Pentagon Dreams of Playing 'GloboCop'

As it did in its speedy but still unfinished military campaign in Iraq, the Pentagon is hastily planning to re-deploy U.S. forces and equipment around the world in ways that will permit Washington to play "GloboCop."

While preparing sharp reductions in forces in Germany, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, military planners are talking about establishing semi-permanent or permanent bases along a giant swathe of global territory -- increasingly referred to as "the arc of instability" -- from the Caribbean Basin through Africa to South and Central Asia and across to North Korea.

The latest details, disclosed by the Wall Street Journal on June 10, include plans to increase U.S. forces in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa across the Red Sea from Yemen, set up semi-permanent "forward bases" in Algeria, Morocco and possibly Tunisia, and establish smaller facilities in Senegal, Ghana and Mali that could be used to intervene in oil-rich West African countries, particularly Nigeria.

Similar bases -- or what some call "lily pads" -- are now being sought or expanded in northern Australia, Thailand (whose prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra will be here for talks this week), Singapore, the Philippines, Kenya, Georgia, Azerbaijan, throughout Central Asia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Qatar, Vietnam and Iraq.

"We are in the process of taking a fundamental look at our military posture worldwide, including in the United States," said Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz on a recent visit to Singapore, where he met with military chiefs and defense ministers from throughout East Asia about U.S. plans there. "We're facing a very different threat than any one we've faced historically."

Those plans represent a major triumph for Wolfowitz, who 12 years ago argued in a controversial draft 'Defense Planning Guidance' (DPG) for realigning U.S. forces globally so as to "retain pre-eminent responsibility for addressing selectively those wrongs which threaten not only our own interests, but those of our allies or friends, or which could seriously unsettle international relations."

The same draft, which was largely repudiated by the first Bush administration after it was leaked to the New York Times, also argued for "a unilateral U.S. defense guarantee" to Eastern Europe "preferably in co-operation with other NATO states," and the use of pre-emptive force against nations suspected of having weapons of mass destruction -- both of which views are now codified as U.S. strategic doctrine.

The draft DPG also argued that U.S. military intervention should become a "constant fixture" of the new world order. It is precisely that capability towards which the Pentagon's force realignments appear to be directed.

With forward bases located all along the so-called "arc of instability," Washington can pre-position equipment and military personnel that would permit it to intervene with force within hours of the outbreak of any crisis.

In that respect, the new global strategy would be similar to the U.S. position beginning in the 19th century vis-à-vis Latin America, where the U.S. has frequently intervened to protect its interests from real or perceived threats.

Nearby countries so involved included Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua, Haiti and several others. The interventions were usually followed by long occupations and the establishment of friendly but authoritarian regimes, like those of Batista, Somoza and "Papa Doc" Duvalier. The U.S. Contra war against the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua in the 1980s might be considered a sequel to the earlier action. America's increasing role in Colombia's current civil war also fits the pattern.

On a grander scale, the U.S. has assisted military takeovers in larger countries like Chile, Brazil, and Argentina, with the usual bloody results.

Indeed, as pointed out by Max Boot, a neo-conservative writer at the Council on Foreign Relations, Wolfowitz's 1992 draft -- now mostly codified in the September 2002 National Security Strategy of the USA -- is not all that different from the 1903 Theodore Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The Monroe Doctrine asserted Washington's "international police power" to intervene against "chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society."

The new and proposed deployments are being justified by similar rhetoric. Just substitute "globalization" for "civilization."

The emerging Pentagon doctrine, founded mainly on the work of retired Admiral Arthur Cebrowski, chief of the Pentagon's Office of Force Transformation, and Thomas Barnett of the Naval War College, argues that it is precisely countries and regions that are "disconnected" from the prevailing trends of economic globalization that posed the greatest dangers.

"Disconnectedness is one of the great danger signs around the world," Cebrowski told an audience at the rightwing Heritage Foundation last month in an update of the "general loosening of the ties of civilized society" formula of a century ago.

Barnett's term for areas of greatest threat is "the Gap," places where "globalization is thinning or just plain absent." Such regions are typically "plagued by politically repressive regimes, widespread poverty and disease, routine mass murder, and -- most important -- the chronic conflicts that incubate the next generation of terrorists."

"If we map out U.S. military responses since the end of the Cold War, we find an overwhelming concentration of activity in the regions of the world that are excluded from globalization's growing Core -- namely the Caribbean Rim, virtually all of Africa, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East and Southwest Asia, and much of Southeast Asia," Barnett wrote in Esquire magazine earlier this year.

The challenge in fighting terrorist networks is both to "get them where they live" in the arc of instability and prevent them from spreading their influence into what Barnett calls "seam states" located between the Gap and the Core.

Such seam states, he says, include Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Greece, Turkey, Pakistan, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia. Those nations, the logic goes, should play critical roles, presumably including providing forward bases, for interventions into the Gap.

At the same time, if states "loosen their ties" to the global economy, "bloodshed will follow. If you are lucky," according to Barnett, "so will American troops."

On the eve of the war in Iraq, which has been followed by an occupation increasingly under siege, Barnett predicted that taking Baghdad would not be about settling old scores or enforcing the disarmament of those famous weapons of mass destruction, yet to be found. Rather, he wrote, it "will mark a historic tipping point -- the moment when Washington takes real ownership of strategic security in the age of globalization."

Barnett's so-called arc corresponds well to regions of oil, gas and mineral wealth, a reminder again of Wolfowitz's 1992 draft study. It asserted that the key objective of U.S. strategy should be "to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power."

Jim Lobe writes on U.S. foreign policy for IPS, Foreign Policy in Focus, TomPaine.com and AlterNet.

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