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Foreign Policy

Washington Slips Back Into Cold War Habits

Apr 14 , 2014

The just concluded visit of US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to China may send a signal that developing a new type of major power relationship is not a near-term possibility. The zero-sum Cold War mentality of Washington elites, together with present-day alliance structures, may prove an insurmountable barrier.

Although Washington denies a policy of containment, the fact is that the US is strengthening its hard power capabilities encircling the Eurasian landmass.

At the same time, Washington is strengthening its Cold War alliance structures around the world. The globalization of NATO has been underway for two decades. The new so-called pivot strategy involves strengthening the US alliance structure in Asia, accompanied by increased US military deployments there.

Such military and diplomatic moves on the part of Washington reflect old thinking, rather than a sincere and creative response to the challenge of creating a new type of major power relations in a changing international system.

For Washington elites, maintaining the post-WWII international system takes priority. This system is perceived as a US-European Western order which has had global hegemony in the past and seeks to maintain it in the present and into the future.

For example, so far Washington has not welcomed suggestions for updating the post-WWII international financial system and global economic architecture. This contrasts with the innovative ideas of the BRICS countries as well as with the sentiments of many in the international community.

Such old thinking, however, is coming into collision with the slowly emerging multipolar international situation. As the BRICS countries and others realize, such an emerging system requires updates to old mechanisms and the implementation of new mechanisms.

As the geopolitical objective of the dominant US and transatlantic elites is to maintain their global hegemony and the Western order, the maintenance of the hegemony of the so-called Atlantic world is the key factor in Western international policy planning.

Given this elite mindset, Hagel’s visit to Asia, and his attitude toward China, contained predictable elements.

The first geopolitical priority is to strengthen the US alliance structure in Asia. This structure centers on the “hub and spokes” concept with Washington being the hub and the local allies being the spokes.

Washington’s obsessive behavior with regard to the US-Japan alliance signals little flexibility or innovation in strategic thought. In fact, one is reminded of the Anglo-Japanese alliance structures of a bygone day.

Washington’s peculiar policy toward the Diaoyu Islands is another example of obsessive behavior. The inclusion of the islands in the US-Japan defense perimeter is unnecessary, provocative, and dangerous.

Washington’s costly self-appointed role as policeman of the eastern Pacific and the associated East China Sea and South China Sea seems a reflection of US nostalgia for 19th century imperialism and outdated doctrines of sea power and strategy.

Hagel’s harsh and lecturing tone is inappropriate but reflects Washington’s hegemonic mindest. His clumsy and improper use of an altogether out-of-place metaphor linking the Crimea issue to the Diaoyu issue is consistent with Washington’s mindset in which the complexities of history and culture are ignored.

In this hegemonic mindset, the core Western order of the Atlantic world functions as the imperial center. The principle geopolitical objective to is link the countries in the periphery to the core financial complex as well as to the core values complex expressed as values, rules, and norms.

Although some new military-to-military cooperation mechanisms were created during the Hagel visit to China, the result may not be what some expect. Empty mechanisms and lack of sincerity are little foundation for a new type of relations.

Although there has been some momentum with high-level US visits to China, building a new type of constructive relations is not an easy task given Washington’s mindset.

Clifford A. Kiracofe is an educator and former senior professional staff member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. 

Copyright: Global Times 

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