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Thursday, 18 October 2018

Focus: How About That? (2-5)

The U.S. has 1,000 or more bases around the world; other countries, a handful.  The U.S. spends as much on its military as the next 14 powers (mostly allies) combined.  In fact, it’s investing an estimated $1.45 trillion to produce and operate a single future aircraft, the F-35 -- more than any country, the U.S. included, now spends on its national defense annually.
The U.S. military is singular in other ways, too.  It alone has divided the globe -- the complete world -- into six “commands.”  With (lest anything be left out) an added command, Stratcom, for the heavens and another, recently established, for the only space not previously occupied, cyberspace, where we’re already unofficially “at war.”  No other country on the planet thinks of itself in faintly comparable military terms.
When its high command plans for its future “needs,” thanks to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, they repair (don’t say “retreat”) to a military base south of the capital where they argue out their future and war-game various possible crises while striding across a map of the world larger than a basketball court.  What other military would come up with such a method?
The president now has at his command not one, but two private armies.  The first is the CIA, which in recent years has been heavily militarized, is overseen by a former four-star general (who calls the job “living the dream”), and is running its own private assassination campaigns and drone air wars throughout the Greater Middle East.  The second is an expanding elite, the Joint Special Operations Command, cocooned inside the U.S. military, members of whom are now deployed to hot spots around the globe.
The U.S. Navy, with its 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carrier task forces, is dominant on the global waves in a way that only the British Navy might once have been; and the U.S. Air Force controls the global skies in much of the world in a totally uncontested fashion.  (Despite numerous wars and conflicts, the last American plane possibly downed in aerial combat was in the first Gulf War in 1991.)  Across much of the global south, there is no sovereign space Washington’s drones can’t penetrate to kill those judged by the White House to be threats.
In sum, the U.S. is now the sole planetary Top Gun in a way that empire-builders once undoubtedly fantasized about, but that none from Genghis Khan on have ever achieved: alone and essentially uncontested on the planet.  In fact, by every measure (except success), the likes of it has never been seen. Modified from Tomdispatch