If humanity ever suffers a Third World War, chances are good it will start in some locale distant from the United States like the Baltic or South China Seas, the Persian Gulf, or Syria, where Washington and its rivals play daily games of ‘chicken’ with lethal air and naval forces.
Far from enhancing US security, the aggressive deployment of US armed forces in these and other hot spots around the world may be putting our very survival at risk by continuously testing and prodding other military powers. The most obvious example is Russia, which top Pentagon officials like to remind us ‘poses an existential threat to the United States’ by virtue of its huge nuclear arsenal..
The risk of war with Russia would skyrocket, of course, if the United States were to try to impose a ‘no-fly-zone.’
Potentially deadly incidents aren’t confined to Syria. In September, a Russian fighter jet flew within 10 feet of a US Navy spy plane over the Black Sea. Six months ago, reacting to an increase in NATO war games and maneuvers, Russian aircraft buzzed a US Navy destroyer conducting exercises with Poland in the Baltic Sea.
Secretary of State John Kerry declared that the United States would have had every right to shoot down the plane. The Russians, noting that the exercises were taking place near the base of their Baltic Fleet, insisted they were simply exercising their rights to fly.
A couple of days later, a Russian jet intercepted a US reconnaissance plane in the same region. A Pentagon spokesman condemned the Russian pilot’s ‘aggressive’ and ‘unprofessional’ maneuvers that could ‘escalate tensions between countries.’ A Russian spokesman said its air defense forces had reacted prudently to ‘an unidentified target rapidly approaching the Russian border’.
In the Persian Gulf, the US Navy recorded 19 dangerous confrontations with Iranian vessels during the first half of this year, up from 10 in the same period in 2015.
The most notorious incident, of course, occurred this January, when Iranian gunboats detained 10 US Navy sailors for a day after they strayed into Iranian waters. The Obama administration, which had recently negotiated a nuclear accord with Iran, chose not to inflate the incident.
In late October, China’s Defense Ministry protested an allegedly ‘illegal’ and ‘intentionally provocative’ patrol by the guided missile destroyer USS Decatur, which was sailing close to the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea to protest Chinese maritime claims. The Chinese vowed to increase their own air and maritime patrols to ‘resolutely defend national sovereignty and security.’
Unlike satellites, intrusive planes trigger their targets’ radar systems, light up their communications networks, and provoke military command responses. That’s why American military leaders value the tactical intelligence they provide. That’s also why countries like China view them with such hostility.
Americans raised on a pervasive ideology of ‘exceptionalism’ all too easily assume that our far-flung military presence is simply the natural order of things, and that any challenge to it must be countered. A little reflection, however, should suggest why countries – like Russia, China and Iran – grow hostile and even paranoid as they are tested almost daily by the air and naval forces of a superpower. Even if we do not appreciate their point of view, we should seriously ask whether our military really serves US security interests by provoking new opportunities for deadly confrontations almost daily.
The article has been excerpted from: ‘How World War III Could Start’.