More “Great Power” Competition!

Near-Peers? Peers? Competitors? Great Powers?

W.J. Astore

A colleague who teaches at one of America’s many war schools tells me that great power competition is trendy again, the U.S., it goes without saying, being the greatest power of all, and China and Russia being the main “near-peer” rivals to greatness.  The competition, of course, is defined primarily in military terms and is measured, at least at the Pentagon, by the amount of money Congress allocates to each year’s defense budget.  Thus the U.S. military, in (falsely) arguing that it’s falling behind the Chinese navy in ships, for example, establishes the quick-fix solution as lots more money for the U.S. Navy to build more ships.  Similarly, the Air Force wants more F-35 jet fighters, B-21 nuclear bombers, and new land-based ICBMs, also measures of “greatness,” and the Army wants 500,000 troops on active duty, presumably because it’s a nice round number, even as it’s failing miserably to meet yearly recruiting goals, forcing it to settle on a force of roughly 450,000 (more or less) effectives.

Naturally, the solution is never to downsize the mission given a somewhat smaller force; it’s to do whatever is possible to expand the pool of recruits, even if that means “fat camps” and remedial teaching to help potential soldiers reach weight goals and test scores so that they qualify for basic training.  Too fat or too dumb?  Join the pre-Army!  Lose weight fast and get smart quick so that you too can eventually enlist and be sent to foreign lands to kill people.

Recruitment shortfalls is a micro issue garnering attention in Congress even as the macro issue of China and Russia as great power competitors serves as a welcome change of subject from colossal military failures in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And there’s the rub: the U.S. military has learned nothing from those failures except, as Barack Obama might say, to look forward, not backward, and to inflate China and Russia from regional powers to near-pears or even to peers.  As my war school colleague put it to me, somewhat ambiguously, “they” have big battalions and lots of nukes and have shown the will to use them, so America must be ready to respond in kind.  Yet the only country to have used nukes against cities is the United States at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the U.S. continues to outspend China on weapons and war roughly by a factor of three and Russia by a factor of ten. 

So, which country is really driving all this militarized “competition” among the so-called great powers?

18 thoughts on “More “Great Power” Competition!

  1. Bill, that the US is really driving all this militarized “competition” among the so-called great powers is an undisputed fact outside the US. That the arms race would be immediately mitigated by the US cutting its gargantuan military spending would not be disputed even by the simplest minded amongst us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another “tellin’ it like it is,” Bill. i wonder how soon You’ll be accused of hating America for daring to discuss such things in a public forum.

    Much of America’s Defense and National Security State budgets have little ~ if anything ~ to do with either “defense” or “security.”

    Their primary function and purpose is to put money into the pockets of the workers, managers, executives, board members, and shareholders of the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex and the Surveillance-Secrecy-Security Panopticon, and to give power to the politicians that the MICC and SSSP own and operate.

    And if the MICC and SSSP don’t have a credible “threat” and potential “enemy” to justify those budgets, they are very skilled at creating one. Which is exactly what we saw over the past two decades with our so-called “Global” so-called “War On” so-called “Terrorism [GWOT, aka “The Forever War”] to take the place of the terminated Cold War I; and over the past six and a half months in Ukraine and, now, with China over Taiwan in the Dawn of Cold War II.

    The possibility of a two-front War has got to be sending paroxysms of joy to those folks. And then, of course, there’s always all them “Domestic Terrorists” out there to deal with, as well.


    1. Somebody asked the question: “What percentage of America’s Defense and National Security State budgets DO NOT have anything to do with either real defense and actual security?”

      The answer is: Every dime that is spent on American military and civilian MICC/SSSP personnel and equipment [including aircraft and ships] located and operating outside of America’s International Borders and Territorial Waters.


    2. The hypocritical duplicity of the NATO Nations seizing the wealth of the Russian Oligarch Billionaires when American Oligarch Billionaires associated with Biden are making much MORE MONEY than Russian Oligarchs.

      The irony is all those Russian Oligarchs who had their wealth seized are not Putin’s Oligarchs. He called on the Russian Oligarchs to come home to Russia with their &Billions to help rebuild Russia and not leave their Billions in the West. Now they lost it.


  3. At the same time that quality and quantity of the recruits into the various services is decreasing, the military “leadership” has become primarily focused on post-career opportunities in defense, consulting, or as “advisors” to various television networks.

    One of the paths to advancement – both within and after a military career – has in recent decades been to become program manager for a large weapons system. No longer is the goal to command large formations or fleets – it’s to oversee the transfer of millions of dollars to the defense industries.

    I recall the term “warfighter” being used frequently in the defense business I worked for; it was a term developed by the corporate flacks. I always hated that term. No one who had been in the service referred to themselves that way. We were, or had been, airman, marines, sailors, or soldiers.

    Now, I’m starting to hear military “leadership” use warfighter more in public discussions or presentations to Congress, which seems to me to show where their heads are.

    At the same time, we hear strident tones in Congress (from both parties) for a more confrontational approach to both China and Russia.

    Without some change in direction this is going to end terribly.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift the sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore..” Isaiah2:3-4.

    What’s wrong, so profoundly wrong with war that compelled Isaiah to implore for peace (without debate over just and unjust war) almost 3,000 years ago?

    War breeds a plague of ills and evils. Most immediate is the acute tragedy for those directly killed, soldiers and civilians alike, with civilian deaths often being in excess of soldiers’ deaths in recent wars due to urban, aerial and guerrilla warfare.

    For US veterans who have returned from war with “soldier’s heart” (Civil War), “shell shock” (1st World War), “PTSD” and “moral injury” (Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan), Veterans for Peace captures poignantly the lifelong agony of fighting and killing in war. “Many of us continue to suffer physical and spiritual wounds from multiple wars; we can tell hard truths. War is not the answer – it is mass murder and mayhem. War dehumanizes soldiers and scars survivors for life. Nobody wins in war but the profiteers. We must end war or it will end us.”……………………………………………….

    The Prophet Zechariah picked up where Isaiah left off some 200 years later with this entry, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel, saying: ‘Not by military force and not by physical strength, but by My spirit,’ says the Lord of Hosts.” Zechariah 4:6

    Jesus The Christ picked up where Isaiah and Zechariah left off some some 500 years later, saying ‘Blessed are the Peace Makers for THEY shall be called The Children of God.’

    Peace Makers are banned from the MSM manipulating the Minds of the Masses inciting the Children of War as the Propagandists for the US War Machine.

    The MSM manipulated the Minds of the Masses for the last 11 days 24/7, Canonizing Queen Elizabeth as a Saint programming the MASSES to hit the streets in massive demonstrations, but NO PEACE MAKERS given any exposure to get the MASSES to hit the streets to stop the Path to self-Destruction..

    Logical thinkers know where that Reality of This Material World leads to.


    1. Excellent Think Piece from Ms Hynes, Ray. Thank You for posting it. And love the article’s accompanying photo of a sculpture of a Sword being beaten into a Plowshare.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks JG for pointing out it was written by Ms Hynes. I didn’t notice that, especially since my older departed Sister was a Hynes.
        To be honest, I’ve had so many unusual co-incidences in my Curriculum Vitae of 78 years I have to make sense of, others could be overwhelmed!


  5. One can only wonder when the American People are going to get fed up with “dumb government policies” on matters foreign and domestic, and follow their European compeers into the streets… .


    ….. European sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine earlier this year will likely go down in history as a prime example of how sanctions can result in unintended consequences. While seeking to punish Russia by cutting off gas and oil imports, EUROPEAN UNION POLITICIANS FORGOT THAT EUROPE IS COMPLETELY DEPENDENT ON RUSSIAN ENERGY SUPPLIES AND THAT THE ONLY PEOPLE TO SUFFER IF THOSE IMPORTS ARE SHUT DOWN ARE THE EUROPEANS THEMSELVES.

    The Russians simply pivoted to the south and east and found plenty of new buyers in China, India, and elsewhere. In fact, RUSSIA’S STATE-RUN GAZPROM ENERGY COMPANY HAS REPORTED THAT ITS PROFITS HAVE INCREASED BY 100 PERCENT IN THE FIRST HALF OF THIS YEAR.

    RUSSIA IS GETTING RICH WHILE EUROPEANS ARE FACING A FREEZING WINTER AND ECONOMIC COLLAPSE. All because of the false belief that sanctions are a cost-free way to force other countries to do what you want them to do.


    This weekend thousands of Austrians took to the streets in a “Freedom Rally” to demand an end to sanctions and the opening of Nord Stream II, the gas pipeline on the verge of opening earlier this year. Last week an estimated 100,000 Czechs took to the streets of Prague to protest NATO and EU policy. In France, the “Yellow Vests” are back in the streets protesting the destruction of their economy in the name of “defeating” Russia in Ukraine. In Germany, Serbia, and elsewhere, protests are gearing up.

    Even the Washington Post was forced to admit that sanctions on Russia are not having the intended effect. In an article yesterday, the paper worries that sanctions are inflicting “collateral damage in Russia and beyond, potentially even hurting the very countries that impose them. Some even worried that the sanctions intended to deter and weaken Putin could end up emboldening and strengthening him.”


    Full article at [EMPHASES added.]

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ‘NATO’s Approach to Russia’s Borders Planned Years Ago’
    The alliance revealed plans to increase the number of prepared forces on the eastern flank to more than 300,000 soldiers in the near future.

    The head of NATO’s Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer, stated on Saturday that NATO began planning its expansion near Russia’s borders several years ago…………………………………


  7. Russia knows this is a World War with US dominated European Vassal States no matter how much the proscribed US/NATO War Propaganda constantly says this is a Russian war with Ukraine. I came to that understanding watching independently from CanaDa.

    This is a fairly honest article in Today’s New York Times, I hope you can read without a subscription.
    ‘The View From Russia’
    Russians near Ukraine are starting to hear the sound of explosions, and their worries are growing.
    An excerpt from the article I found contradicts the usual US propaganda. TRUTH is STILL the 1st casualty of WAR, and especially this one.

    [It’s kind of surreal to be here and to see people going on about their lives almost as if nothing has happened. Prices in Moscow have gone up, but people are living more or less as usual. Store shelves are full. I’m drinking Coca-Cola right now, despite the company officially leaving the Russian market.

    People are still luxury shopping. While lots of high-end brands closed their shops here, department stores are open, and some are selling Chanel and Dior perfumes and cosmetics as normal. Restaurants are full. People are going to copycat versions of McDonald’s. I recently walked by a closed Starbucks, which is becoming something called a Stars Coffee. Russians know how to adapt. Some have started saying: “It’s time we start building these companies for ourselves.”]

    That’s exactly what the US fears and yet the US provoked it.


  8. Caitlin Johnstone’s latest rant ~ “BIDEN KEEPS PLEDGING DIRECT US WAR WITH CHINA OVER TAIWAN” ~ begins as follows: “The president of the United States has once again committed the US military to direct hot war with China in the event of an attack on Taiwan, a commitment that was once again walked back by his White House handlers.”

    And she concludes as follows:

    “This Taiwan situation is getting uglier and uglier, much faster than many expected, and THE PRESIDENT OF THE WORLD’S MIGHTIEST WAR MACHINE IS EITHER TWO STUPID, TOO BLOODTHIRSTY, TOO CARELESS OR TOO DEMENTED TO NAVIGATE THIS SITUATION WITH THE SENSITIVITY IT DESERVES. Things never should have been allowed to get this far, and the US empire is showing us every indication that it intends to take things much, much further.”

    To learn the basis of her conclusion, see the full article at . [EMPHASIS added.]


  9. re the Army’s Recruiting Shortfalls, Bill: Instead of pre-Army “fat and remedial teaching camps,” maybe the Army should try what its National Guard branch is doing…: Targeting Generation Zs by “Calling on The NEXT Greatest Generation” .

    “The Greatest Generation… .” You know: “Also known as the G.I. Generation and the World War II Generation, is the demographic cohort following the Lost Generation and preceding the Silent Generation. The generation is generally defined as people born from 1901 to 1927.[1] They were SHAPED BY THE GREAT DEPRESSION AND WERE THE PRIMARY PARTICIPANTS IN WORLD WAR II.”
    [ ] [EMPHASIS added.]

    After all, they were the ones who fought the last War that America won, and were pretty much in charge of America until the 90s, when The Boomers moved to center stage.

    After 30-some years of Boomer Reign, i don’t know if America needs another “Greatest Generation” ~ that sure sounds like it would resonate with all those folks clamoring to “Make America Great Again” ~ but we could certainly use a NEW Generation of Visionaries, Leaders, and Managers in Washington, DC, eh?


  10. Remember Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1972? It concluded with the “Shanghai Communique” regarding all international subjects of interest to the two nations. Since the US is doing a lot of posturing regarding Taiwan, it’s interesting to see what the US said in 1972 regarding Taiwan in the communique. Here it is…

    “The US side declared: The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position. It reaffirms its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves. With this prospect in mind, it affirms the ultimate objective of the withdrawal of all US forces and military installations from Taiwan. In the meantime, it will progressively reduce its forces and military installations on Taiwan as the tension in the area diminishes.”

    The entire communique is here.


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