Conception of Total War to Order the World

Serbian football fans' banners name countries that have been subject to U.S./NATO military aggression, March 17, 2022. 

The tone of the speech by Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Advisor to Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, delivered to the Davos World Economic Forum on May 23, and of his May 9 interview with the Financial Times, is one of detente and negotiations. But the essence of what he means lurks behind this talk, which is the promotion of the use of nuclear weapons.

Keep in mind that Kissinger was the one who, during peace negotiations with Vietnam, threatened to use nuclear weapons against Vietnam 13 times. This threat is what, in U.S. parlance, constitutes "a deterrent."

Since the U.S. detonated two atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945 respectively, killing between 129,000 and 226,000 people, most of them civilians, there has been no other direct use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict. The threat of their use has, however, regularly been used by the U.S. for purposes of blackmailing and threatening countries to force them to comply with whatever the U.S. seeks to impose at any particular time. The Vietnamese showed that this blackmail did not intimidate them and that it is the peoples fighting for their rights that wins wars, not weaponry.

Certain states monopolized the possession of nuclear weapons and justified this as necessary to defend their sovereignty, while depriving others of the right to defend their sovereignty. In the course of this, the U.S. developed the conception of Total War, as distinct from the conception of Absolute War. Absolute War was still war with political aims which permits arriving at a negotiated settlement. Total War is not war as politics by other means. It is war of destruction, with nuclear weapons able to wipe out whole countries and go beyond limited territory.

The conception of Total War was formulated in the context of proposals to use nuclear weapons against revolutionary civil wars, first in Korea and then in Vietnam. For instance, it was the option favoured by General MacArthur to obliterate the Korean resistance led by Kim Il Sung and to wipe out the Chinese volunteers who joined that resistance. They were not used, in part because the U.S. military and presidency could not agree on also using nuclear weapons against China. Instead, the U.S. carried out carpet bombing of civilians and infrastructure in Korea and used chemical and biological weapons.

Since the Korean War launched by the U.S. in 1950 in its attempt to take over the entire Korean Peninsula, dominate China and establish a bridgehead between Russia and China, nuclear weapons have been put into a special category. Their use is treated as "unthinkable." By introducing the conception of Total War, the issue became not the kind of war -- national liberation, civil war, world war -- but whether it is limited, without nuclear weapons, or unlimited. The current contention over what to do about the Ukraine conflict, for example, becomes about the forms of warfare available. Can conventional warfare achieve U.S. aims, or are unconventional methods needed, and how will Russia and Europe respond to either?

Nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction are considered unconventional. The use of napalm, white phosphorous, bunker busters, and GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or Mother of All Bombs (MOAB) are considered part of conventional warfare.

Protest in Kabul, Afghanistan against U.S. use of MOAB in Afghanistan, April 16, 2017.

Kissinger's aim is to centre the discussion, for the rulers and among the people, on the issue of whether to wage conventional or unconventional war. Once that is the discussion, the use of nuclear weapons is supposed to become a bargaining chip. This is true now and not just used between big powers that have weapons, but also to threaten peoples standing up to U.S. dictate and to justify aggression. In other words, the ability of the United States to order and divide the world is directly related to this conception of Total War.

A big part of the U.S./NATO strategy is to goad Russia and China into doing something to show that U.S. deterrence -- the threat to go nuclear -- works. Deterrence functions only in the context of Total War, that the U.S. can say it can wipe out entire countries and get those countries to capitulate to it. No one can escape from this Total War. The opposition to the nuclear threat, said to be "unthinkable," takes the form of saying the nuclear threat to unleash Total War has to be stopped. If the peoples and other countries line up behind forces represented by Kissinger, who claim to be for peace and detente, the nuclear threat will have achieved its aim.

It is part of the disinformation which is aimed at making sure the peoples of the world are disoriented and their striving for peace cannot take form; it is disinformed. It is to block the peoples from pursuing their own plans to achieve peace by mobilizing to affirm their claims on society. Instead they are to line up behind those they perceive stand for detente and against Total War, that is wars which will annihilate humankind.

The entire conversation leaves out the central role of the peoples of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean as well as the peoples of the U.S./NATO countries and others in shaping a New World Order. Instead of looking at the world as is and fighting to establish anti-war governments under the control of the peoples, they are instead to join in creating a New World Order by supporting a multipolar equilibrium or polycentric equation, against the conception that the U.S. is the indispensable nation to which everyone must submit. However, so long as the peoples are left out of the equation there will be nothing new about whatever world order is established by the U.S./NATO forces. Indeed, the likes of Kissinger have tried their utmost to crush the organized resistance of the peoples striving for peace, freedom and democracy and the U.S./NATO cabal are trying to do the same.

As resistance goes forward, instead of bipolar or multipolar or unipolar, where the world order remains centred on the big powers, it is becoming clear that a human-centred world order is needed. The peoples are stepping up their anti-war, pro-social efforts worldwide. They oppose the use of force to settle conflicts between countries. This includes the threats of the U.S./NATO countries to unleash Total War against Russia, China and peoples worldwide. The peoples strive to humanize the natural and social environment by activating the human factor/social consciousness to resolve problems in a manner which favours the peoples. It is they who are bringing forward a human-centred world order.

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 6 - June 5, 2022

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