Montréal, 14 avril 2001  /  No 81
<< page précédente 
David MacRae is a software consultant who works out of his home in St. Laurent, Quebec.
by David MacRae
          The hysteria displayed by the citizens of the American Republic in defence of the American Empire appears to have no limit. The Hainan incident is merely the latest example.
Looking for trouble 
          In case you have been on another planet for the last two weeks, the official line goes like this: a reconnaissance plane, official designation: EP-3, was engaged in a mission vital to American security. This plane is so top-secret that US contractors building parts for the plane are not allowed to install equipment on it at the same time in case they should learn something from each other. The vital mission of the plane: to monitor communications between a new destroyer and its home base. Then something awful happened due to Chinese interference: one of their F-8 fighters accidentally hit the plane. The EP-3 pilot heroically flew his damaged plane to a Chinese military base on Hainan Island. Contrary to international law, he and his crew were held hostage for 11 days. President Bush ably handled the crisis and the Chinese backed down, freeing the crew to come home to a hero's welcome. 
          Let's deconstruct this view. 
          Aside from the issue of whether the F-8 hit the EP-3 or vice-versa (clearly the Chinese pilot was playing Chicken; whether the other guy joined in the game is still not clear), the facts are that the American pilot voluntarily delivered a hundred million dollar top-secret plane into the hands of the country which American war-mongerers are trying to pitch as their number one enemy. Note that the pilot had alternatives, perhaps even safer ones than an attempt to land at an airport – and one belonging to the supposed enemy he was spying on to boot. Ditching the plane as close as possible to a friendly ship was a clear option. It would have avoided an international incident as well. In a real war, his actions would have been considered cowardly and treasonous – and rightly so. Instead he has been treated as a hero. Can this be because official Washington really knows that this is all a game played for the benefit of the home crowd? 
          More to the point, what exactly is this threat that required an American spy plane to fly within fifty miles of China, 12,000 miles from home? Destroyers are yesterday's technology. They were useful in World War I but were already déclassés in WWII and have little relevance whatsoever to the modern army. Vulnerable to both submarines and aircrafts, there has not been one war in the last fifty years in which they played even a minor role.  
          As for F-8s, they are a clear-cut demonstration of how bad China's military capacity truly is. This is a Chinese-built rip-off of the Soviet MIG-21, a plane which first saw service in 1958. It is roughly equivalent to the CF-104s that even the Canadian « Armed » Forces have retired. The MIG-21 is nicknamed « the flying coffin » for the same reason as another plane of the same era, the American F-16, was dubbed the Widowmaker. It is extremely hard to handle, something which may have been a factor in the incident. 
          Why then should it be necessary to spy on Chinese military capabilities? It is obvious that they are pathetic. The only Chinese military threat comes from their 700 nuclear warheads, about two dozen of which are actually capable of reaching Los Angeles. None can go further. The Chinese know full well that any attempt to use these weapons would result in utter devastation. 
          Occasionally the American war party does acknowledge that China poses no threat to the United States. While not abandoning their primary argument, they claim instead that America must defend its friends in the Far East – Japan, South Korea, and especially Taiwan. Interestingly, the US uses the EP-3 to spy on these supposed friends as well, especially the Taiwanese who also react by buzzing the American invaders (see « US spy planes "frequently enter Taiwanese air space" »). What exactly is the reason for antagonizing the Taiwanese in order to defend them?  
Rifles and wars 
          This argument is equally specious. It is doubtful that the US would come to the aid of Taiwan if it were actually attacked. Besides, all these countries have far better (non-nuclear) military capabilities than China and are quite capable of defending themselves. If China should one day actually become a real threat, they should look to the example of Switzerland, the country which Hitler denounced as « a pimple on the face of Europe », a small landlocked neutral in the middle of a continent gone over to darkness. The Swiss would have had trouble feeding themselves if subjected to an Axis blockade. Yet Germany never attacked. Why? Listen to the words of Swiss President Philipp Etter, spoken at a gun festival just three months before the Nazi/Soviet attack on Poland: 
          There is probably no other country that, like Switzerland, gives the soldier his weapon to keep in the home. The Swiss always has his rifle at hand. It belongs to the furnishings of his home. [...] That corresponds to ancient Swiss tradition. As the citizen with his sword steps into the ring in the cantons which have the Landsgemeinde [government by public meeting], so the Swiss soldier lives in constant companionship with his rifle. He knows what that means. With this rifle, he is liable every hour, if the country calls, to defend his hearth, his home, his family, his birthplace. The weapon is to him a pledge and sign of honour and freedom. The Swiss does not part with his rifle.
