Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
Ronald Reagan’s star wars programme of the early 1980s was very much a part of a wider right-wing Republican vision of facing down the “evil empire” of the Soviet Union. It also involved a substantial increase in nuclear armaments and a wide-ranging transformation of the US armed forces so that they would be ready and willing to defeat the Soviets in the event of war.
Similarly, the current Bush administration’s commitment to missile defence is part of a much wider strategic ambition to ensure “full-spectrum dominance” in all areas of warfare as part of creating the “new American century”. Washington’s neo-conservatives believe the US has an historic role to spread its free-market dream across the world. That way lie peace and security for the US and its allies, and stability and prosperity for like-minded people everywhere.
To the neo-conservatives it is obvious: communism is finished, capitalism rules and the US way of life is predominant. This doesn”t mean a neo-colonial role for the US, more a shaping of the world economy and polity in the US image. There is an implicit belief that no other approach is acceptable; any other vision is deeply wrong-headed, if not malign.
At the same time, there is a recognition that there are dangerous forces at work that do not recognise the wisdom and certainty of the neo-conservative vision. In a campaign speech nearly a year before his election and 18 months before 11 September, Bush said: “It was a dangerous world and we knew exactly who the -they- were. It was us versus them, and we knew exactly who them was. Today we”re not so sure who the -they- are, but we know they”re there.”
Four years later, “they” are more easily characterised as international terrorists and “rogue states”, with one of the greatest threats coming from rogue states armed with weapons of mass destruction – especially when they are carried on ballistic missiles.
An essential aspect of the neo-conservatives” vision of military dominance is missile defence. The programme would form part of a modernised nuclear arsenal that would have the ability to fight “small nuclear wars in far-off places”. This arsenal would be complemented by a range of other weapons and forces including much-expanded counter-insurgency capabilities, long-range strike aircraft, massive blast bombs and, in the longer term, airborne and space-based lasers.
The missile defence programme is motivated by the concern that, in the fairly near future, some states may develop a limited deterrent capability that will curtail the US’s freedom to act militarily in what it perceives as its interests. Much was learnt from the Scud missile problems of the 1991 Gulf War.
If missile defence can be made to work, then it removes the one limitation on US forces acting with impunity whenever and wherever necessary. The combination of such defensive systems with the world’s most powerful offensive military forces (nuclear as well as conventional) will get remarkably close to full-spectrum dominance – helping to ensure that the new American century moves closer to reality.
Paul Rogers is professor of peace studies at Bradford University and writes a weekly column on international security for www.opendemocracy.comPaul Rogers is professor of peace studies at Bradford University and writes a weekly column on international security for www.opendemocracy.com
The collapse of Carillion could be a watershed moment. Let's seize it to end economically disastrous outsourcing schemes. By Cat Hobbs.
Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
How can the heavily-armed Israeli state claim to be victimised by one teenage activist? By Richard Seymour.
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism