The Danger of War With China is Real and Insane – Larry Wilkerson

Video Thumbnailhttps://vimeo.com/445448032 China and the U.S. must work together to solve the climate crisis, but the power of the militaries and national security states on both sides is making that impossible. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson joins Paul Jay on theAnalysis.news podcast. Transcript Paul Jay Hi, I'm Paul Ja

China and the U.S. must work together to solve the climate crisis, but the power of the militaries and national security states on both sides is making that impossible. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson joins Paul Jay on theAnalysis.news podcast.

Transcript

Paul Jay

Hi, I’m Paul Jay and welcome to theAnalysis.news podcast. 

Recently, a past Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said that war between the US and China is possible before the November elections. The current Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, says that’s overstated, but said that a conflict is no longer inconceivable. In a recent document from BlackRock, the massive financial services firm that is massively influential in making government policy almost everywhere, said in a research document, quote, “The pandemic added fuel to the geopolitical dynamics already underway. The post coronavirus world is likely to be characterized by four key themes. First, the world is increasingly becoming bifurcated with the U.S. and China at opposite poles, intense rivalry looks set to affect nearly every dimension of the US-China relationship. Regardless of the US election outcome, other countries will increasingly be pushed to choose sides. Decoupling is focused on, but not limited to the technology sector. This means investors need exposure to both markets, as the center of gravity of global growth is moving to Asia. Second, the pandemic is poised to accelerate de-globalization as it magnifies nationalist and protectionist trends. The crisis adds to existing pressures such as global trade tensions and populism. This threatens to disrupt the web of global supply chains at the expense of efficiency. It may lead to on-shoring the production of strategic goods,” that’s from BlackRock. That’s advice to their investors. One thing is certain, as the US-China relationship deteriorates if the U.S. and China don’t cooperate in fighting the pandemic and the climate crisis, we’re pretty much doomed, even if by some miracle we avoid nuclear war as inherent to the geopolitical and economic realities, the rivalry is we must find a way to overcome it.

Now joining us is Lawrence Wilkerson. He’s a retired United States Army colonel and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. Larry is a distinguished adjunct professor of government and public policy at the College of William and Mary. Thanks for joining us, Larry.

Larry Wilkerson

Good to be with you, Paul. 

Paul Jay

So, first of all, what do you make of what the two Australian, former and current prime ministers are saying about Australia? One saying it’s really dangerous, and the other one says, yeah, maybe not that dangerous, but dangerous. And I’m talking about actual conflict, armed conflict, between the United States and China.

Larry Wilkerson

Kevin Rudd is a Mandarin speaker and in many respects an expert on China. I don’t happen to agree, full-throatily, with what he said, but I do think that, like my conversation not too long ago with John Mearsheimer, where John said it’s inevitable that we go to war with China, China goes to war with us, that it’s getting closer to that possibility and it’s extremely dangerous, as you intimated, that that possibility is closer. It’s extremely dangerous that it’s anywhere out there in our future if it is.

As for the sitting prime minister, I’m not aware of his intellectual bona fides or his predisposition toward China one way or the other, so I can’t really comment. I am aware of a lot of my Australian friends who don’t think he’s a very good prime minister. All in all, this is, as you intimated, again, a very, very dangerous time. Not simply because we have an incompetent baboon sitting in the Oval Office with all manner of sycophant baboons arrayed all around him. But we also have a situation in the world that ought to be turning primus inter pares, that is to say, several states that more or less look at each other as equals and work diplomatically, economically, financially and otherwise to try to cooperate, to meet some really awesome challenges, two of which you hinted at climate crisis and nuclear weapons rather than be as we are, sitting around contemplating, not just contemplating, but working up new reasons for warfare. You can say that it’s a product of the national security state that the United States has most assuredly become since World War Two, you can say it’s a product of Xi Jinping and the enlarged power and capability within their national security decision making the process of their military. That’s what you do when you feed it with lots of money and grow it up and stoke it with some nationalism and so forth.

You turn around one day if you’re a civilian on the Politburo and you say, “My God, what have I created?” Well, that’s where they almost are now in China, much the way we’ve been for some time now, at least since 9/11, possibly even before that, dominated by the military instrument, dominated by war, dominated by national security. China’s very much in that boat too. The belligerence they’ve shown recently towards India in the South China Sea and elsewhere is an indication of that. So it’s not a good time. I’m sitting at lunch with one of the premier, if not the premier realist thinkers in America, John Mearsheimer, as I said, and he tells me it’s inevitable that we’re going to war with China.

Paul Jay

Well, within what time frame is he talking about? 

Larry Wilkerson

We didn’t have a chance to discuss that. I suspect John would say, ” Well, it will take a confluence of events that will take in itself a precipitating event”. I think the assassination of the archduke in Sarajevo in 1914, I could think of several precipitating events. The most likely in my mind is something to do with Taiwan, although increasingly I see Taiwan as almost a fait accompli, should China decide to move. It will not move in an overt military fashion, it will simply let Taipei know that if it doesn’t cooperate much, the way it let Hong Kong’s leaders know, if it doesn’t cooperate more fully with the mainland and it will spell out what that “more” fully means, time is running out for Taipei, and I think that pressure will probably be acknowledged, perhaps protested for a short time, probably not publicly, but in private over Beijing, Taipei channels. And then Taipei will more or less, as Hong Kong has done, subside. That is to say, it will become a part of the imperial mandate of heaven. 

And I don’t think the United States will do a darn thing. We’ll probably issue démarches. Congress will stand up on its hind legs and pontificate and pass all kinds of Taiwan protection acts and everything else. I don’t think we’re going to go to war with China over Taiwan. I may be wrong. Congress may just plunge us right into it, and we’ll find out very quickly that the way to resolve that conflict after we’ve taken brutal blows on both sides is nuclear weapons and then we’re at a really bad place.

Paul Jay

Well, what you’ve said in interviews with me, previously, that every war game that you were part of, the kind of work through what would happen with an armed conflict with China, winds up in a nuclear war. And everybody, in theory, everybody that is at all informed knows that’s the end of China, the United States and most human life on Earth. So presumably they’re in no hurry to get to that, even in spite of saber-rattling.

Larry Wilkerson

I don’t know that the central party school, the strategic thinkers for Beijing and the Politburo itself, and Xi Jinping himself, I don’t know that they think that way. I hope they do. I certainly hope they do, but I don’t know that.

Paul Jay

I mean, China, for the last while, has been objecting. It gets almost no coverage in the American press and Western press objecting to Trump getting out of these nuclear treaties and calling for new ones.

Larry Wilkerson

And China is probably right now, I won’t say probably they are, all my contacts tell me they are embarked on a review, thorough review, of their own nuclear policy, the result of which will probably be a much more robust Chinese nuclear stockpile, one that can, as much as we used to say in the old days, ride out a first strike and respond massively. That means lots more nuclear weapons for China. 

Most people don’t understand that China doesn’t have very many nuclear weapons at all. Mao Zedong thought they were stupid weapons, they didn’t make any sense. But if others had them, he ought to have a few just so he could threaten those others in case. They’re getting ready to change that, I think, and become a full up, “I can strike you and get away with it power”, which of course is nonsense, nonsense for Russia, nonsense for the United States, nonsense for anyone to think that they can strike first and get away with it, as you intimated, we will have started a cycle of environmental change that added to the climate crisis will put us out of action as human beings probably 50 years earlier.

Paul Jay

Well, if the scientists are correct about nuclear winter, you only need a first strike, a successful first strike to end most human life on Earth because within a year the atmosphere is filled with so much smoke and soot from the cities burning that there’s no agriculture left.

Larry Wilkerson

It’s worse than that. So, Paul, if you read Will Perry’s and Tom Collina’s new book, The Button, you understand that book ought to be read by every citizen of the world, certainly by every American, that things on such a hair-trigger are now. Hair triggers, incidentally, what we tried to disassemble in 1991/1992/1993 when Chairman Powell was head of the military. We tried to disassemble a lot of these things, but they’re back in place again now. So your intimation that a first strike would do it? Look, it’s not going to be just the first strike because within seconds the response will come, within seconds.

Paul Jay

Define “hair-trigger”. What exactly is the mechanism, the steps within a hair-trigger? Because I’ve heard anything from like ten seconds to make a decision to 20 minutes.

Larry Wilkerson

It just depends on the scenario. But you could get down, as Will points out in his book, and I trust Will Perry, the only engineer ever to be Secretary of Defense, Will Perry knows what he’s talking about. Not only was he there when several crises occurred, but he knows the engineering concepts behind these weapons and behind the structure that’s been set up to use these weapons. So if you’re looking at a situation where the president of the United States is going to act on information, in other words, he’s going to act as soon as someone tells him that missiles are inbound. You’re talking about seconds, minutes at most, perhaps 8 to 10 minutes to make up your mind as to what you’re going to do. And no one, here it is, no one in the national security establishment, indeed in the country needs to be consulted. The president can turn to that major, that lieutenant colonel carrying the box the package and say, “Give it to me”, enter the codes and we’re away with our strike back.

Paul Jay

And he’s not the only one that can do that. Apparently, there’s several hundred, if they think for some reason there’s been an attack and the president maybe is incapacitated. But apparently, according to Ellsberg and some others, a couple of hundred people, if not more, that can actually do the same thing.

Larry Wilkerson

That’s a little bit of a stretch. But it’s technically true because there are things within the continuity of government cog highly classified things that make that sort of a scenario possible, but there are also checks and balances within that system. It’s scary, I don’t want to downplay that, it’s scary but scarier to me is the fact that the president, without consulting anyone, can pop that button.

Paul Jay

In the BlackRock document, it says, “The intense rivalry looks set to affect nearly every dimension of U.S. China relationship, regardless of the U.S. election outcome, meaning whether Biden’s in or not. The rivalry gets intensified,”. Do you think the danger of conflict is less if Biden is president?

Larry Wilkerson

I think we’ve got a lot of speculating going on right now, and I don’t see a lot of it is very informed. And I don’t necessarily include the BlackRock assessment in that because I haven’t read the whole thing, but a lot of what I’m hearing is not very well informed. The first thing that’s going to confront Biden is, if not cause massive problems with the election, and Trump standing up MAGA TV on Inauguration Day and beginning to delegitimize the Biden administration from the very start to include if we don’t change the Senate, not confirming any of his appointments, cabinet or otherwise.

I mean, aside from that, Joe Biden is going to face an economic crisis probably more intense and deeper than the one Franklin Roosevelt confronted in 1932/33′. So Joe Biden is going to be utterly consumed by the fact that the American economy is collapsing all around him, that 30-40% of Americans are out of work, that we’ve already printed trillions and trillions of extra dollars with absolutely nothing behind them to pay people to keep this from happening, to sort of hold back the wave, as it were. That’s what’s going to confront Joe Biden. That’s what’s going to confront his administration, a catastrophic economic situation. So it’s going to be extremely difficult to focus on getting a foreign policy in order, getting things corrected, like Iran, like Russia, like China and so forth. Trump is leaving him a disaster in foreign policy, a disaster, and in security policy. Just look, we have Elliot Abrams taking over from Brian Hook with regard to Iran. Brian just announced he’s leaving two disasters, but Elliot makes Brian look like a success.

Paul Jay

Oh, I didn’t see that. Elliot Abrams is going to be in charge?

Larry Wilkerson

Yeah, he’s going to handle Venezuela and Iran.

Paul Jay

Are they getting serious about the conflict with Iran?

Larry Wilkerson

I think we probably are in for an October surprise that would involve Iran more than it would involve China. So that’s where I differ with Kevin Rudd between now and November if there is an October surprise, so to speak, it’s probably going to involve Iran, not China. It might involve China because China makes it involve China, but I think the US is going to seek to make it with Iran.

Paul Jay

I can’t see China getting militarily involved. But on the other hand, there’s a growing Iran/China economic relationship.

Larry Wilkerson

400 billion dollars. I mean, look at what we’ve done to ourselves. Here, we have Gazprom, (a partially state-owned multinational energy corporation headquartered in the Lakhta Center in Saint Petersburg, Russia), completing the last leg of some 12 billion dollar Nord Stream pipeline, which is going to bring the rest of Europe’s needs in terms of energy to it from Gazprom. thank you very much, Mr. Putin, all at the same time that, my electric company, for example, the second largest on the East Coast behind only Duke Power, has put some 12 billion over the last four years, ten-year program, to build the only LNG plant on the east coast of the United States and ship it all to where? Europe.

