The U.S. military’s plans to bring America’s wars home when an internal class revolt appears
It was in September of 2000, around a decade into the period of unchallenged geopolitical might and internal economic growth that the U.S. empire had experienced after the Soviet Union’s fall, that the neoconservative think tank the Project for the New American Century outlined a route to drastically change the U.S. foreign policy model. The report in which it did this, titled Rebuilding America’s Defenses, anticipated that the empire’s luck was going to run out: “even a global Pax Americana will not preserve itself. Paradoxically, as American power and influence are at their apogee, American military forces limp toward exhaustion, unable to meet the demands of their many and varied missions, including preparing for tomorrow’s battlefield.”
This prediction of decline for U.S. hegemony was strikingly prescient, given how the report also assessed that “At present the United States faces no global rival.” It would be just one decade later that China and Russia rose to a level of prominence which prompted Washington to effectively restart the Cold War by shifting towards an agenda which the military has described as one of “great-power competition.” And it would be just two decades later that economic deterioration and wealth inequality reached a point dire enough for the U.S. military to need to formulate a plan to crush a class revolt within the imperial core.
The War on Terror: a prelude to the propaganda and military maneuvers that the U.S. would utilize during the class war
It was 9/11 which dramatically sped up the implementation of the aggressively militaristic agenda that the think tank sought to realize. As the report said, “the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event — like a new Pearl Harbor.”
9/11 delivered, creating an opportunity for the Bush White House (as well as all of its succeeding administrations) to carry out military actions with a level of disregard for international law that wasn’t present beforehand; U.S. drone strike rates have been increasing at exponential levels throughout the Bush, Obama, and Trump eras, and under Trump the government made itself impune from having to report drone casualties (a new normal that Biden is continuing). 9/11 also allowed U.S. military spending to increase several times over throughout the next couple of decades, with private mercenary companies being able to profit from the ever-expanding nature of U.S. wars while adding an aspect of corporate impunity to Washington’s war crimes. Trump’s pardoning last year of the Blackwater operatives who needlessly massacred Iraqi civilians in 2007 has solidified this dynamic of impunity for the atrocities which mercenaries perpetrate.
However, it was also 9/11 that helped bring the empire to its current point of instability, which the report said would force the U.S. to become a “Fortress America.” And this was described as the worst-case scenario for the empire:
The process of transformation must proceed from an appreciation of American strategy and political goals. For example, as the leader of a global network of alliances and strategic partnerships, U.S. armed forces cannot retreat into a “Fortress America.” Thus, while long-range precision strikes will certainly play an increasingly large role in U.S. military operations, American forces must remain deployed abroad, in large numbers. To remain as the leader of a variety of coalitions, the United States must partake in the risks its allies face; security guarantees that depend solely upon power projected from the continental United States will inevitably become discounted.
This was another surprisingly reality-based assessment for an imperialist think tank. In the War on Terror’s first years, the consensus among the neoconservative foreign policy designers was that reality shouldn’t even be treated as the pre-eminent factor behind how American militarism is conducted. This was essentially what an unnamed Bush administration official (widely guessed to be Karl Rove) stated in a reply to reporter Ron Suskind, who wrote in a 2004 article:
The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ […] ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do’.
This prelude to Kellyanne Conway’s 2017 “alternative facts” comment exposed the contradiction within this task of maintaining U.S. imperial power: the realities at hand had to be dealt with, but reality itself also had to be waved away as a triviality in order to keep up the narrative that the empire was infallible and above vulnerability. Nowhere was this more apparent than in military matters. As Michael Parenti wrote about the Iraq War in his book The Culture Struggle:
Sometimes the orthodox view becomes so entrenched that evidence becomes irrelevant, but there are also times when the officialdom and the corporate media have difficulty finessing reality. In 2003 official propaganda promised us a quick and easy ‘liberation’ of Iraq, but reality brought undeniably different results that challenged the official line. White House propaganda told us that U.S. troops were ‘gratefully received by the Iraqi people,’ but the course of events produced a costly and protracted war of resistance. Propaganda told us a ‘fanatical handful of terrorists and Baathist holdouts’ were causing most of the trouble, but how could a handful pin down two Marine divisions and the 82nd Airborne, and inflict thousands of casualties?”
