
intended to "waste" the country. Richard John Neuhaus,
a supporter of the U.S. war against Nicaragua, stated, "Washington
believes that Nicaragua must serve as a warning to the rest of
Central America to never again challenge U.S. hegemony because
of the enormous economic and political costs. It's too bad that
the poor have to suffer, but historically the poor have always
suffered. Nicaragua must be a lesson to the others." Iraq
provided a similar lesson in the aftermath of the Cold War. The
U.S. demonstrated that it was the lone military superpower, willing
to flex its military muscles, and unwilling to tolerate disobedience.
* The Central American and Gulf Wars were fought to maintain
control over governments in areas considered strategic to the
* U.S. policies in both regions stressed military "solutions"
Finally, U.S. backing for the rich against the poor was a
significant factor in both the Central American and Gulf Wars.
Clearly the principles of low-intensity conflict have taken
hold, providing the National Security Establishment with partial
"solutions" to the problems posed by the peace dividend
and the Vietnam Syndrome. The military, while not limiting itself
to low-intensity conflicts, is eager to exploit the possibilities
of LIC in the post-Cold War period. General Carl E. Vuono, in
a 1990 report entitled Trained and Ready in an Era of Change,
indicated that "LIC is the security challenge most likely
to confront the Army in the 1990s." General Gray of the Marine
Corps also jumped on the low-intensity conflict bandwagon. He
stated that the majority of the conflicts confronting the United
States in the future "would be at the low- to mid-intensity
level of conflict." Michael Klare has pointed out that in
the post-Cold War, pre-Gulf War period, despite their earlier
reservations, "all four of the military services have asserted
recently that they are uniquely suited to perform the LIC function.''
In the post-Cold War period the United States faced a hidden
struggle that would determine the viability of its democracy.
A peace dividend and new world order based on nonmilitary forms
of conflict resolution threatened powerful interests. The military
was seeking to create a world in its own image. It placed at the
center of this world its own institutional privileges and those
of the broader National Security State Establishment. If the National
Security Establishment had its way, economic revitalization would
give way to militarism. What it needed was a crisis to make all
this talk of post-Cold War enemies plausible.
General Gray warned that due to the "proliferation of
sophisticated weapons" there were areas where low-intensity
conflict might not succeed and greater violence would be needed:
Throughout the world, the proliferation of arms is increasing
at a dangerous pace. The variety of weapons systems available
and their lethality has dramatically increased. The range of weapons
technology encompasses nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, ballistic
missile technology, sophisticated aircraft, submarines, armor,
armored vehicles, and precision guided munitions.
The advanced weapons systems designed to "defend"
Europe could in the post-Cold War period be used against well-armed
third-world enemies. Of particular concern was the Middle East
where "social dissatisfaction with Western secular ideas
continues to provide a breeding ground for terrorism and instability."
"In the Middle East," General Gray stated, "it
will remain in our interest to maintain stability for both economic
and political reasons since many of our allies depend on the region
for the majority of their oil supply."
If the end of the Cold War was, in the words of Michael Klare,
a "God-send" to a nation in economic crisis and in desperate
need of a peace dividend, then the Gulf crisis demonstrated that
there is another more powerful god in charge: the god of the National
New World Order