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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/26/21

Collapse of the U.S. military itself will occur after the American empire falls

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US military casualties at Hue during the VC Tet offensive - Jan-Feb 1968
US military casualties at Hue during the VC Tet offensive - Jan-Feb 1968
(Image by manhhai from flickr)
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The fact that the United States spends far more on its military than any other country hasn't stopped its global imperialist grip from slipping throughout the last half century. No matter how much money Washington has thrown at its armed forces, it's remained in a geopolitical position that the Pentagon itself admitted in a 2017 report to be rapidly diminishing.

It's failed to prevent Vietnam from becoming socialist, to the effect that it now lacks what would be a useful southeast Asian military ally in its cold war against China. It's lost Russia as a client state due to the rise of Vladimir Putin. It's found itself increasingly overtaken by a new multi-polar world order led by China. Its reckless invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have resulted in decreased international respect for Washington and a galvanization of anti-imperialist solidarity within southwest Asia to Iran's benefit. Its sanctions on Xinjiang have lost it all political influence within China by alienating the Chinese masses from Washington.

If the imperialist beast can be so weakened by its own contradictions despite its unparalleled military strength, and if this process of imperial decline isn't even near its most severe stage yet, an equivalent implosion can occur for the U.S. military during its attempts to retain internal control amid the coming decades of instability. Brute force isn't enough to keep the imperialists in power. There have to be the right social, economic, and environmental factors in place. And when those factors are lost, a breakdown occurs in the empire's functionings.

I'm going to examine how the changes within these areas that we can expect to see will weaken the military, starting with the facet that's already undergoing the most upheaval:

The military's social-support system

By social-support system, I don't just mean the social cohesion within the military's ranks, though I'll get to that shortly. I mean the attitude of the masses towards the military and the state that commands it. If a capitalist state loses its perceived legitimacy among the masses, it will be vulnerable to getting toppled, with armed rebel groups gaining the ability to persuade vast amounts of people to defect to their side. For communists in the U.S., who seek to create such groups and make them into strong enough organizations for the masses to viably join them, the encouraging thing is that state violence and persecution historically galvanize revolutionary socialism. As Lenin wrote:

The bourgeoisie sees practically only one aspect of Bolshevism--insurrection, violence, and terror; it therefore strives to prepare itself for resistance and opposition primarily in this field. It is possible that, in certain instances, in certain countries, and for certain brief periods, it will succeed in this. We must reckon with such an eventuality, and we have absolutely nothing to fear if it does succeed. Communism is emerging in positively every sphere of public life; its beginnings are to be seen literally on all sides. The "contagion" (to use the favourite metaphor of the bourgeoisie and the bourgeois police, the one mostly to their liking) has very thoroughly penetrated the organism and has completely permeated it. If special efforts are made to block one of the channels, the "contagion" will find another one, sometimes very unexpectedly. Life will assert itself. Let the bourgeoisie rave, work itself into a frenzy, go to extremes, commit follies, take vengeance on the Bolsheviks in advance, and endeavour to kill off (as in India, Hungary, Germany, etc.) more hundreds, thousands, and hundreds of thousands of yesterday's and tomorrow's Bolsheviks. In acting thus, the bourgeoisie is acting as all historically doomed classes have done.

This blowback from capitalist state repression, where provocations from the state produce greater ideological radicalization and will towards resistance among the masses, has been chipping away at U.S. influence abroad quite visibly in the last year alone. The torture of journalists and political dissenters, massacres of protesters, and censorship of anti-imperialist voices that Bolivia's CIA-installed coup regime carried out immediately prompted Bolivia's masses towards guerrilla insurrections that managed to seize large chunks of land from the government following the coup's inception in 2019. Then within a year, the anti-coup movement proved too big to repress, forcing the regime to allow new elections through which the socialists have come back to power.

Throughout the rest of the sphere of imperial control, the equivalent acts of capitalist state violence are bringing the masses closer towards the equivalent type of victory. The Haitian dictatorship's brutality against journalists and protesters is galvanizing a mass movement against neo-colonial rule. Israel's indiscriminate massacres of Palestinian civilians are reaffirming mass Palestinian support for the anti-Zionist resistance. The Colombian neo-colonial government's world-shocking recent atrocities, where protesters have been getting massacred by the dozens and helicopters have been shooting citizens in broad daylight, has encouraged the people's anti-austerity strike and given a moral mandate to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (or FARC) and the country's other armed revolutionary groups.

These explosions of the global class struggle are bringing the military power of the neo-colonial states into question. A statement last week from FARC presented a compelling case for Colombia's armed forces to defy their orders to brutalize their fellow citizens: "Do they [soldiers and police] believe that by killing their Colombian brothers they are excluded from the tax, pension, labor and health reforms? Do they believe that by defending the institutionality and the interests of the transnationals and the oligarchy, their standard of living will improve?"

It's this increasingly obvious absurdity of the role that these neo-colonial footsoldiers have taken on, whether in Colombia or in any other given hyper-exploited country, that's already paralyzing the global bourgeoisie's military power and enabling revolutionary guerrillas to gain and retain more ground than they would otherwise. This is apparent in India, where the military remains unable to effectively combat the country's communist insurgencies. As Foreign Policy's Sumit Ganguly observed last month:

Although the Indian Army has had extensive counterinsurgency experience and has, for the most part, acquitted itself creditably, it is extremely loath to be deployed within the nation's borders. Shooting at its own population is a task the military takes on with supreme reluctance for two reasons. First, it detracts from the military's principle function: the defense of the nation's borders. Second, the military is also concerned that repeated deployments aiding civil operations within the country could promote fissures within its ranks. These are, however, not the only issues that have dogged India's counterinsurgency strategy. Another important problem is New Delhi has never developed a dedicated counterinsurgency force that can be deployed as needed across the country. Instead, it has a veritable alphabet soup of paramilitary organizations that are not specifically trained to tackle either rural or urban insurgencies.

In other words, the Indian state is afraid that the "contagion" of pro-communist sentiments will spread, whether among outraged citizens or among morally uncertain military members, if it takes its counterinsurgency efforts too far. The more pronounced capitalism's contradictions become, the stronger the resistance of the masses grows, and the more incentives the capitalist state's armed forces have to join a revolution--like how the Russian czar's soldiers refused orders to fire on demonstrators and then joined the striking workers right before the Bolshevik victory. It's because of this potential for fissures among the ranks of the official armed forces--especially in countries like India where the chain of global capital is relatively weak--that the state also cultivates paramilitaries as backups.

The same dynamic is unfolding in Colombia, where the neo-Nazi elements behind the government's counterinsurgency doctrine have proliferated paramilitaries to partner with the police and military in countering the protests. Colombia's rebels will no doubt one day gain the strength of the ones in India, where the state has been showing fatal incompetence at fighting off the communist guerrillas despite the state's recent successes at diminishing the ground the guerrillas hold.

This incompetence was shown when India's Maoist Naxalite insurgents ambushed police last month, managing to kill 23 officers and seize the weapons, ammunition, and armor from the dead. This loss for the state could have been avoided if the state didn't have a broken counterinsurgency doctrine, which caused an intelligence failure. But such weaknesses for a capitalist state are unsurprising when capital itself has become as weak as it is in India, and when the bourgeoisie therefore start reacting in the counterproductive ways Lenin described.

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