Well, Europe doesn’t need it now. I’m waiting for the stock and dominion to plunk.

Paul Jay

In BlackRock’s advice to investors, their way to deal with this growing rivalry is to invest in both polar’s, put your money in China and the United States.

Larry Wilkerson

Put it in China, the United States, Iran, pick someone who might come out at the other end. Unfortunately, we’re all in this together.

Paul Jay

One of the people being talked about as vice president for Biden is Susan Rice.

Larry Wilkerson

I can just see Trump now, “Benghazi Rice! Benghazi rice!”

Paul Jay

If Biden actually goes there, it tells us something about what he thinks of where his foreign policy’s going, and she’s quite the hawk.

Larry Wilkerson

Yes, and I hope he doesn’t go there. I hope he doesn’t go there. I hope we have someone, one, who at least looks competent and isn’t a member of the national security state in good standing. Two, someone who is capable of becoming president not just after Biden, but perhaps even during Biden. And three, someone whom the American people can look at and say, finally, finally, someone who tells the truth, someone who is humanly decent, someone whom we probably can trust and someone who has the best interests of the United States foremost in their mind, because for almost four years now, we’ve had the exact opposite of that.

Paul Jay

Do you see that person?

Larry Wilkerson

Not immediately, and that’s a problem. I had a conversation with someone the other day. I started out being opposed to what the person was proposing. The more he talked, the more I thought it was a positive idea. And the person he was advancing was Michelle Obama.

Paul Jay

I’ve been predicting that for about a year and a half.

Larry Wilkerson

I understand that from other sources that she has been approached, whatever that means, and that there’s no chance.

Paul Jay

I can’t see why she’d want to do it.

Larry Wilkerson

I wouldn’t blame her a bit.

Paul Jay

Let’s go back to the Biden situation. So whoever the vice president is, he’s dealing with an economic collapse, as you said, worse than the 1930s. And of course, it won’t be just the United States, the United States is in such deep shit economically. It’s going to be a global crisis. There’s no way it’s going to be confined to the United States. It’s going to involve China, too, because China is still very dependent on the American market. This decoupling hasn’t happened.

Larry Wilkerson

I’m on a call yesterday with a group of people, one of whom was an investment banker from Germany, and she began to talk about Stuttgart. I know Stuttgart well, that’s where the headquarters for European Command is, that’s where I used to take my Marine Corps seminars. I love Stuttgart. She said it’s going to be a basket case in a very short time, that the automobile industry and all the ancillaries around it are just collapsing and that soon Stuttgart will be the poor man of Europe. I couldn’t believe it, but she knows more about the situation than I. 

Paul Jay

So does this make conflict more or less likely with China? I mean, China and the U.S. and most of the world is in deep, deep crisis. Is conflict more or less likely? 

Larry Wilkerson

History sort of screams that these are the sorts of situations that produce conflict and produce intense and difficult and sometimes, you know, world-spanning conflict, although we only have the last century or so to judge that from, but I would say yes.

Paul Jay

Well, is that ever a call for a people’s movement in the United States that demands a different kind of foreign policy? 

Larry Wilkerson

Very much so, and a different culture. You know, this consumption culture is driving us into hell. We have to figure out a way to get off this predatory, capitalist fuelled consumption culture. We must. It’s debilitating for our minds, our souls, our psyche. It destroys us when all we do is think about the next 24 hours of consumption. It’s incredible. It’s ruined even the productivity of this country to the extent that we now make products and products to last two or three years when we used to make them to last 20 because we want to sell eight or nine of them in that 20-year span rather than just one. We have built a system that is poisonous, perverse, and it’s killing our very soul, and not to mention our pocketbook.

Paul Jay

You get to talk to a lot more people in the elites than I do the people’s movement that I say we have to have, and that insight at the moment, and that’s something of the scale that can really put pressure–Forget Trump, let’s assume there’s a Biden government because it’s going to have tremendous pressure on it to do what we’re talking about because the pressure coming from the financial sector and the military-industrial complex and so on is going to be enormous, and his history says he’ll bend to it. But, within the elites themselves, whether it’s military or diplomatic or finance, whatever, do you see any sense from people that they get there needs to be a transformative movement here?

Larry Wilkerson

No, I don’t. In fact, as you were just talking, I was thinking about what I just read a moment or two ago about Mark Thornberry and Jim Inhofe and others involved in apportioning massive amounts of coronavirus intended dollars, taxpayer dollars, to the Pentagon and trying to justify based on the Pentagon and its hospital ship to New York and so forth and so on. That’s a pittance. And so tell me, Mr. Thornberry, tell me, Mr. Inhofe, what do more F-15s lightning strike fighters have to do with the Pentagon’s coronavirus contributions? Give me a break. These people are brain dead, Paul. They’re brain dead. And they’re so captured by the money that Lockheed Martin and other defense contractors dole out to them on a routine basis. They’re so dependent on that largesse, they couldn’t get out of this mindset if they tried. So if we’re going to get out of it, it’s going to take some kind of really apoplectic event or it’s going to take a massive awakening of at least a sizable minority, if not the majority of the American people. And a complete slate cleaning of the current leadership in Washington and possibly some of the leadership across the states, too, and a replacement of them by people who understand at least somewhat what you’re talking about.

Paul Jay

All right. Thanks for joining us, Larry.

Larry Wilkerson

Thanks for having me, Paul.

Paul Jay

And thank you for joining us on theAnalysis.news podcast.

8 comments

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  • As Colon Powell’s valet for much of his career, Col Wilkersons global view is heavily slanted with insider preferences . War with China, which has helped defeat the US in Asia twice of late, and is a major US creditor is way down the the list of possible opponents in a likely nuclear war .

  • If there’s a major war what will happen to all the petty bourgeoisie living in my city? China is viewed as spreading lethal viruses, producing shoddy products that can potentially harm people, the illicit fentanyl trade with the bidding up of real estate to launder money, the honesty of a person from China wearing a luxury Swiss watch, driving an expensive German car, and all the while never having worked a day in their life and not even able to speak much English. Down here the native population has developed a Double Consciousness and much disdain for the Chinese.

    I believe war is inevitable because the ruling class is looking for a conflict. People are itching for a fight and if it means completely flattening China forever by using nuclear weapons with no regard for man, woman or child then China is destined to live in the history books as something that once was. It use to be that if the Chinese moved into your neighborhood your property values would go down. Today if the Chinese move into your neighborhood property values go sky high and you end up being priced out of your home. All because they’re bringing in their Chinese paper money that’s been printed by the communist government. The secret behind the ruling class is that it was set up by them to go down this way. The exact same way a slave driving Forman is installed on the factory assembly line. Productivity goes up but an ensuing conflict erupts because of the Forman’s disruptive effects. The result some workers get stressed out and quit the job, others get stressed and become sick while others sympathize with the slave driving Forman and actually join his cause and help advance his position and themselves in the process. A type of self-interest I suppose.

    Those who have bought into the myth of home ownership now find the dream unattainable because debt peonage will keep them paying a mortgage for the next hundred years and they can never exercise their constitutional right of Liberty since this means being free and clear of mortgage payments in twenty years.

    • “All because they’re bringing in their Chinese paper money that’s been printed by the communist government.”

      This assertion while at odds with other acknowledgments, reveals deep confusion. Complaining about Chinese fiat when the US ruling class first “obligation” was to take care of themselves both in the Great Recession and now is beyond pointless, it is almost whimsical.
      Serious attention must be given to local preparation while at the same time convincing people to wake up and demand national leadership from their local representatives…if there is time.

    • This is the most idiotic nonsense I’ve seen posted to the comments on this site thus far. Basically everything you stated is nonsensical. The fact that this comment even made it past moderation slightly lowers my expectations for this project. It’s not even worth refuting this nonsense.

  • The massive awakening and slate-cleaning called for by the estimable former Marine Colonel Wilkerson would in his view have to address the pathologies spawned by our consumerist culture. His critique of Wall Street-abetted consumerism echoes our 2011 documentary film Surviving Progress, which is anchored by energy historian and polymath author, the Czech-Canadian Vaclav Smil and heterodox economic historian and former David Rockefeller analyst Michael Hudson.

    http://firstrunfeatures.com/survivingprogress_reviews.html

  • An awakening is underway, with independent media playing an important role, but will such an awareness weigh on the political chessboard in time? The only certainty at present is the imperative of indeed an evolution of values, simply more in line with a human balance and the globe that hosts us.