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Trump's new Cold War

  • 09 March 2019


There is little doubt that the most warlike nation on the planet is the United States. The country outlays about half the world's total military expenditure, it has over 800 military bases to maintain its influence, and, this century alone, it has mounted, or aggressively supported, wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. Since its creation in 1776, America has been at war for 222 out of its 239 years. It used to be said that the business of America is business, but it is more the case that the business of America is war.

The nature of the war mongering, however, seems to be changing under President Trump, who came to office vowing to have better relations with competing superpowers and to bring American soldiers home. Those promises are yet to be fulfilled, but he is clearly shifting America's aggression to the economic sphere.

It has been postulated that there are three types of war: kinetic (the physical killing or destroying), informational and economic. Kinetic war between the superpowers has mercifully been limited because of the terrifying potential of the weaponry. Most of the military conflicts tend instead to happen on the fringes against weaker countries. Millions have been killed or wounded, but the toll would be much higher if the superpowers turned their arsenals on each other.

America has been losing its kinetic conflicts in the Middle East and recently has escalated its informational war, propaganda. The accusations against Russia, for example, are reaching comic proportions, with the country accused of weaponising anything in sight. My personal favourite is the report in The Express that a 14 legged killer squid has been found two miles beneath Antarctica and may be being weaponised by Vladimir Putin. Another gem was the BBC's report that Putin is weaponising humour (don't laugh, that's what he wants you to do).

Yet in many ways the informational war is a sideshow, a performance to keep domestic audiences fooled about what is really happening (it works: bizarrely the only institution whose reputation in the west is improving is the military). The more significant move is Trump's introduction of an entirely new level of economic warfare. It will reshape the world; in prospect it is a repeat of the Cold War division between the US and its allies, versus Russia, China and countries considered enemies by the US.

The favoured weapon with economic warfare is sanctions, and America under Trump has