     « Today, American imperialism is the single biggest danger to American security and world peace. It has thoroughly corrupted the national government and the media. » 
          Stephen Halbrook, writing in Chronicles magazine, points out that: 
          On September 1, 1939, Hitler launched World War II by attacking Poland. Within a day or two, Switzerland had about half a million militiamen mobilized out of a population of just over four million [in other words, around half of the able-bodied male citizenry: DM]. General Henri Cuisan, commander in chief of the Swiss militia, responded with Operations Order No. 2: « At the border and between the border and army position, the border troops and advance guard persistently delay the advance of the enemy. The garrisons at the border and between the border and the works and positions making up the defensive front continue resistance up to the last cartridge, even if they find themselves completely alone. »  
          This astonishing order was the opposite of the policies of the other European countries, which either surrendered to Hitler without a fight or surrendered after a brief resistance. For example, in April 1940, Denmark's king surrendered the country after a meeting with the Nazis and instructed his forces not to resist. Norway resisted, although « unlike Switzerland » it had no armed populace and was ill-prepared for combat.  
          In response to the invasions of small neutral countries, Switzerland issued its « directions concerning the conduct of the soldiers not under arms in event of attack. » Intended as a warning to Germany, it was pasted on walls all over the country. It prescribed the reaction against surprise attack and against the fifth column as follows:  
          « All soldiers and those with them are to attack with ruthlessness parachutists, airborne infantry and saboteurs. Where no officers and non-commissioned officers are present, each soldier acts under exertion of all powers of his own initiative. »
          This command for the individual to act on his own initiative was an ancient Swiss tradition which reflected the political and military leadership's staunch confidence in the ordinary man. This command was possible, of course, only in a society where every man had his rifle at home. 
          « Under no condition, » the order continued, « would any surrender be forthcoming, and any pretence of a surrender must be ignored: If by radio, leaflets or other media any information is transmitted doubting the will of the Federal Council or of the Army High Command to resist an attacker[, t]his information must be regarded as the lies of enemy propaganda. Our country will resist aggression with all means in its power and to the death. »
Around the globe 
          Today Israel is a second example of a country whose entire population is armed, which is the reason why it has managed to survive fifty years despite being surrounded by enemies. The Israeli mobilizations in the wars of 1967 and 1973 were every bit as impressive as that of the Swiss in 1939. Unfortunately, the Israelis have gotten a taste of empire too. This will likely lead them to their downfall through a Palestinian revanche du berceau 
          In contrast, the Swiss decided just twenty-four years after gaining their independence that foreign wars only lead to trouble and declared their neutrality, a vow they have kept for almost 500 years. This, in large measure, is why the country is one of the richest in the world. It is arguably the most civilized. As Lazarus Long once said, « An armed society is a polite society ». 
          Taiwan and other Far Eastern countries do need to prepare their defence against the Great Power that China may one day be. The answer is to follow the Swiss example. Place confidence in the people to defend themselves from an outside aggressor and no one will ever volunteer to attack. 
          American arguments in favour of their spy flights are specious. China does not currently represent a danger to their interests, nor to those of US friends. 
          American spying is, however, a provocation to Chinese nationalists and Chinese war-mongerers. It is an incitement which encourages these people to develop weapons which could really threaten the US and the rest of the democratic world.  
          It is far past time that we recognise that the main danger to world peace is not the Chinese military but rather the American military industrial complex. In 1961 Eisenhower invented this term when he said:  
          Until [World War II], the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of ploughshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defence; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defence establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.  
          This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.  
          In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
          Eisenhower may have been right about the need for a military establishment to fight the world-wide reach which the Soviet empire held in the fifties. While I would not agree, the argument clearly has merit. But the Evil Empire has been dead for 12 years, having collapsed under the dead weight of socialism. NATO should have been disbanded when it fell. Instead it has been expanded, antagonizing the Russians and playing into the hand of their nationalists. 
Games Without Frontiers 
          Eisenhower was certainly right about the dangers. All of America's military actions in the last twelve years have had nothing whatsoever to do with protecting the US from enemies, potential or otherwise. They are rather an attempt to justify the existence of this military industrial complex in a world where America has no enemies worthy of the name. So it must create some. 
          Today, American imperialism is the single biggest danger to American security and world peace. It has thoroughly corrupted the national government and the media. The American populace is as bombastic as the Prussians ever were. It serves only to turn the world against the US. 
          Playing games in the Middle East by supporting the Shah of Iran against Saddam Hussein and then Hussein against Khomeini and now anyone against Hussein has served only to turn both Iran and Iraq into implacable enemies. In time, Saudi Arabia will follow. 
          You can get away with doing this to smaller powers. But this time the war-mongerers are playing with real fire. China has twice the population of the United States and the European Union combined. Should it ever reach its potential, Americans will have real reasons to regret their provocations. So will the rest of the world. Let the Indians worry about the Chinese. They are right next door and there's a billion of them too. Instead the US is turning both countries into enemies of the West. It's insane. 
Previous articles by David MacRae
<< retour au sommaire