America’s Dim Mak Point 10: Over-dependence on Hard Power*

Due to popular demand, Beyond Deadlines is reposting every Monday the still relevant articles of retired Armed Forces of the Philippines intelligence chief Brig. General Victor Corpus that appeared in his BD’s column, Views from the East.

February 15, 2017

THE United States maintains the biggest defense budget in the world. It spends more on its military than the next 8 nations combined (i.e., China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, UK, India, and Germany). Being the lone superpower after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 90s, the US aim is to maintain its superiority by preventing any other power from gaining parity, much more, superiority by engaging in preemptive or preventive wars against potential rivals before such potential rivals become too strong militarily and economically.

This US policy is known as the Wolfowitz Doctrine crafted after the fall of the Soviet Union and is still being followed to this day.

To maintain its superpower hegemonic status, the US deploys its military forces in more than 800 air, naval, military and drone bases; mostly surrounding what it considers as its greatest potential future competitors who, at the same time, are physically occupying the geographically strategic “heartland” of Eurasia: China, Russia, and Iran.

These military bases are coupled with other US instruments of power projection, such as ten aircraft carrier strike groups; with each carrier usually escorted by a coterie of cruisers, destroyers, frigates, nuclear submarines, and supply/logistic ships. Complete sets of space satellites, augmented by drones, provide the US global forces with command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (C4ISTAR).

In order to maintain and enhance its hegemony, the US also constantly try to strengthen and enlarge its alliances against what it considers as the primary threats. Any country that deviates or is perceived to go against US interests is overthrown using various means such as “regime change”, “color revolutions”, or outright coup d’état; and in some cases, the US uses naked military invasion (as what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan).

On September 11, 2001, the US experienced a second “Pearl Harbor” in that brazen attack on the World Trade Center twin towers. This gave US the reason to invade Afghanistan and Iraq; and establish a foothold in the Eurasian Heartland by establishing military bases in these areas. US thought that these military adventures would be short and easy; but it turned out otherwise. They turned out to be quagmires that are slowly draining US strength.

Meanwhile, Russia and China used this US strategic diversion to build up their military and economic strength. This is especially true in the case of China; wherein China hastened to complete its offensive capability in the form of its “trump card” weapon known as the “assassin’s mace”. China also used this time to complete its new “great walls” in the form of 5000 kms of strategic tunnels; underground air base hangars; underground submarine base in Hainan Island; sea-bottom anti-submarine sensors; underwater unmanned vehicles that can sense and attack submarines in swarms; anti-ballistic missile and anti-aircraft defense system along the whole of China’s east coast; and extensive subway system in every major Chinese city that can double as civil defense in times of emergency. All these defensive and offensive capabilities are in their finishing touches. And one more thing: China’s economy has now surpassed the US if GDP is measured in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP). So it seems that “when the cat was away”, the mouse did its thing. Well, the Chinese simply followed the wise advice of its paramount leader Deng Xiaoping:  “Observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile; and never claim leadership.”

Now, it is too late for the US to implement its preemptive or preventive war security strategy. China, in a way, has already surpassed US economy (in terms of PPP); and it is now prepared to defend itself from any war that the US may decide to launch against it; whether it be conventional or nuclear. The same may be said of Russia and Iran; although their economies are not on the same level as that of China.

In order to make up for the US loss of precious time due to it being strategically diverted in its “war on terror”, the US decided to “pivot” to Asia in 2012, more specifically, to China. But due to China’s ample preparation, China knew that it can handle any military initiatives that the US and its main allies (Japan, Australia) can do in its so-called Asia pivot. Even if the US pivot to Asia to confront China by shifting some 60% of US naval and air assets to the Asia-China Theater; China is now confident that it can meet this threat.

The US tried to initiate a war with China when it used the Philippines as a surrogate in filing a case against China in the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague. Before the PCA ruling came out, the US sent two of its aircraft carrier strike groups, together with some nuclear submarines and strategic stealth bombers to the South China Sea. The US hoped that with this military force demonstration, it can impose its will and intimidate China to back off its South China Sea claims. When the PCA ruling unfavorable to China finally came out, China stood its ground and told the US that it is prepared to go to war with the US if the US uses military force. The US eventually meekly turned away and left. And with Philippine President Duterte’s own pivot to China, and with Trump’s victory in the US elections that spells the demise of Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the US “pivot” to Asia and China is all but dead.

When Obama and Clinton announced US policy of pivoting east to Asia (focused on China); China, in turn, started its own pivot west – to Central Asia, Europe and Africa. While the US pivot consisted mainly of its main instruments of power projection, namely its vaunted aircraft carrier strike groups, nuclear submarines, and strategic stealth bombers and fighter planes that back up US waging numerous wars, regime changes, color revolutions, coup d’états, and drone assassinations – hard power – all; China “invaded” Central Asia, Europe, and Africa with high-speed rail networks, ports, highways, power plants, fiber-optic networks, manufacturing hubs and whole stretch of economic zones involving more than 60 countries in the three continents.

Notice the huge contrast in the way the US and China try to project their influence and power. One uses mainly HARD POWER bringing war, death, and destruction along its path. The other uses mainly SOFT POWER bringing peace, connectivity, development and progress along the way. One generates hate and hostility among the populace; the other egg the populace to beg the “invader”: please include our country in your “invasion” (i.e., the One Belt One Road initiative or OBOR project of China).

Under these circumstances, it is clear what major power will eventually prevail.


* The opinion of this author is his/hers alone. It is not necessarily the views of Beyond Deadlines.


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