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“Once weapons were manufactured to fight wars. Now wars are manufactured to sell weapons.” Arundhati Roy, novelists, human rights and environmental activist.
In order to manufacture wars one must also manufacture enemies. Over the years, our government has been remarkably prolific at manufacturing enemies. Most of these alleged enemies were not a threat to our “national security” in any significant way. Most of these enemies did not have the military, economic or logistical capacity to be a serious threat to anyone. But these enemies did provide the excuse for continuous, ever increasing, military spending. Enemies were manufactured to sell weapons.
The list of countries deemed threatening to U.S. security is long, varied and worldwide. Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba, North Korea, and Venezuela come to mind. But we have also demonized places like Grenada. Few people have ever heard of Grenada. But in 1979 a communist government came to power in this tiny Caribbean island. Our 1983 invasion ended the “communist aggression” on this island of “strategic importance” to “our national security,” as President Reagan described the situation. No one has paid any attention to Grenada since.
Anti-communism is a long standing, bipartisan national obsession and a primary excuse for manufacturing enemies. One doesn’t even have to be a communist. Just being left leaning or a democratic socialist is close enough. From whom you get your weapons is critical. If you get your weapons and training from the U.S., you are a friend. It you get them from Russia or China, you are an enemy. It is all about the money flowing to our military industrial complex.
Of course the people of the affected countries pay the price regardless of who supplies the weapons. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?”
The Americans also suffer the consequences of this militarism. As William Astore says, “Most Americans simply take it for granted that war or threats of war, having defined our immediate past, will define our future as well.”
Nicaragua is another country on the enemies list. Nicaragua’s history is one of numerous U.S. military interventions and support for right wing governments. From 1937 to 1979 the U.S. supported the Somoza family dynasty which was nominally democratic but, in reality, a repressive, corrupt dictatorship. In 1979 the communist Sandinistas succeeded in overthrowing the government. This led to 11 years of U.S. support for the anti-communist Conta’s and a trade embargo against Nicaragua. In 1986 the International Court of Justice ruled that the U.S. had violated Nicaragua’s sovereignty and ordered $12 billion be paid in reparations. We refused to comply. Daniel Ortega, the Sandinista leader, was defeated in the 1990 elections but was elected again in 2006. He has been on the enemies list since then.
Recently both the Trump and Biden administrations have escalated various economic sanctions on Nicaragua and members of their government. The Biden executive order of November 10, 2022 says Nicaragua poses “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” Regarding Nicaragua as a threat to our security is ludicrous. But this exaggerated hyperbole is how we manufacture enemies to justify aggressive militarized foreign policy that supports huge Pentagon budgets which means huge profits for weapons manufacturers.
Will we ever stop manufacturing enemies? Will we ever learn how to get along with other nations with different views on life, liberty, happiness or economics?
Manufacturing enemies with small, poor, weak counties – like Grenada, Nicaragua, Cuba or Venezuela – is arrogant and shameful. Doing the same with major powers – especially those with nuclear weapons – is arrogant and dangerous. This is what we are doing with China.
Threat inflation – the exaggerating of real or imagined threats – has been the go-to tool for defense spending hawks for decades. Beginning with the Obama administration, politicians, military leaders, and think tanks have been hyping the fear about China’s threats to our “security” and its rising influence in the world. China is the second largest population in the world, second largest economy and second largest military spender (although one third of our expenditures). They are the largest trading partner for most countries and the largest manufacturer in the global supply chain. One would expect China to be increasing its influence in the world.
The U.S. has been the dominant nation for the last century. But rather than thinking rationally about dealing with the changing world situation (which we, our banks and multinational corporations did much to create) we are jumping to military confrontation to protect our dominance. This can only be disastrous for everyone. No one will win from a military confrontation or arms race with China but this is what our leadership is advocating.
Specifically we are inciting a confrontation over the tiny island of Taiwan. In the past Taiwan was part of China. After the communist victory in the Chinese civil war in 1949, Taiwan became independent with the support of the U.S. China never accepted this situation. Since President Nixon’s China initiative in 1972, relations between China and Taiwan have been improving. It is pretty much expected that eventually the two will be reunited. Some facts illuminate this trend:
China and Hong Kong bought 42% of Taiwan’s exports last year.
About 22% of Taiwan’s imports last year came from mainland China.
Many Taiwan-based companies operate factories in mainland China.
Polls show 85% of Taiwanese do not want to change the current cooperative situation of close interdependence between Taiwan and mainland China.
In 2022, voters in Taiwan overwhelmingly elected the Nationalist Party which has historically supported closer ties with China.
China imports food and commodities to maintain its economy including computer chips from Taiwan.
A war to maintain the independence of Taiwan would be a disaster for everyone. The U.S. would be unlikely to win. It would destroy Taiwan which is only 110 miles from the mainland. It would wreak economic havoc with the world’s economy. It is simply lunacy to be promoting this military confrontation.
The U.S. needs to build on decades of closer, more cooperative relations with China to create a relationship of peaceful competitiveness. There is no need, or useful purpose, for making China into an enemy.