Tom Engelhardt: America Has Turned a World Without Serious Enemies
into the most threatening place in the Universe. The communist enemy, with the world's fourth largest military, has been trundling missiles around, and threatening the United States with nuclear obliteration. Guam, Hawaii, Washington: all, it claims, are "target-able". The coverage on the media has been hair raising. The US is rushing an untested missile defense system to Guam, deploying missile interceptor ships off the South Korean coast, sending nuclear capable B-2 Stealth bombers thousands of miles on mock bombing runs, pressuring China, and conducting large scale war games with its South Korean ally. Only one small problem: there is as yet little evidence that the enemy with a few nuclear weapons facing off, rhetorically at least against an American arsenal of 4,650 of them has the ability to miniaturize, and mount even one on a missile, no less deliver it accurately, nor does it have a missile capable of reaching Hawaii or Washington, and I wouldn't count on Guam either. It also happens to be a desperate country, one possibly without enough fuel to fly a modern air force, whose people, on average, are inches shorter than their southern neighbors, thanks to decades of intermittent famine and malnutrition, and who are ruled by a bizarre three generational family cult. If that other communist, Karl Marx, hadn't once famously written that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce, we would have had to event the phrase for this very moment. In the previous century, there were two devastating global wars, which left significant parts of the planet in ruins. There was also a cold war between two superpowers, locked in a system of mutual assured destruction, aptly acronymed as MAD, whose nuclear arsenals were capable of destroying the planet many times over. Had you wakened any morning in the years between December 7, 1941 and December 26, 1991, and been told that the leading international candidate for America's Public Enemy Number One was Kim Jong-un's ramshackle, comic opera regime in North Korea, you might have gotten down on your hands and knees, and sent thanks to pagan gods. The same would be true for the other candidates for that number one position, since September 11, 2001, the original al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, located in poverty stricken Yemen, the Taliban in poverty stricken Afghanistan, unnamed jihadis scattered across poverty stricken areas of North Africa or Iran, another rickety regional power, run by not particularly adept theocrats. All these years, we have been launching wars, and pursuing a global war on terror. We have poured money into national security, as if there were no tomorrow.