HomeArticleThe Self-Licking Boot Of US Militarism

The Self-Licking Boot Of US Militarism

Listen to a reading of this article:

A new Bloomberg article titled “‘Sloppy’ US Talk on China’s Threat Worries Some Skeptical Experts” discusses the dangerous cycle in which pressures in the US political establishment to continually escalate hostilities with Beijing provokes responses that are then falsely interpreted as Chinese aggression.

Bloomberg’s Iain Marlow writes:

The hawkish narrative “limits room for maneuver in a crisis,” said M. Taylor Fravel, director of the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Any effort to defuse tension could be characterized as “conciliatory or not tough enough,” he said.


China has been consistent on Taiwan and there’s little public evidence to suggest it’s sped up the timeline to take Taiwan, said a former senior US official who worked on China policy but asked not to be identified.


The former official said the hawkish tone in DC has contributed to a cycle where the US makes the first move, interprets Chinese reactions as a provocation, and then escalates further.

Bloomberg quotes Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund, who says this cycle of self-reinforcing escalation could “end up provoking the war that we seek to deter.”

We just saw this same self-perpetuating cycle of military escalation exemplified against North Korea, where tensions have again been flaring after a long pause. The US and South Korea initiated a provocative military drill designed to menace the DPRK, Pyongyang responded by launching missiles in its own show of strength, and the Pentagon announced an extension of the drills in response to that response.

Antiwar’s Dave DeCamp explains:

The US and South Korea are extending massive aerial war games after North Korea put on a massive show of force in response to the drills.


Washington and Seoul started their Vigilant Storm exercises on Monday, which were initially scheduled to run 24 hours a day for five days. This year’s Vigilant Storm is the largest-ever iteration of the drills, involving nearly 100 American warplanes and 140 South Korean aircraft, and about 1,600 planned sorties.


Pyongyang made it clear it would respond to the Vigilant Storm drills, and it launched 23 missiles on Wednesday, which is said to be the most North Korea has fired in a single day. North Korea also fired over 100 artillery rounds on the same day and launched six more missiles on Thursday.


Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced the extension of Vigilant Storm after a meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Lee Jong-sup. “I’ve consulted with Minister Lee and we’ve decided to extend Vigilant Storm, which is our long-scheduled combined training exercise, to further bolster our readiness and interoperability,” Austin said.

“So they launch these war games, provoke a bunch of North Korean missile launches and then say they have to extend the war games because of the missile launches,” tweeted DeCamp.

DeCamp quotes another DPRK official who warns that the extension of the US-ROK war games may provoke further escalations, saying “The irresponsible decision of the US and South Korea is shoving the present situation, caused by provocative military acts of the allied forces, to an uncontrollable phase.”

We’ve been seeing this same cycle repeated year after year: US military expansionism and aggression in a given part of the world receives pushback from the people who live there, and the US responds to that pushback with more military expansionism and aggression. The official narrative is that the US is responding to unprovoked aggressions from the other side, conveniently omitting its own antecedent aggressions and provocations — a manipulation tactic the western media are always happy to facilitate.

In reality it’s not hard to determine who the aggressor is when one party is flying to the other side of the planet to menace the borders and security interests of the other, especially when ramping up militarism in more and more parts of the world facilitates both the US military-industrial complex and the unipolarist objectives of US empire managers. But because the US empire has the most sophisticated narrative control system ever devised, enough people in enough places that matter swallow the official story despite its self-evident absurdity.

A system which perpetuates and exacerbates itself while pretending to solve the problems it creates is often called a self-licking ice cream cone. Because that type of system is promoted by those serving the most powerful and belligerent power structure on earth, one might call US militarism a self-licking boot.

We’ve been watching the self-licking boot of US militarism exemplified for decades in the “war on terror” scam, where US military interventionism destabilizes geostrategically crucial parts of the world and makes the locals who’ve suffered under US bombings want to harm their persecutors, and the response is to ramp up military expansionism in those parts of the world in the name of fighting terrorists and protecting US troops.

We been watching it in Ukraine, where US aggressions provoked an invasion by a government the US empire has long targeted for destruction, and that invasion is now being used to advance longstanding US strategic objectives while continually expanding US military involvement in the region.

And we’ll be sure to see more and more of it as the US accelerates toward global conflict on two fronts simultaneously while mainstream media pundits cheer it on, despite all available evidence indicating that we are witnessing something profoundly stupid and crazy. The US will continue ramping up aggressions against Moscow and Beijing, those governments will respond, and we will be told that the US must respond to these outrageous provocations by ramping up aggressions.

Repeat ad nauseum.

Lick, lick.


My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on FacebookTwitterSoundcloud or YouTube, buying an issue of my monthly zine, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. All works co-authored with my American husband Tim Foley.

Bitcoin donations:1Ac7PCQXoQoLA9Sh8fhAgiU3PHA2EX5Zm2

Liked it? Take a second to support Caitlin Johnstone on Patreon!

Latest comments

  • Elon Musk permanently suspends Kathy Griffin from Twitter for impersonating. Why didn’t Elon Musk name his ‘Tesla’ a ‘Musk?’ Isn’t his ‘Tesla’ automobile impersonating ‘Nicola Tesla?’ If so, should Musk’s ‘Tesla’ be permanently suspended from the highway, or a name change be required? Is this an unreasonably ridiculous question? If so, then why did GM crush the EV1, regardless of customer protests? Customer responses to the ‘EV1’ were positive; nevertheless, GM ignored paying customers and axed the automobile. Was this a ridiculous response by GM? Capitalism: if you want something (EV1, livable wage) selfish obstructionists prevent you from having it; if you reject something (harmful drugs, unreasonable insurance costs) they are frequently mandated. Capitalism (and the controlling egotist) sucks. The aforementioned actions take on the appearance of hypocrisy and situational ethics. Musk and GM are unplugged from reality.

  • Well, I was right, the media the next day was the mainstream media to do a smear campaign on me for a comment that I made on one of Caitlin’s essays, a sort of call to arms to all self-proclaimed or acting vigilantes to end my life, because the poor helpless empire has its hands tied because of that damn thing called ‘The Bill of Rights” that someone mistakenly stapled to our (US) Constitution. Mike Pence (Indiana) and Trump did about the same thing over China, bad mouthing the Chinese, and so, being called to arms the ignorant kidnapped a Korean man, robbed him and killed him. In the town where Mike Pence is from, I was called a “Chink Lover”.
    Now to the point of the comment that I made last week that appears nowhere on the internet now, apparently; but the comment that apparently made some people upset. It wasn’t the bit about the Intercept, they were exposed the same week that they went into operation, it was about the public broadcasting station in Chicago and that Benjamin Netanyahu’s first wife plays a big role at that station, I knew about ten years ago that the Empire’s next target was going to be China after it ran a special documentary on China that portrayed the Chinese as a violent ignorant people, a smear campaign in essence, just like I knew as soon as the planes hit on 9-11 our rights were going out the window.
    Now; what about her daughter? A self-proclaimed Israeli spy? No doubt holding duel American-Jewish citizenship, nothing wrong with that Jewish spies have free access to all US classified files, but what about their agendas? Was it just a cover story to gain access to my abode? Or was she telling the truth? If so, why is she not automatically on a terrorist list?

  • There’s more and more of you guys in this section. Please tell us if we disturb you with the comments we write between your ads…

  • Do you still think that capitalism has your best interests at heart? I understand, as you are permeated will US’ propaganda 24/7. The capitalist must do this (propaganda) because the capitalist knows the system is a failure (for the working public but not for the oligarch). An analogy is McDonald’s hamburgers. You know that they are not particularly nutritious, but McDonald’s has to continually delude you through propaganda (misleading suggestions) that: “I’m lovin it.” You may like them, but you don’t really love them. If you loved them, you’d hear about humans marrying hamburgers (I know, it is ridiculous to say that, but I’m just making a point using some humor). Consider the following story about Elon Musk and capitalist behavior; then convince me that capitalism advocates the working public.
    Elon Musk begins mass layoffs at Twitter
    These workers have families at home that depend on their income to survive. They also have bills to pay; they have transportation to maintain; they must pay for insurance, and more. Elon notified these employees (1) day in most cases, before they were terminated. Yes, they were paid some level of severance; but you and I know that this is not enough to keep you out of eventual trouble:
    Read the excerpt:
    Excerpt: “Some Twitter workers received an email from the company late Thursday that they were being terminated and others found out about it when they lost access to online systems or were barred from entering company facilities on Friday.”

    Capitalism is more concerned about the ‘health’ of the corporate world (it’s about the power and money for the owners) than your health (if they were concerned about you, you would have Med4All, or an alternative affordable quality healthcare plan; but most of us don’t):

    Read the excerpt:

    “In an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global workforce on Friday.”

    This behavior is commonplace with predatory capitalism. If capitalism wasn’t predatory, someone wouldn’t have manifested this conceptual modifier—’predatory.’

