Military “pivot” in the Pacific, “Shadow wars” in Africa, “Lily Pads” and Drones

Last year, U.S. Congress required that a study of the basing options be done before any further funding for the Guam military buildup would be authorized.  The Center for Strategic and International Studies [CSIS] was hired to produce the study.  They released their findings this week. The Pacific News Center reported “Unclassified Portions of CSIS Report Released” (7.27,2912).   READ the unclassified portions of the CSIS report HERE.

What will this mean for Hawaiʻi?  William Cole of the Honolulu Star Advertiser reports “Pearl Harbor seen as site for new ships” (7.31.2012):

A new study on U.S. military forces in the Pacific recommends placing another three-ship amphibious ready group in the region — possibly in Hawaii — in addition to the 2,700 extra Marines already moving here.

The report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, commissioned by the Pentagon, also calls for more submarines in Guam and additional ballistic missile defenses there and in Japan and possibly South Korea.

The study released last week includes recommendations as well as alternatives that would increase U.S. capabilities in the region. Among the latter is the suggestion to add at Pearl Harbor an amphibious ready group — consisting of a carrierlike amphibious assault ship, a transport dock ship and a dock landing ship that together can transport 2,200 Marines, helicopters and Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft to trouble spots.




The entire pivot has been likened to the commencement of a new “cold war”.  “The Imperial ‘Pivot’ to Asia-Pacific and the New Cold War” (7.31.2012)

The Pentagon document on Strategic Guidance entitled, “Sustaining Global Leadership: Priorities for Twenty First Century” released in January 2012 has inaugurated a new cold war. If the theatre of the ‘old’ Cold War was Europe, the new theatre is the Asia-Pacific. The document affirms that the US will of necessity rebalance towards Asia-Pacific region. ‘Rebalance’ seems to have replaced the earlier term ‘pivot’. The document maps the region as “the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia”.

The increasing focus on Asia reflects rebalancing in several ways: Change in the balance of US concentration from the Middle East to Asia after the ebbing of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; a change in the balance of forces within Asia from a Northeast Asia focus to a broader reach emphasizing more flexible deployments, rotation and operation and a change in the balance of tools of soft power and hard power moving to the latter.

Arnie Saiki, who was a key organizer of the Moana Nui 2011 conference writes in “Sea lanes: TPP, Globalization and Empire” (7.26.2012) that the military containment of China is integrally tied to the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade agreement that President Obama pushed during the Honolulu APEC summit in November 2011:

Although the vision of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) originally included China, and the proclamation of an FTAAP was the driving force behind the TPP, the meteoric rise of China’s economic influence has also shaped how the TPP is being used to contain China’s economic future.  The militarization of South Korea’s Jeju island, the heightened tensions between the Philippines and China, as well as Vietnam and China, are directly aimed at curtailing China’s access to its normal shipping lanes for the purpose of controlling China’s access to resources and its manufacturing role in the global supply chain. Although tensions over the disputed Spratly Islands have existed for some time, the resumed tensions coincide with both Aquino’s administration seeking further economic cooperation with TPP, and Vietnam’s inclusion as a partner in TPP negotiations.


The U.S. military pivot to the Pacific coincides with a restructuring of foreign bases and a quiet intensification of military activity in Africa.  Nick Turse writes in Tom Dispatch:

Obama’s Scramble for Africa
Secret Wars, Secret Bases, and the Pentagon’s “New Spice Route” in Africa
By Nick Turse

They call it the New Spice Route, an homage to the medieval trade network that connected Europe, Africa, and Asia, even if today’s “spice road” has nothing to do with cinnamon, cloves, or silks.  Instead, it’s a superpower’s superhighway, on which trucks and ships shuttle fuel, food, and military equipment through a growing maritime and ground transportation infrastructure to a network of supply depots, tiny camps, and airfields meant to service a fast-growing U.S. military presence in Africa.

Few in the U.S. know about this superhighway, or about the dozens of training missions and joint military exercises being carried out in nations that most Americans couldn’t locate on a map.  Even fewer have any idea that military officials are invoking the names of Marco Polo and the Queen of Sheba as they build a bigger military footprint in Africa.  It’s all happening in the shadows of what in a previous imperial age was known as “the Dark Continent.”

In the introduction to the article Tom Englehardt wrote:

Putting together the pieces on Africa isn’t easy.  For instance, only the other day it was revealed that three U.S. Army commandos in a Toyota Land Cruiser had skidded off a bridge in Mali in April.  They died, all three, along with three women identified as “Moroccan prostitutes.”  This is how we know that U.S. special operations forces were operating in chaotic, previously democratic Mali after a coup by a U.S.-trained captain accelerated the unraveling of the country, leading more recently to its virtual dismemberment by Tuareg rebels and Islamist insurgents.

Apparently these articles on the “shadow wars” in Africa hit a nerve, prompting Col. Tom Davis, Director, U.S. Africa Command Office of Public Affairs, to respond. Turse then writes a rebuttal.  Read their debate:  The Nature of the U.S. Military Presence in Africa: An Exchange between Colonel Tom Davis and Nick Turse” (7.26.2012)

In “The Lily Pad Strategy” (7.15.2012) David Vine writes that these shadow wars parallel the rise of new military base structures:

Since the “Black Hawk Down” deaths in Somalia almost 20 years ago, we’ve heard little, if anything, about American military casualties in Africa (other than a strange report last week about three special operations commandos killed, along with three women identified by U.S. military sources as “Moroccan prostitutes,” in a mysterious car accident in Mali). The growing number of patients arriving at Ramstein from Africa pulls back a curtain on a significant transformation in twenty-first-century U.S. military strategy.

These casualties are likely to be the vanguard of growing numbers of wounded troops coming from places far removed from Afghanistan or Iraq. They reflect the increased use of relatively small bases like Camp Lemonnier, which military planners see as a model for future U.S. bases “scattered,” as one academic explains, “across regions in which the United States has previously not maintained a military presence.”

Disappearing are the days when Ramstein was the signature U.S. base, an American-town-sized behemoth filled with thousands or tens of thousands of Americans, PXs, Pizza Huts, and other amenities of home. But don’t for a second think that the Pentagon is packing up, downsizing its global mission, and heading home. In fact, based on developments in recent years, the opposite may be true. While the collection of Cold War-era giant bases around the world is shrinking, the global infrastructure of bases overseas has exploded in size and scope.

Unknown to most Americans, Washington’s garrisoning of the planet is on the rise, thanks to a new generation of bases the military calls “lily pads” (as in a frog jumping across a pond toward its prey). These are small, secretive, inaccessible facilities with limited numbers of troops, spartan amenities, and prepositioned weaponry and supplies.

The new “lily pad” base strategy goes along with the intensive use of special forces and drones.  Ann Wright recently spoke in Honolulu about the increasing use of drones and the RIMPAC exercises in Hawaiʻi and wrote in Op Ed News Green-Washing War, Sinking Ships, Drones from Submarines — Largest International War Games around Hawaii (7.25.2012).

And if you were fooled by the greenwashing of the military, take a look at the logo below and the powerpoint presentation for the drone command. Grim reaper, indeed. The necropolitics of U.S. empire.




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