Additional dissonance around the capabilities of the empire appeared when the military reportedly planned after 9/11 to “take out” Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran all within a span of 5 years, then only succeeded in taking out one of them within that time frame (and with vastly more difficulty than Iraq War propaganda had claimed would be the case). It was this forbidden-to-acknowledge fallibility in U.S. warfare capabilities that would soon begin to produce anxiety within the national security state. Washington’s military failures abroad can be concealed to an extent, but what about if the wars are brought home, and the empire then fails to fight off a domestic insurgency?
The 2000 Project for the New American Century report briefly covered this domestic security aspect, suggesting that the U.S. could improve the National Guard’s readiness if it decided to “better link the Guard to the active-duty force, providing adequate resources to increase the combat effectiveness of large Guard units, perhaps to include the partial manning of the first-to-deploy Guard brigades with an active command cadre. Secondly, the Guard’s overall structure must be adjusted and the overall number of Army National Guard units — and especially Guard infantry divisions — reduced.” At the time, the U.S. national security state was so comfortable with the future of class conflict within the imperial core that its technocrats were eager to reduce the number of National Guard operating posts. After the 2008 economic crash, a different mindset would appear.
Fears of the underclass rising up amid an economic crisis and emerging anti-colonial revolts
In another example of the imperialists overestimating their own strength, a report that the CIA put out in 2000 about the global trends of the time failed to predict the economic unraveling of 2008. In this report, titled Global Trends 2015, the CIA even went so far as to claim that the next 15 years after 2000 would be a period of steady economic growth, one which would rival the post-World War II boom. When the neoliberal ideology behind these false expectations for where the financial system was headed ran into the reality of 2008, the CIA and the state’s other branches could only react in one way: by viewing the American socioeconomic landscape as a ground for war.
The Obama administration expanded upon the militarization of police that had been occurring since excess War on Terror equipment started being given to local police departments, letting the inward funneling of army gear accelerate while defending the use of violent and militaristic police tactics in court. Through section 1021 of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, it was made legal for the military to be used as a domestic police force, as well as for the military to carry out extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens, strip them of rights, and hold them indefinitely. When Occupy Wall Street broke out, the big banks directly conspired with the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the police to target the protests.
As Max Blumenthal wrote in 2011, during this first time when the national security state was set upon the post-2008 forces of class revolt, some parallels were made apparent between what U.S. policing had become and how Israel waged genocidal war against the Palestinians:
The presence of quasi-military Israeli police — whose participation in Urban Shield [the police operation to counter Occupy] was not reported anywhere in US media — reflected a disturbing but all-too-common feature of the post-9/11 American security landscape. The Israelification of America’s security apparatus, recently unleashed in full force against the Occupy Wall Street Movement, has taken place at every level of law enforcement, and in areas that have yet to be exposed. The phenomenon has been documented in bits and pieces, through occasional news reports that typically highlight Israel’s national security prowess without examining the problematic nature of working with a country accused of grave human rights abuses. But it has never been the subject of a national discussion. And collaboration between American and Israeli cops is just the tip of the iceberg.
Here we began to see more hints of the national security state’s long-term plan for waging class warfare take shape. It was built off of the precedents established during the War on Terror, which had so far allowed for the government to take U.S. citizens to Guantanamo to be treated like prisoners of war, created the world’s most large-scale and intrusive digital surveillance state, and even enabled the military to kill a U.S. citizen with a drone strike if they were deemed to be a threat. The latter happened with the 2011 extrajudicial drone execution of Anwar al-Awlaki and his teenage son, who was also a U.S. citizen.
Torture, another common tactic Washington used in its wars abroad, was also brought into U.S. territory through the inhumane interrogations of prisoners at Guantanamo. Under the plan that the national security state was developing, these kinds of warfare tactics would be applied to the strategies for beating back revolts which Israel was bringing to the U.S.
This plan involved not just getting Israel’s forces for colonial warfare to train U.S. police, but utilizing Israel’s strategies of terrorizing the general population of the underclass in order to weaken the military capacities of the rebels. We saw hints of this when the national security state responded to the 2016 Standing Rock indigenous resistance movement by sending police to enact violence against peaceful protesters, while using COINTELPRO-esque infiltration to undermine trust among the pipeline resistors. Private military companies again took a role in this whole process, with the mercenary company TigerSwan having set up an entire quasi-intelligence center to monitor and sabotage the movement.
