It was in September of 2000, around a decade into the period of unchallenged geopolitical might and internal economic growth that the U.S. empire had experienced after the Soviet Union's fall, that the neoconservative think tank the Project for the New American Century outlined a route to drastically change the U.S. foreign-policy model. The report in which it did this, titled Rebuilding America's Defenses, anticipated that the empire's luck was going to run out: "... even a global Pax Americana will not preserve itself. Paradoxically, as American power and influence are at their apogee, American military forces limp toward exhaustion, unable to meet the demands of their many and varied missions, including preparing for tomorrow's battlefield."
This prediction of decline for U.S. hegemony was strikingly prescient, given how the report also assessed that "At present the United States faces no global rival." It would be just one decade later that China and Russia rose to a level of prominence that prompted Washington to effectively restart the Cold War by shifting towards an agenda that the military has described as one of "great-power competition." And it would be just two decades later that economic deterioration and wealth inequality reached a point dire enough for the U.S. military to need to formulate a plan to crush a class revolt within the imperial core.
The War on Terror: a prelude to the propaganda and military maneuvers that the U.S. would utilize during the class war
It was 9/11 that dramatically sped up the implementation of the aggressively militaristic agenda that the think tank sought to realize. As the report said, "the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event--like a new Pearl Harbor."
9/11 delivered, creating an opportunity for the Bush White House (as well as all of its succeeding administrations) to carry out military actions with a level of disregard for international law that wasn't present beforehand; U.S. drone-strike rates have been increasing at exponential levels throughout the Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden eras, and under Trump the government made itself impune from having to report drone casualties (a new normal that Biden is continuing). 9/11 also allowed U.S. military spending to increase several times over throughout the next couple of decades, with private mercenary companies being able to profit from the ever-expanding nature of U.S. wars while adding an aspect of corporate impunity to Washington's war crimes. Trump's pardoning last year of the Blackwater operatives who needlessly massacred Iraqi civilians in 2007 has solidified this dynamic of impunity for the atrocities that mercenaries perpetrate.
However, it was also 9/11 that helped bring the empire to its current point of instability, which the report said would force the U.S. to become a "Fortress America." And this was described as the worst-case scenario for the empire:
The process of transformation must proceed from an appreciation of American strategy and political goals. For example, as the leader of a global network of alliances and strategic partnerships, U.S. armed forces cannot retreat into a "Fortress America." Thus, while long-range precision strikes will certainly play an increasingly large role in U.S. military operations, American forces must remain deployed abroad, in large numbers. To remain as the leader of a variety of coalitions, the United States must partake in the risks its allies face; security guarantees that depend solely upon power projected from the continental United States will inevitably become discounted.
This was another surprisingly reality-based assessment for an imperialist think tank. In the War on Terror's first years, the consensus among the neoconservative foreign-policy designers was that reality shouldn't even be treated as the pre-eminent factor behind how American militarism is conducted. This was essentially what an unnamed Bush administration official (widely guessed to be Karl Rove) stated in a reply to reporter Ron Suskind, who wrote in a 2004 article:
The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' [...] 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality--judiciously, as you will--we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do'.
This prelude to Kellyanne Conway's 2017 "alternative facts" comment exposed the contradiction within this task of maintaining U.S. imperial power: the realities at hand had to be dealt with, but reality itself also had to be waved away as a triviality in order to keep up the narrative that the empire was infallible and above vulnerability. Nowhere was this more apparent than in military matters. As Michael Parenti wrote about the Iraq War in his book The Culture Struggle:
Sometimes the orthodox view becomes so entrenched that evidence becomes irrelevant, but there are also times when the officialdom and the corporate media have difficulty finessing reality. In 2003 official propaganda promised us a quick and easy 'liberation' of Iraq, but reality brought undeniably different results that challenged the official line. White House propaganda told us that U.S. troops were 'gratefully received by the Iraqi people,' but the course of events produced a costly and protracted war of resistance. Propaganda told us a 'fanatical handful of terrorists and Baathist holdouts' were causing most of the trouble, but how could a handful pin down two Marine divisions and the 82nd Airborne, and inflict thousands of casualties?
Additional dissonance around the capabilities of the empire appeared when the military reportedly planned after 9/11 to "take out" Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran all within a span of 5 years, then only succeeded in taking out one of them within that time frame (and with vastly more difficulty than Iraq War propaganda had claimed would be the case). It was this forbidden-to-acknowledge fallibility in U.S. warfare capabilities that would soon begin to produce anxiety within the national-security state. Washington's military failures abroad can be concealed to an extent, but what about if the wars are brought home, and the empire then fails to fight off a domestic insurgency?
The 2000 Project for the New American Century report briefly covered this domestic-security aspect, suggesting that the U.S. could improve the National Guard's readiness if it decided to "better link the Guard to the active-duty force, providing adequate resources to increase the combat effectiveness of large Guard units, perhaps to include the partial manning of the first-to-deploy Guard brigades with an active command cadre. Secondly, the Guard's overall structure must be adjusted and the overall number of Army National Guard units--and especially Guard infantry divisions--reduced." At the time, the U.S. national-security state was so comfortable with the future of class conflict within the imperial core that its technocrats were eager to reduce the number of National Guard operating posts. After the 2008 economic crash, a different mindset would appear.
Fears of the underclass rising up amid an economic crisis and emerging anti-colonial revolts
In another example of the imperialists overestimating their own strength, a report that the CIA put out in 2000 about the global trends of the time failed to predict the economic unraveling of 2008. In this report, titled Global Trends 2015, the CIA even went so far as to claim that the next 15 years after 2000 would be a period of steady economic growth, one that would rival the post-World War II boom. When the neoliberal ideology behind these false expectations for where the financial system was headed ran into the reality of 2008, the CIA and the state's other branches could only react in one way: by viewing the American socioeconomic landscape as a ground for war.
The Obama administration expanded upon the militarization of police that had been occurring since excess War on Terror equipment started being given to local police departments, letting the inward funneling of army gear accelerate while defending the use of violent and militaristic police tactics in court. Through section 1021 of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, it was made legal for the military to be used as a domestic police force, as well as for the military to carry out extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens, strip them of rights, and hold them indefinitely. When Occupy Wall Street broke out, the big banks directly conspired with the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the police to target the protests.
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