Thursday, February 16, 2012

But Not For Want of Trying

An integral part of America's decline is its faltering ability to impose its will on the world, by force if necessary.  Its colossal failures in both Iraq and Afghanistan are proof positive.  For Washington, and the Pentagon, that's going to take some getting used to and it's an important shift that the rest of us, America's allies, need to grasp.

Noam Chomsky says the United States has lost the capacity, but not the will, to rule the world.

In the past decade, for the first time in 500 years, South America has taken successful steps to free itself from western domination, another serious loss. The region has moved towards integration, and has begun to address some of the terrible internal problems of societies ruled by mostly Europeanized elites, tiny islands of extreme wealth in a sea of misery. They have also rid themselves of all US military bases and of IMF controls.

Even more serious would be the loss of the MENA countries – Middle East/North Africa – which have been regarded by planners since the 1940s as "a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history". Control of MENA energy reserves would yield "substantial control of the world", in the words of the influential Roosevelt advisor AA Berle.

...The Arab Spring, another development of historic importance, might portend at least a partial "loss" of MENA. The US and its allies have tried hard to prevent that outcome – so far, with considerable success. Their policy towards the popular uprisings has kept closely to the standard guidelines: support the forces most amenable to US influence and control. 

...While the principles of imperial domination have undergone little change, the capacity to implement them has markedly declined as power has become more broadly distributed in a diversifying world. Consequences are many. It is, however, very important to bear in mind that, unfortunately, none lifts the two dark clouds that hover over all consideration of global order: nuclear war and environmental catastrophe, both literally threatening the decent survival of the species.

Quite the contrary. Both threats are ominous, and increasing.

Canada needs to adapt to this quickly shifting balance of power.  As America's global authority wanes it is logical that it will call upon its allies to bolster its foreign adventures.  Washington may well expect us to form its 21st century Foreign Legion and shift the balance of our own forces from primarily defensive to predominantly offensive posture.  It could be argued that the F-35 is part and parcel of such a transformation.

The CF-18 was a true, multi-role aircraft - fast, agile, capable of carrying plenty of ordinance and extra fuel.   The F-35 is much more an offensive weapon, a light bomber that uses stealth technology to survive missions into heavily defended, hostile airspace.   With its limited performance and lack of external weaponry or fuel tanks, it's a damned poor choice to defend against any enemy that doesn't choose to fly straight into its path.

Here's something that is rarely mentioned.   To work its magic, the F-35 needs another aircraft, an airplane we don't have nor, seemingly, plan to acquire.   That is a large, 4-engined AWACS, aerial warning and command aircraft.   It operates the radar to scan the battlefield while the F-35 flies in, blind.  It transmits the necessary data to the F-35 to enable it to do its job, undetected.   Without that command ship, the F-35 is all but useless because, instantly it has to turn on its own radar, every bad guy knows right where it is.

Who has the missing ingredient, the AWACS aircraft?   They're the preserve of the US Air Force and NATO.   That means if the F-35 goes to war, it will have to be in conjunction with the USAF or NATO.  In any other circumstance it's virtually useless.

Here's something else to consider.   We now know that the F-35 operating costs will be $30,000 an hour, at least double that of the latest European aircraft.   But, if it is to operate in defence of the north, it won't be operating alone.   Because of its limited range it will probably require tanker support if it is to make it home safely.  And you can expect the Russians will be quick to test our appetite for running regular intercepts against their aircraft.

With the clown car of candidates vying for the Republican nomination and their bizarre, radical rants, we should decide whether we really want to enlist as Washington's spear carriers.  This might be a really good time to find our own path again.

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