Then the U.S. Army War College revealed where these kinds of tactics would be taken when a far larger domestic revolt had to be dealt with. In a December 2016 document titled Military Contingencies In Megacities and Sub-Megacities, which outlined a plan for countering urban insurgencies that could potentially take place in U.S. cities, the War College concluded that:
Megacities and dense urban areas also contain numerous slums or ‘sheet metal forests,’ which are very different from ‘concrete canyons’ [i.e., commercial centers]…These areas can provide significant concealment to the adversaries and even become strong operational bases. Apart from moving the population out and bulldozing the slum, there is very little that can be done…a surplus of unemployed males with little to do but join gangs or engage in crime as a source of income. Joining extremist or terrorist organizations might also appear attractive as a way out. At the very least, in the event of some kind of conflict, these young men would provide a pool of potential recruits for those opposing the United States. In short, slums would be an inordinately difficult battlefield.
In another example of the Israelification of the U.S. national security state, the report’s authors praise an Israeli Defense Force commander who wrote that while fighting off the 2002 Palestinian uprising in the West Bank city of Nablus, the IDF:
Used none of the city’s streets, roads, alleys or courtyards, or any of the external doors, internal stairwells and windows, but moved horizontally through walls and vertically through holes blasted in ceilings and floors. This form of movement, described by the military as ‘infestation,’ seeks to redefine inside as outside, and domestic interiors as thoroughfares. The IDF’s strategy of ‘walking through walls’ involves a conception of the city as not just the site but also the very medium of warfare — a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux.
Since Israel’s settler-colonial genocide is a project of U.S. imperialism, this Israelification is yet another example of the U.S. empire’s atrocities abroad coming to terrorize the population in the empire’s core. The War College’s report outlined all the other counterinsurgency moves that the military will make when these tactics become necessary at home: cutting off internet and cell phone access to those within and around the occupied zones, utilizing mobile devices and drones to engage in mass surveillance against the targeted population, using “human intelligence assets” to infiltrate these zones and provide the army with information, using censorship to cover up online information that could reflect negatively on the army’s actions, have military leaders craft “compelling narratives” to justify the army’s actions (i.e. “new realities”). The picture it paints is one of the U.S. applying many of Israel’s tactics for waging war against a liberation effort to U.S. cities like Los Angeles, which the report mentions by name as a potential ground for such a future conflict.
As commentator Eric London observed about the report, the Black Lives Matter movement and climate-related natural disasters were other recent events that had been shaping the national security state’s outlook: “The authors reference the National Guard’s occupation of Ferguson, Missouri during protests against a police killing in 2014, the occupation of parts of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, as well as foreign city operations like Kabul, Mosul, Fallujah and Baghdad. The US military is aware that it is preparing both to attack cities abroad and to suppress social opposition by the working class domestically.” As capitalism’s crisis escalated, the most extreme hypothetical domestic warfare tactics drew closer to being realized in the minds of U.S. military technocrats.
Preparing for the eventual class confrontation amid emerging new economic shocks, a pandemic, and accelerating decline for U.S. hegemony
The military analysts behind the plans for suppressing domestic social opposition have made it clear that they view such an internal war as inevitable. The War College’s report concluded that the urban invasions it talks about are “inescapable,” and a Joint Special Operations University training video from earlier in 2016 said that the dystopian future which will necessitate these invasions is “unavoidable.” According to the latter report, the climate crisis is one of the many reasons why there’s this total lack of doubt that the U.S. empire’s wars are going to come home. It’s the variable that’s going to push things over the edge as the system grows strained in other ways.
The JSOU video, titled Megacities: Urban Future, the Emerging Complexity, points to a myriad of factors that will destabilize urban areas in the coming years and decades: crumbling infrastructure, growing unemployment, open landfills, and a growing divide between rich and poor, which will make cities into “the future breeding grounds, incubators, and launching pads for adversaries and hybrid threats.” The solution to the military’s lack of preparedness for these threats, the video implies, is to advance the causes that the JSOU describes itself as representing: “to shape the future strategic environment by providing specialized joint professional military education, developing SOF specific undergraduate and graduate level academic programs and by fostering special operations research.”
