Department of Defense’s Operational Access: We Own the World
One of the primary concerns of the U.S. Department of Defense is that America’s military is permitted to span the entire globe. In a DoD paper released yesterday, the Joint Operational Access Concept was introduced as a strategy to deal with what the military calls “anti-access” and “area denial” scenarios around the world. In other words, the paper makes suggestions on how to overcome situations in which operational access – “the ability to project military force into an operational area with sufficient freedom of action to accomplish the mission” – is hindered. The concept is not new: the U.S. has considered the entire planet as their own jurisdiction since at least WWII. Full spectrum dominance, or global hegemony, is the goal, and is righteous because We Own the World.
The paper’s executive summary reads, in part:
As a global power with global interests, the United States must maintain the credible capability to project military force into any region of the world in support of those interests. This includes the ability to project force both into the global commons to ensure their use and into foreign territory as required. Moreover, the credible ability to do so can serve as a reassurance to U.S. partners and a powerful deterrent to those contemplating actions that threaten U.S. interests. For decades, the American ability to project military force from the United States to an operational area has gone essentially unopposed. During the Gulf War of 1990-1991, for example, Coalition forces flowed into the operational area unhindered for six months in the build-up to Operation Desert Storm. Coalition forces similarly deployed uncontested into Afghanistan in 2001 for Operation Enduring Freedom and into Kuwait in 2003 for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
This paper asserts that such unopposed operational access will be much less likely in the future, as potential enemies, exploiting weapons and other systems that are increasingly effective against an advancing enemy, will resource and adopt antiaccess strategies against U.S. forces. It is that emerging challenge—increasingly opposed operational access—that this concept addresses. That challenge may be one of the most difficult that joint forces will face in the coming decades—and also one of the most critical, since a military that cannot gain the operational access needed to bring force to bear loses utility as an instrument of national power.
Notice the technocratic description of empire. The notion that any state or non-state actor would dare deny America military access to their territory is patently unacceptable. Those territories belong to America and we have the prerogative to militarily dominate them in order to project our power or conduct an effective war.
This does in fact describe the purpose of America’s Empire of Bases. The Gulf War of 1990-1991 got the United States a military base and contingent military force in Kuwait, which then was essential in the swift invasion of Iraq in 2003. The war in Afghanistan gained us a base and contingent force in Uzbekistan, from which the U.S. supplied its occupying forces. But the imperial game is even more radical now, with the rise of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command. These forces, “without the knowledge of the American public,” writes historian Nick Turse, act as “a secret force within the U.S. military [that] is undertaking operations in a majority of the world’s countries. This new Pentagon power elite is waging a global war whose size and scope has never been revealed.” Whether invasions, military bases, or small covert special forces – the U.S. should have free reign over the globe.
The primary aims of Imperial Grand Strategy are three-fold: to use U.S. dominance to (1) ensure privileged access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources (2) establish proxy military bases for use in any conflict and (3) to prevent any other peer competitor from gaining their own dominance, or independence from this system. As a Top Secret National Security Council briefing put it in 1954, “the Near East is of great strategic, political, and economic importance,” as it “contains the greatest petroleum resources in the world” as well as “essential locations for strategic military bases in any world conflict.”
With Obama’s new defense strategy emphasizing more focus on Asia-Pacific, the same strategy is applied: the U.S. must have full access to maintain military superiority in Asia. Former Defense Secretary Gates spoke at an International Institute for Strategic Studies meeting back in June and argued for “sustaining a robust [U.S.] military presence in Asia.” He talked of overcoming “anti-access and area denial scenarios” that the U.S. military faces in Asia, which threatens America’s access to strategic markets and resources. Predominantly, Gates explained, U.S. military presence in Asia-Pacific is important in “deterring, and if necessary defeating, potential adversaries.” In this vein, Obama has begun a surge in Asia-Pacific, just recently ordering thousands of U.S. troops and weaponry to be permanently stationed in Australia, accompanying key military bases in South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, and Guam.
The bulk of U.S. warfare since taking on this imperial strategy has been to maintain this global dominance. It has meant the death of millions and has been bolstered by a fervent domestic nationalism. It is directing current U.S. violence in Afghanistan and Iran and is fostering more potential bloodshed in Asia in the coming decades. The world ought to be ridded of America’s global militarism and Americans ought to be freed from the economic disaster of imperial overreach. America does not have the prerogative of global operational access. We don’t need an empire of bases, we don’t need to militarily dominate the world, we don’t need to intervene in every country, and the cost of doing so is patently immoral.