    • The author of this article is obviously out of his mind. I mean, how can a serious journalist write that “[Musk] has used his pretense of “free speech absolutism” as a front for welcoming far-right and fascist individuals—such as offering to restore Donald Trump’s account—onto Twitter to spread racism, xenophobia, white-supremacy and antisemitism on the platform”?
      Evidence please? Besides, this classical shitlib smear has been worn to a thread and he’ll have to explain how Trump, whose daughter, son-in-law and grandson are Jewish and has done more for Israel (much to the Palestinians’ chagrin) than all previous US presidents combined spreads antisemitism.
      Before that, the author is shocked at Musk’s reply to AOC, “whose life has been threatened by far-right activists” (or so she says while she is absolutely no threat to anybody :o) attacking a billionaire about the $8 he now charges for blue checks while the same AOC, who has now been established by people ON THE LEFT as a total fraud, votes billions to the armament industry every time she gets the chance and never pushed any social measure in Congress (Med4all, student loan, minimum wage…), being content instead with pushing far-left demagoguery while posing for fashion magazines and wearing expensive dresses to posh cocktails saying “Tax the rich”, a slogan billionaire Warren Buffet has also been pushing for over ten years. That’s how revolutionary this is!
      It looks very much like the author is part of the Twitter anti-First Amendment mafia himself.
      Besides, to better informed people, it would seem that Twitter was grossly oversized with a large percentage of the accounts being fake – up to 80% according to one whistle-blower lately – and Jack Dorsey himself took responsibility for the layoffs as a result of having allowed Twitter to “grow too quickly”.
      Of course it’s always sad when people lose their jobs but we need more info before passing judgement – other than ideological – and Dorsey apparently supports Musk’s takeover. So wait and see seems wise advice…

  • I want to thank you for your insight, wit and humor in regards to world affairs. Independent thinkers with sense and courage are scarce these days. Only wish I could provide generous monetary support for you, but I ‘m an old man living on $1000 a month social security check in good ole USA. Just buying bread is becoming more difficult. I really do appreciate your work. Thumbs up!!!!

  • You may not realize now, but you will eventually agree that capitalism leads to inequality and monopoly. Here is another example of monopoly that leads to widening levels of inequality (the merger is an example of monopolizing and losing jobs contributes to declining wealth (inequality when comparing the working public to the affluent oligarchs who own the following corporations):
    Excerpt: A proposed deal between two of the biggest grocery chains in the U.S. — Kroger and Albertsons — has many thousands of workers worried about losing their jobs. It also raises the possibility of more food deserts and worsening food prices.

  • I’m reminded of the saying “the floggings will continue until moral improves”. “In reality it’s not hard to determine who the aggressor is when one party is flying to the other side of the planet” … NFS. This seems so obvious even people would notice. The Chinese, North Koreans, Russians, etc. need to start sailing warships and flying reconnaissance missions off the US coast so Americans can take their hypocrisy to whatever level they have left.

    I recently commented on the antiwar site that the South Koreans need to wake up and realize that there are neocons in the US government who would like nothing better than to see Seoul vaporized, which would unleash both the US and Israeli nuclear arsenals, the latter against Iran, and they’re absolutely not above staging it from the inside if they can get away with it. North Korea needs to keep its nuclear arsenal secure.

  • “Bloomberg quotes Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund, who says this cycle of self-reinforcing escalation could ‘end up provoking the war that we seek to deter’.”

    Well… if Bonnie Glaser is director of the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund and says this cycle of self-reinforcing escalation could “end up provoking the war that we seek to deter”, he’s either a liar or – scarier considering his responsibilities – a fool.

    Of course, the US is seeking to provoke a war because the people who buy the politicians make money out of it plus of course the bribed politicians plus the people who work in the armament industry!

    War is a business, and a lot of misunderstanding comes from the fact that analysts don’t factor that in.

    Why should we consider its rules different from any other business? What do other businesses do? They spot a market where they can sell their product to people who need it. When they get a bit more sophisticated, they advertise, so they can sell their product to people who don’t need it but want to keep up with the Joneses. If they get really sophisticated, rich and powerful, they force it on people who don’t need it through government mandates by bribing politicians and media.

    And the top of the pops is to outright create a market by having a product mandated which creates diseases. Now we’ve got ads featuring this little girl who’s got myocarditis and says in substance, “I’m so glad that Pharma’s got a treatment for myocarditis because now I can live a normal life and be the fashion designer that I always wanted to be!”

    That’s how lucky she is! Thanks to the vaccine, she can now get a treatment that will make her feel just like she would have felt if she hadn’t been vaccinated!

    That’s where the armament industry has a margin for progression. They’re good at finding new markets through bullshit excuses – and don’t tell me they’re not hellbent on doing that after Cheney and Rumsfeld expressly authorized torture to get one of their illegal prisoners in Guantanamo to swear Saddam was behind 9/11 to get an excuse to invade Iraq.

    Some people (Bolton, Brennan, Pompeo, Abrams, Wolfowitz, Kristol come to mind) are full-time war-marketers for the weapons industry. Of course the president is there to put his foot in, but this president has troubles putting one foot in front of the other and is a grumpy old fool to boot, so it’s Christmas on a permanent basis!

    Now all they need for a perfect show is the little girl saying, “I lost a leg when my home was bombed by them Erkuns and had to flee abroad but now, thanks to a Pharma linked NGO that gave me a prosthesis and the local sweatshop that offered me a job, I’m just as good as I would have been if my home hadn’t been bombed!”

    Stay amazing!

    • This conflict is not just militarily but financially as well. Few realize the Fed tightening cycle is just as important aspect of this war. The US is simultaneously at war with portions of the EU and Russia. The globalists are fighting elements in the west in the financial and economic realms. Different agendas not obvious to many are at play. Watch the banking sector news as close as the battlefield. Notice which financial institutions are globalists, which countries and central banks are globalists. This is a war to the death that will be played out between globalists and their rivals. Ukraine simply moved up the timetable. All wars are decided by the bankers.

      • Admittedly I do not follow the bankers as I should. They have a very long history of controlling the world, or trying to do that. They are heavily involved in groups like Club of Rome, Bilderbergs and of course the WEF.
        The current program is to create that one world autocracy of unelected billionaire class and their very close underllings. The Great Reset is their platform which states so clearly what they want to do. One centralizing platform, that people know nothing about altho it is public, is the Codex Alimentarius under the UN organization. Its efforts, on going since about 1962? is to take control of the world thru food. This agency has over a dozen committees that meet about 4x/yr as I recall. They push for GMO seeds and chemical agriculture. They also promote chemical medicine and attack anything natural and holistic. So they push Napoleonic law based on declaring everything illegal unless specifically approved. Every nation that has signed onto the Codex, like a treaty agreement, commits to change its laws to conform to this international body. Thus we see the FDA with its draft guidances that want to make herbs, homeopathy and naturopathy illegal and under the control of the FDA. This is the same creeping crud that we see with he slow but distinct changes in surveillance of our money and means to control our spending electronically., This whole Covid bruhaha was a global effort to bring people under control via fear and the intentional allowing many to die, particularly old and immune compromised people and the withholding of information on how people can build their own health,particularly nutrition. Needless to say organic agriculture or regenerative agriculture practices that build the soil and, thus, the health of the food is not supported. We even see the raids and other forms of attacks on organic farmers. Recently we have seen the Netherlands attack small farmers raising cows. That country is the 2nd biggest producer of meat in Europe but the State created the BIG Lie that cows are the cause of global warming and the effort is to destroy small farmers.

        • All true but not all bankers are on board with this agenda, thus the war playing out. Many American companies have pulled out of Russia but many many remain. Businesses are leaving the west and quietly moving east. A few of the bigger ones get into the news. The world is forming into two camps and not just by country but also financially, economically. Globalists vs. The world. Connect the dots.

          • Fortunately the mega corporations/bankers are not completely in lockstep on this tendency. However, need to know more details as it may only be that some want a slower movement than others but all want the same totalitarian control.

            • The globalists want to nationalize all banks under direct central bank control. The others want to continue the banking status quo of independence. Each side trying to bankrupt the other. Thus the fed tightening to destroy the Bank of England and Central European Banking system which are gobalists. Russia, China, Saudis, putting pressure on globalists in the energy sector. Globalists are beginning to panic, thus war in Ukraine will get worse.

  • US military is merely a tripwire, we have small SOC teams which merely go in and PROMETHIZE(Josef Pilsudski ) the locals and let it rip! NAFO, these are mostly mentally defeated NATO peeps that after 20yrs in AFGHA/IRAQ are trying to be WINNERS @ something.

  • for oz, more b-52’s in the asia pacific, there were not enough on guam!!

  • It is a tactic used by police too.
    They use “Pain Compliance” when placing you under arrest or detention, this causes you to flinch away from the pain, and then they have you on “resisting arrest with violence”. This is why they handcuff everyone they ‘detain’. Not for their safety, but to escalate the incident to the point where you resist their tactic.
    They use provocative language, volume, speaking over you and accusations to cause you to be annoyed, then accuse you of being aggressive and hostile.
    It works at every level, individual, group (Jan 6) and national. Only by recognising and calling out their tactics can you (we) succeed. As the police have greater force, it is impossible to counter at the individual level. Only by political means (BLM, Antifa et al) can you escape the outcome.
    When they control the Legal system (DOJ and ALL judges) there is no recourse.
    Paraphrasing JFK, “When peaceful change is impossible, then violent revolution is inevitable.”
    Choose sides carefully, for the losing side, the outcome is death and retribution.

  • