Unconventional war on sovereign nations
The last stage of US imperialism
For the last decade, the United States has unleashed a new kind of aggressive warfare against a number of nations that refuse to subordinate their interests to those of the USA, utilizing a hybrid methodology with economic, political, military, cultural, and ideological dimensions. It is the last stage of U.S. imperialism. Unconventional war cannot reverse decades of U.S. economic decline, and therefore it cannot attain its goal of sustaining U.S. hegemony in the neocolonial world-system. In addition, the unconventional war increases the unity of anti-imperialist states and deepens their interest in constructing an alternative to U.S. hegemony. The U.S. unconventional war is a sign of the decadence of U.S. imperialism.
What will be the final result of a failed unconventional war? The evidence points to two possibilities: on the one hand, an era of worldwide chaos and savagery; and on the other hand, an alternative more just and sustainable world-system. As I discuss below, the worldwide anti-imperialist movement has not yet attained the sufficient maturity necessary for guaranteeing the latter possibility.
Verde Olivo (Olive Green) is a review published by the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces. It is “dedicated to divulging the patriotic, military, and internationalist traditions of the Cuban people.” During the past two years, it has published a number of articles by Cuban scholars that explain the strategies and goals of the U.S. unconventional war. The authors of the articles, in addition to observing the dynamics in some of the targeted counties, draw upon publications of the U.S. Armed Forces, including Unconventional Warfare, a 2013 publication of the U.S. Department of the Army; and Support to Political Warfare, a 2015 White Paper emitted by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
The tactics of the unconventional war
Antonio Ramón Barreiro Vázquez is a retired coronel who now is professor and researcher at the Institute of Philosophy in Havana. He writes that the USA sends agents who enter the targeted country as tourists, journalists, diplomats, doctors, lawyers, psychologists, sociologists, and representatives of NGOs. Some agents are active members of the Forces of Special Operations, who are carrying out specific functions, including the coordination of activities. The agents spend days preparing “new leaders,” “activists,” and specialists in subversive activities.
Barreiro maintains that the goal is to create the image of the existence of internal forces that are opposed to the government, an opposition that views the government as illegitimate. The U.S. agents try to create an incident that could be used to present a case for the indiscriminate use of force by the targeted government. They launch a media campaign disseminating such an image, accompanied by denunciations of the targeted government by diplomats and other representatives of the U.S. government. Television screens present images of fires and the hurling of rocks and inflamed bottles; or an elderly woman crying, or a bleeding child.
Barreiro maintains that the unconventional war utilizes a variety of arms, including social media networks, the traditional means of communication, television, and radio; and also economic, legal, diplomatic, and cultural resources. It acts against the economy, the culture, and the armed and security forces. It intends to suffocate and destroy sentiments and wills. It seeks to subvert the reigning spirituality and to weaken and make difficult the sustaining of political power. Its goal is to disrupt the stability and authority of the government
Barreiro further maintains that political warfare is an important dimension of unconventional war. The concept of political war does not limit itself to the struggle of ideas or ideological discussion. It includes the manipulation of consciousness and the promulgation of false news and rumors. It includes violence in its various manifestations. It includes all efforts to attain political objectives, including the destruction of the existing political power. The objective of political war is to suffocate the capacities of the targeted government, and to destroy its power and stability using any and all means.
Cuban Navy Captain Abelardo Jaime Jiménez stresses the role of social media in the unconventional war, with respect to both the mobilization of the people as well as the manipulation of information, due to its capacity to rapidly disseminate. He cites an Egyptian activist who states that “we use Facebook to program the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.” Jimenez notes the capacity of the social media to cross national frontiers. A study of the Twitter social network during the so-called Green Revolution in Iran during June and July of 2009 found that of the ten thousand users of the platform, only one hundred were located in the Persian nation.
José R. Rodríguez writes of the psychological war, which employs methods designed to produce psychological effects in the targeted nation, generating fear through lies and misinformation. The psychological war pertains to an advanced stage in the effort to overthrow an adversarial government, the stage of civil disobedience and the expansion of violence. Misinformation polarizes, spreading social disorganization and fear. Misinformation exacerbates discontent and dissatisfaction, and it influences the mind and the conduct of persons. It causes the people of a nation, Rodriguez maintains, to forget who they are and where they want to arrive.
Katherinne Díaz Pérez observes that the unconventional war is unleashed in times of apparent peace, thus implying the disappearance of the classic distinction between war and peace.
