Throughout the last decade, since Obama's 2011 "pivot to Asia" began a cold war dynamic with China, the U.S. military/intelligence complex has been preparing for a scenario where the tensions between the great powers escalate to a point equivalent to the riskiest moments of the last cold war. When Washington had instigated proxy wars with Russia in Syria and Ukraine, and when the Western world had erupted into manufactured outrage over supposed Russian interference, this scenario looked inevitable. So the centers of imperial power outlined a plan to fortify America's internal control in case the country entered into a state of total war.
When the Washington imperialists were dealing with World War I, their solution was to use the iron fist against their opponents. Thousands of socialists and anti-war voices were indicted or convicted, including the prominent communist leader Eugene Debs. And in these last several years of increasing geopolitical hostilities, they've begun to emulate the repression of that era; the Espionage Act, which was created to imprison World War I dissidents, has unsurprisingly been used as a weapon against Julian Assange. The recent increases of political censorship from big tech companies, along with last year's arrests of anti-war figures such as Max Blumenthal and Gerry Condon, have further shown a campaign against dissent. But this is far from where the war state has indicated it plans to take things.
In the fall of 2018, a month before Trump would abandon a nuclear treaty that had prevented the arms race with Russia from escalating, the Pentagon put out a document titled "Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States." This report pointed to preparations to radically change American economic, political, and social life in anticipation for a total war scenario.
It said that in order to be able to "fight tonight" against a "peer adversary" like Russia or China, the U.S. had to "retool" for "great-power competition." It assessed that since "America's manufacturing and defense industrial base" provides the resources on which "our Warfighter depends," the decline of American manufacturing in recent decades "threatens to undermine the ability of U.S. manufacturers to meet national security requirements." It explained that to fix this deficiency, and to match China's technological military capacities, the Pentagon must protect and expand the U.S. high-tech sector.
Its vision reflected the statements from that year's U.S. national security strategy, which said that a fortified national security system will require "the seamless integration of multiple elements of national power""diplomacy, information, economics, finance, intelligence, law enforcement and military." What exact actions did the Pentagon want carried out by this fusion of corporations, policing institutions, and the military/industrial complex? It's only getting clearer as the cold war keeps getting tenser.
A notable development was when Trump ordered troops to go to the Mexican border, which happened only a month after the Pentagon released the September 2018 document. Troops have remained there to this day, allowing the Pentagon to expand its role in immigration enforcement. Online companies have been working with the U.S. government more openly than ever in their efforts to censor the internet during the pandemic. The intelligence agencies and the National Security Council have been heading the U.S. government's overall response to Covid-19.
The latest Wall Street bailout is also part of this power consolidation, since it's made the Federal Reserve function more as a Wall Street entity by having a private financial firm facilitate the slush funds. The increased militarization of American society that Covid-19 has brought is also part of it. Various iterations of Covid-19 crisis capitalism, from the Fed's bailout rewards for Amazon to the GOP's plans for further austerity, contribute to the trend that the Pentagon recommended should happen.
What makes these events match up with the Pentagon's description of power consolidation during wartime is that as tensions with China escalate, all of the capitalist state's responses to the crisis take on the goal of fortifying the country for total war. Big tech's crackdown on content deemed to be "Covid-19 misinformation" targets anti-imperialist content. The White House has been coordinating a campaign with the right-wing media to scapegoat China for the virus. U.S. business elites have been going along with the push to economically isolate the country from China. All of the efforts to expand the police state, control information, and aid corporate power are helping the institutions behind these efforts towards war.
As Washington provokes Chinese armed forces in the South China Sea, and as Trump escalates the arms race with Russia and China by pulling out of another nuclear treaty, the Pentagon's vision is sure to keep getting more thoroughly realized. This is dangerous because even if open war never breaks out, the U.S. is going to use the "China threat" as a pretext for taking away ever more of people's freedoms.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the plans from these corporate and governmental entities to expand the surveillance state. Last year the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, a partnership of corporate and intelligence entities which was created by the 2018 NDAA, called for a vast increase in the amount of technological infrastructure that mass surveillance can function within. Their end goal was to create AI-driven "smart cities" that have cameras on the streets and gadgets which are used to monitor people's everyday activities.
In a foreboding parallel to the Pentagon's assessment that America's industrial base must be strengthened for war preparations to advance, the NSCA's statement was meant to be an outline for the "fourth industrial revolution"-an event which the Washington think tank the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has described as:
A revolution characterized by discontinuous technological development in areas like artificial intelligence (AI), big data, fifth-generation telecommunications networking (5G), nanotechnology and biotechnology, robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), and quantum computing.
That CEIP document is titled "Competing With China on Technology and Innovation," reflecting the NSCA's rationale that AI-driven surveillance must be expanded to compete with China. I think that by now you're seeing what the pattern is: a concerted effort by the centers of power to crack down on dissent while creating the industrial support for long-term military buildup. Their route towards these goals runs through big tech.
It's all leading towards a repeat of the repression from World War I and a Red Scare 2.0, where censorship is increased and more dissenters are arrested. This is why the Trump White House has used Covid-19 to propose that federal judges be granted more authority to pause court proceedings. Washington wants to arrest numerous anti-imperialist agitators, like it arrested Debs a century ago.
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