Given how leaning onto special operations forces is the solution that the military analysts behind the video appear to embrace, there are some obvious flaws in the domestic warfare plan that the national security state had figured out thus far; in a scenario where guerrillas and armed criminal groups are rising up to take territory within large cities, the military wouldn’t simply be able to use special ops to stamp out these threats within the peripheries of the cities while letting business as usual continue in the wealthy urban centers. The military’s only real options would be to start bombing U.S. city blocks, or surrender the besieged cities to the revolutionary guerrillas.
In the last few years since then, the U.S. and its imperial allies have been putting out more material which affirms the new military expert consensus about an unstable near future, and which attempts to address the contradiction within JSOC’s special operations plan. In January of 2017, the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute published a document which concluded U.S. global influence is “collapsing,” and that the growing instability of the world order should be seen as a “wakeup call.”
Short of addressing the dilemma that the U.S. military would face if it were to try to put down an urban uprising, or recognizing that belligerent U.S. foreign policy actions are behind the destabilization which military analysts fear, the document offers an approach towards preemptively stopping a domestic revolt: propagandize and socially control the U.S. population. It warned that the U.S. was overly focused on perceived foreign threats to its intelligence networks, and not enough on “the purposeful exploitation of the same architecture for the strategic manipulation of perceptions and its attendant influence on political and security outcomes.” Therefore, “the U.S. homeland, individual American citizens, and U.S. public opinion and perceptions will increasingly become battlefields.”
This statement was made at a moment when the U.S. intelligence, political, and media establishments were erupting in panic over supposed Russian efforts to influence American politics, and when a campaign had in turn emerged to suppress online information which challenged pro-U.S. narratives. Big Tech companies were cracking down on anti-imperialists at wild speed, and Obama had just signed a bill that created a government entity for targeting the alternative media.
This means the report’s recommendations for suppressing dissenting views and waging psychological warfare against the population were being very much followed. The report’s recommendation for utilizing the U.S. surveillance state in a more politically oriented fashion would soon become followed as well, with Trump’s FBI having started a program to surveil and target activists who it deemed to be “Black Identity Extremists.”
During the next three years leading up to the Covid-19 pandemic and the new economic crash of 2020, the U.S. national security state and its foreign partners expanded upon these kinds of repression under the rationale of preparing for an imminent calamity. In 2018, the British military published a report titled Global Strategic Trends: The Future Starts Today, which anticipated destabilization along the same lines of what the past mentioned military reports predict: the terminal weakening of states around the world, with governments being undermined by growing ethnic and religious tensions while corporations are in turn rapidly strengthened through taking advantage of the social breakdown.
In 2019, the Pentagon specified what these events will mean for the United States. In a report titled Implications of Climate Change for the U.S. Army, it concluded that a breakdown of much or most of the U.S. national power grid will be a sure thing when climate-related natural disasters get severe enough. It said that in response, the military should prepare for a new era of endless war within U.S. borders, with the report calling for the establishment of a massive and permanent military presence inside the country. The report further built a case for this by observing that “Climate change is introducing an increased risk of infectious disease to the US population. It is increasingly not a matter of ‘if’ but of when there will be a large outbreak.”
The irony is that even though the U.S. military is the world’s largest polluter, and militarism-induced austerity is why the U.S. has had the most Covid-19 deaths, the military’s only thought when faced with these crises is to expand its own destructive role. By making these crises worse, it’s perpetually furthering its own need to expend its resources.
Covid-19, which is going to be small compared to the pandemics global warming will bring in the coming decades, has provided a trial run for what the national security state will do when the 2019 Pentagon report’s expectations come to fruition. The pandemic, along with the economic crash that neoliberalism had made inevitable for 2020 in any case, has created dire lower class conditions that have provoked massive unrest-with human rights abuses from U.S. police being the catalyzing outrage. And in response, the state has sent unidentified federal agents to shove protesters into unmarked vehicles for the sole purpose of striking fear among the masses, fired paint rounds at people simply for sitting on their front porches, inflicted mutilation and death upon the overwhelmingly peaceful protesters, and used curfews as weapons.