In the case of Cuba, Barreiro maintains that the USA arrived to the conclusion that 2020-2021 was the ideal moment for attaining its longstanding goal of removing the Cuban Revolution from political power. But the Cuban people impeded it, as a result of the fact that the Cuban universal and free educational system has inculcated in Cuban society an integral general culture.
However, the political, cultural, and psychological war against Cuba has had its impact, Barreiro maintains. There is today alongside the integral Cuban political culture a pseudoculture, intentionally constructed to degrade the human being. Thus, there exists in Cuba styles of life that in previous eras were repudiated, reflected in forms of speaking, dress and behavior, including disrespect for elders and authority. Manifestations of the vulgar, the banal, the frivolous, and the indecent increasingly occupy the daily space of Cuban society. Individual success, vanity, and blindness before the needs of others have emerged to some degree.
As a result, the facilitators of subversion continue with their political warfare and their ideological networks. Their intention is that such psuedocultural comportment be erected in daily life, such that they would be accepted as normal and will not invite censure.
In the face of this phenomenon, Barreiro maintains that real values ought to be defended: dignity, fidelity, solidarity, generosity, humanism, and full respect for the human being.
Waging the battle of ideas
U.S. imperialism is in decadence. With the nation lacking the economic, political, and cultural capacity to maintain its hegemony, the authors of U.S. foreign policy have turned to a multidimensional strategy of destruction. As is logical, such a policy cannot reverse the decades-long U.S. economic, political, and cultural decline. The policy generates two possibilities. On the one hand, it moves humanity toward an age of chaos and barbarity, of which there are many symptoms today. On the other hand, it drives those states and leaders seeking an alternative and more just world order toward an accelerated implementation of their vision.
As noted above, the worldwide anti-imperialist movement has not yet attained sufficient maturity to guide humanity toward the necessary more just and sustainable world-system. To be sure, the worldwide anti-imperialist movement has matured significantly during the last two decades, retaking the vision of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the formulators of the UN Declaration for a New International Economic Order in the 1970s, and taking important steps in the implementation of the vision, including mutually beneficial economic relations and political alliances. But this is an insufficient ideological response to the world crisis.
Cuba scholars affiliated with Verde Olivo are exposing the explicit imperialist intentions of the U.S. government. But even if the people of the United States were to have access to Cuban scholarship, it would not awaken them to do the right thing. The reason is that the people of the United States have known since the Vietnam War that the government of the United States is disposed to lie and to kill innocent men, women, and children in defense of its perceived interests or its perceived national honor. Reports with respect to the new strategies of unconventional war merely reinforce the tendency toward cynicism among the people; it does not awaken them to responsible citizenship.
Exposing the imperialist intentions of the USA with respect to Cuba leaves untold a key part of the story, namely, what revolutionary Cuba has achieved. This part of the story is not known outside of Cuba, even by the “friends of Cuba.” And it is a central part of the story, because it stimulates hope with respect to future human possibilities.
The most powerful empirical evidence against any claims for significant Cuban achievements is Cuban emigration. If Cuba, it is asked, is a desirable place, why do so many people want to leave? And here it is not enough to say that the reason is the blockade, because in reality, Cuban emigration has historic roots in colonial and neocolonial processes that predate the blockade. In these historical processes, structures were established and maintained that created a fundamental global inequality, in which some nations live in material abundance, while others live in material deprivation. As is logical, this structurally induced global inequality generates migration from the colonized zones to the core.
Both Cuba and the USA have participated in this story of structured global inequality, yet is a story that is largely untold in the USA. In fact, the norms and structures of the U.S. educational system are designed to ensure that the story of the modern colonial reality not be told. The story of the industrial revolution of Europe is told without reference to the Spanish conquest of the Americas that provided the gold and silver that stimulated it. And the story of the economic ascent of the USA is told without reference to its lucrative trading relation with the slaveholders of the European colonies in the Caribbean Islands. Through omission of critical global economic linkages, each nation is treated as a distinct entity, with the study of history separated from political economy, and with politics and economics seen as distinct disciplines. Meanwhile, theories are disseminated that portray the European advance in the modern era on the basis of cultural factors. These patterns of Western scholarship constitute a colonial denial, and a failure to discern the colonial foundation to the economic development of the West and the underdevelopment of the Third World, culminating today in increasing inequality and uncontrolled international migration.
Thus, the structures of the world-system explain the emigration from the peripheralized zones to the core, as an unintended consequence of the imposed world-system’s intention to establish economic advantages for the colonizing societies. Therefore, continued Cuban emigration is an indictment of the Cuban Revolution only to the extent that it has failed to eliminate its particular manifestation of peripheral-core emigration. Here, indeed, in this context, the blockade is a relevant factor. The blockade has prevented a more complete transformation of core-peripheral structures that otherwise would have been possible.
Many people in the United States do not know that at the time of the Cuban nationalization of U.S. properties, Fidel proposed Cuban compensation for the properties, financed by a fund that would be built through an increase in the Cuba-USA sugar trade. Fidel’s proposal implied a transformation of an unequal core-peripheral economic exchange into a mutually beneficial relation, thus constituting an alternative post-imperialist, post-neocolonial relation. It would have established much more positive possibilities for Cuban economic development. We today know from documents of the period that the United States had decided against any such mutually-beneficial cooperative relation with the triumphant revolutionary government even before the proposal was made.
In waging the battle of ideas, the Cuban Revolution has to explain these historic and global dynamics to the people of the United States. The Cuban Revolution has to explain the Cuban emigration by explaining the colonial sources of global inequalities and therefore peripheral emigration to the core.
The Cuban Revolution has to explain to the people of the United States the psychology and the political-economy of the blockade. Nations are targeted by U.S. imperialism because they propose transformations that would undermine the material advantages that neocolonial structures give to the core powers. The neocolonized peoples do not make this proposal out of hostility, but with the intention of making their nations more desirable places to live in material terms, which of course would reduce the material motivation for emigration.
In the current historic movement, Chinese President Xi Jinping calls upon nations and peoples to see this issue not as a zero-sum game, but to look at it from a post-imperialist perspective that envisions an alternative possibility, namely, the substitution of neocolonial unequal trade with win-win trade. (See “Xi Jinping proposes Global Development Initiative: The President of China seeks win-win cooperation,” October 19, 2021).
What has the Cuban Revolution been able to attain, in spite of the colonial legacy and in spite of the blockade? This story, too, is largely untold. Generally, the argument in defense of Cuba is presented in terms of its achievements in health and education. But this understates the case. Gains in health and education are important from the perspective of social democracy, but in Cuba these social democratic gains have been attained on a foundation of the socialist transformation of the Cuban political-economic system, that is to say, on the foundation of the construction of an alternative political system of people’s democracy, in which the role of political parties has been redefined, and the role of the state in the economy has been reformulated. The consolidation of people’s democracy in Cuba is without question Cuba’s most important achievement. It is the source of Cuba’s political stability and legitimation, and it is the reason for the persistence of the Cuban Revolution.
It is safe to say that the people of the United States know nearly nothing of the Cuban political process of people’s democracy. And what is more, it is an achievement that the people of the United States cannot even imagine. Accustomed as they are to representative democracy, they assume that politicians everywhere have mastered the art of pretending to defend the interests of the people as they in reality defend particular interests. They cannot imagine a society in which elected officials have as their highest priority the defense of the people, and they cannot imagine a political system that enjoys wide legitimacy among the people.
The Cuban achievement of consolidation of people’s democracy must be explained. It is the source of the legitimacy and political stability that the Cuban system enjoys, even in the midst of unconventional war and economic crisis provoked by economic war (along with the effect of the pandemic on the Cuban tourist industry). For further explanation of the Cuban political system, see “Cuba elects delegates to people’s assemblies: False premises of US blockade exposed,” December 2, 2022.
If the people of the United States were to understand that many nations of the world today are seeking to develop mutually beneficial relations among nations; if they were to know that some nations have taken political power from corrupt politicians and placed it in the hands of the delegates of the people; would they be able to see the possibilities for human progress and prosperity? Would they be prepared to cast aside decadent imperialism and search for the road toward a more just, stable, prosperous, and sustainable world-system? If so, the possibilities for a transition to a more peaceful and just world-system would be greatly enhanced.
The anti-imperialist governments and movements of the world must arrive to the capacity to explain these possibilities to the peoples of the Western nations, so that they can seek to take control of their states and direct them toward foreign policies of cooperation with the anti-imperialist states of the world.
Can the imperialist unconventional war be reverse-engineered? Can intellectuals and entities in the anti-imperialist governments put forth succinct and clear formulations in the world’s major languages, employing the techniques of dissemination of the unconventional war, but speaking with truth and morality and without misinformation or manipulation? Can the Cuban Revolution direct itself to the people of the United States, not with manipulation, but with clear explanation of relevant historical facts, and with the intention of stimulating an exchange of ideas with respect to the virtues of people’s democracy, and with respect for the need for cooperation and mutually beneficial trade among nations?
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