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U.S. "Intelligence" Community Details Threats to Empire in 2023

Travis Cunha

Mar 30, 2023

The United States Intelligence Community (IC) released its “Annual Threat Assessment” in March of 2023. Since 2006, the IC has released the annual report which “focuses on the most direct, serious threats to the United States during the next year.” Just 40 pages, the relatively short diatribe is nonetheless packed with the typical fear-mongering about Chinese, Russia, North Korean, and Iran.

Before reviewing key sections of the report, it's worth asking: what is the Intelligence Community? This collection of federal agencies originated in 1882 with the founding of the Office of Naval Intelligence, and grew to encompass many other organizations, culminating in the euphemism used today. On its website, the IC lavishes itself with praise: “We are dedicated, diverse, and passionate thinkers and doers. We are your neighbors and friends. With our varied backgrounds, we are united in the mission of keeping our nation safe.” The IC consists of eighteen governmental agencies, including all military branches, as well as intelligence agencies, from the CIA to the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, all working in concert to drive the United States’ aggressive foreign policy. I, for one, don't have neighbors or friends party to this imperialist coalition.

Since 2021, the IC has been led by Avril Haines, a figurehead who embodies the identity politics of our current era. Haines broke the gender barrier as the first woman to serve as deputy director of the CIA, and garnered praise from the feminist and LGBTQ+ communities for hosting erotic bookclubs at a café she owned prior to serving in politics. Apart from her reputation as a feminist icon, Haines is also known for her instrumental role in the Obama administration developing the legal rationale for executing drone strikes on suspected terrorists. According to Newsweek, “(Haines) would be summoned in the middle of the night to decide if a citizen of any country, including our own, should be incinerated in a U.S. drone strike in a distant land in the greater Middle East.” Over eight years, the Obama administration launched over 500 drone strikes against targets in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Haines’ dubious record does not stop there. Following a discovery that the CIA had hacked communications between senators so as to thwart their investigation into the agency's torture programs, Haines chose not to punish any of the hackers responsible.

A 2021 article from The Guardian dubbed Haines an “unlikely chief of intelligence,” but this belies our new geopolitical reality. U.S. imperialism has mostly dispensed with the right-wing rhetoric that animated US foreign policy in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Instead of bombing Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of freedom and democracy, we have new rationales for interventions: Iran must be toppled to save the women and we must invade countries that prioritize development over the "de-growth" environmental goals set by the West. In fact, Haines is the ideal candidate to lead the charge against this emerging multipolar world fostered by China and Russia. With this background on the IC and Haines in mind, let us examine this year's report on external threats which the IC believes Americans should fear more than rising inflation and crumbling infrastructure.

The longest section in the report is predictably devoted to China, and reads like a country envious of its rival's soaring economic growth. Throughout this section, the U.S. bemoans the technological and diplomatic advances made by the Communist Party of China. A section on cyber warfare states, “China almost certainly is capable of launching cyber attacks that could disrupt critical infrastructure services within the United States, including against oil and gas pipelines, and rail systems.” Taiwan is also repeatedly mentioned, as western fears grow of an imminent disruption to the flow of cutting-edge Taiwanese semiconductors. Some U.S. accusations leveled against China amount to pure projection, including that China shows “a willingness to meddle in select election races that involved perceived anti-China politicians” and has pursued “intensifying efforts to mold U.S. public discourse”. This studiously ignores the U.S.'s own constant meddling in the internal affairs of other nations and regime change wars, including bungled operations by spies discovered and liquidated by China.

The report's sections Russia, Iran, and North Korea are also predictably hysterical. The Ukraine conflict took up most of the discussion on Russia, while nuclear weapons and accusations of suppressing “democracy” dominated the sections on Iran and North Korea. The report admits that Iran and Russia have grown closer, in response to the west's economic war against them: “Moscow’s ties to Tehran probably will improve politically and economically as both countries seek ways to circumvent sanctions, and advance closer bilateral economic and defense cooperation.” It seems the U.S. has decided, in lieu of pursuing its own win-win diplomacy, to sulk and blame other nations for implementing plans that serve the interests of their populations.

Perhaps the most striking passages of the report were those under the section titled, “Environmental Degradation and Climate Change”. As mentioned above, the U.S. has increasingly used the pretext of environmental sustainability to meddle in the affairs of sovereign nations, as it has in pushing back against a canal that Nicaragua is building with help from China. The report goes on to say, “Geopolitical tensions between countries about how to accelerate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are likely to grow, and states will compete to try to control resources and dominate the new technologies needed for a global transition to low-carbon energy.” Given that China is helping to fund and construct many new infrastructure projects in Africa, could the U.S. begin enforcing its draconian environmental policies there with military force? We can also see what the U.S. would prefer them to do. “Both (China and India) are growing their total and per capita emissions, largely because of their reliance on cheap electricity generation from coal for economic growth, and because of their efforts to appease domestic constituencies who rely on the coal industry for jobs.” Instead of de-industrializing and miring their countries in debt to Western banks, China and even India continue to defy the west in industrializing and developing strong, sovereign economies.

The report also discusses more on technology and the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Taken together, the 2023 Annual Threat Assessment is the closest we have to a playbook for possible U.S. policies and actions in the coming year and also reveals our government’s own biggest fears in this volatile, new geopolitical moment.

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