In our last post on China, we noted that it is now the key nation falling under the rubric of the 1992 Pentagon “Defense Planning Guide” drawn up by Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby which said the US must “discourage advanced industrial nations from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.” In our last post on the global struggle for control of oil, we noted that the national company PetroChina is rapidly gaining on Exxon as the world’s largest oil company. Now, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, after meeting in Beijing with his counterpart, Gen. Cao Gangchuan, tells a news conference he had raised “the uncertainty over China’s military modernization and the need for greater transparency to allay international concerns.” In its coverage of the meeting, the New York Times Nov. 6 said “Pentagon officials describe China as a ‘peer competitor‘…” An analysis on the visit in the previous day’s edition quoted Michael J. Green of the Center for Strategic and International Studies saying, “If you are sitting in the Pentagon, China is a potential peer competitor.”
This terminology was noted as long ago as November 1997 by Michael T. Klare in the monthly English edition of Le Monde Diplomatique, where in a piece entitled “A new military strategy for Washington?” he cited a document from the US Air Force Institute for National Security Studies:
The report notes that, while the risk of a worldwide conflict has largely disappeared, “the United States cannot entirely discount military challenges from a major power”. Such a power may not prove capable of challenging the United States on a global basis, “but they may have sufficient power to be a peer with the US in the theater of operations near them”.
To accentuate the break with past thinking, the INSS report goes to great lengths to distinguish such a challenger from the existing threat posed by the rogue states. Thus, it is claimed that a peer competitor would possess functioning nuclear weapons, be capable of lifting military satellites into space and maintain very large military establishments. For these reasons, “the potential regional peers are far more challenging threats than are the rogue regimes.” Obviously, only two countries—Russia and China—currently satisfy these conditions.
Klare points to the underlying struggle for control of the world’s hydrocarbon resources:
The United States relies on imported supplies of vital raw materials, especially oil. It now obtains more than half of its oil supplies from foreign sources, and its strategically important dependence will grow in the years ahead as domestic sources are gradually depleted. This has generated renewed concern over the security of existing supply areas (especially the Persian Gulf), and provoked strong interest in such emerging oil and gas-producing areas as the Caspian and South China Sea. All this has generated fresh concerns over Russia (which views the Caspian as part of its historical sphere of influence) and China (which claims much of the South China Sea as its “national offshore territory”).
This has led to a growing number of American strategists to question the validity of the anti-rogue doctrine and to begin constructing a new strategy aimed at preparing US forces for a future clash with Russia or China. Proponents of this new approach acknowledge that neither of these countries represent a serious threat to American security today. But they argue that either or both of them could emerge as major “peer competitors” in ten or twenty years’ time.
Pretty darn prescient, given that these words were published exactly ten years ago. Klare presented other telling words from the proverbial horse’s mouth:
China is said to be utilising its growing economic strength to lay the groundwork for a world-class military establishment. Typical of this outlook is the 6 February 1997 statement by General Patrick M. Hughes, director of the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), before the Senate Armed Services Committee. In a departure from past American practice, Hughes chose to focus on China first. “Overall”, he noted, “China is one of the few powers with the potential—political, economic and military—to emerge as a large-scale regional threat to US interests within the next 10-20 years“. Should China become more assertive in pursuing its regional interests, “the prospects for direct confrontation with other regional powers will increase accordingly”. In a worst-case scenario,” China could view the United States as a direct military threat”.
In this light, it hardly even requires reading between the lines to view the Iraq adventure as a gambit to secure the planet’s most strategic oil reserves before China could, either through military encirclement or deals with Saddam.
But of course everybody just wants to blame the Jews.
See our last post on the politics of the GWOT.