It’s only a matter of time before the class war starts
Larger revolts are going to break out in the coming years and decades, and they’ll be more organized and coherently planned out if the country’s revolutionary socialists manage to keep strengthening their movement. When these revolts come, and they start to move towards a “People’s War” scenario like the one which turned Washington’s neighbor Cuba into a socialist republic, the domestic warfare tactics that this article’s quoted reports have mentioned will be brought out. If the masses seriously try to bring about a People’s War-and this will be for the masses to decide, since the revolutionary vanguard’s members can’t do this on their own-the state’s job will be to ensure that the masses lose.
And how do you defeat an entire population? By replicating what Israel has done to the Palestinians: systematically deprive them of food, water and medical care, routinely bomb and shoot up their neighborhoods so that many of the non-combatants among them die, and set up a system of checkpoints and off-limits zones so that their movement is deeply restricted. Israel also deprives Palestinians of the right to politically organize while jailing them for expressing anti-Israel sentiment on social media, giving us a hint of where America’s current trends of civil liberties erosions and online censorship are heading. Since the national security state knows a class uprising is inevitable, it hopes to prevent this uprising from resulting in a continental socialist revolution by isolating the poor within freedomless military occupation zones.
If this succeeds, the military’s plans imply, the rebel forces will remain contained while the rich can safely enjoy their insulated high-tech urban centers. The 2016 War College report articulates this vision by referring to the urban areas with potential for rebellion as “feral cities,” while referring to the wealthy urban areas as “smart cities.” Already, Covid-19 has been creating an opening for Big Tech to begin normalizing “smart cities” by introducing new technological infrastructure, ensuring both that these little capitalist utopias will be realized and that the broader digital surveillance apparatus will be expanded upon.
This has accompanied a campaign by the war machine to indoctrinate the population into a new version of Cold War anti-communism, with the media now frequently feeding the public shoddily sourced stories of Chinese “concentration camps” and portraying China’s highly effective Covid-19 response as a violation of human rights. At the same time, censorship against anti-imperialists is being ramped up amid moves towards a Patriot Act 2.0., which last month’s Capitol Hill riots supposedly necessitated. It’s all part of the effort to keep the masses ideologically tethered to the empire so that a proletarian revolutionary effort can be held off for as long as possible.
In which year is the national security state going to unleash the internal war which these social control mechanisms entail? That’s for the conditions of the country’s class conflict to decide, but military experts have begun vaguely speculating about the date. In a 2018 Pentagon war game where the army needs to fight off a cyber-based uprising from the country’s youth, the year when the action begins is 2025. The Pentagon describes the social conditions that produced the uprising in terms that are appropriately academic, given how the U.S. military’s view of class conflict is purely one of cold calculation about how to preserve the capitalist state:
Both the September 11 terrorist attacks and the Great Recession greatly influenced the attitudes of this generation in the United states, and resulted in a feeling of unsettlement and insecurity among Gen Z. Although Millennials experienced these events during their coming of age, Gen Z lived through them as part of their childhood, affecting their realism and world view … many found themselves stuck with excessive college debt when they discovered employment options did not meet their expectations. Gen Z are often described as seeking independence and opportunity but are also among the least likely to believe there is such a thing as the “American Dream,” and that the “system is rigged” against them.
Perhaps it’s this cold detachment that the U.S. military has from the struggles of the masses that will be its downfall in the coming class confrontation. Added onto all the other flaws in the national security state’s reasoning that I’ve touched upon-a failure to foresee how belligerent actions will put the U.S. at a disadvantage, arrogant overestimation of U.S. military strength, the mistaken idea that controlling the narrative will make up for the military failures, ambitions for massive military victories that can’t be realized, an inability to properly anticipate future crises due to reliance on capitalist orthodoxy, a lack of awareness that American militarism is producing the very destabilization that it seeks to alleviate, unrealistic expectations for what will be practically needed to contain a domestic revolt-this hubristic mindset could he what makes the empire lose, despite its promises to create “new realities.”
The empire is becoming a “Fortress America.” And as the Project for the New American Century hinted at, this could very well spell its doom.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
If you appreciate my work, I hope you become a one-time or regular donor to my Patreon account. Like most of us, I’m feeling the economic pinch during late-stage capitalism, and I need money to keep fighting for a new system that works for all of us. Go to my Patreon here: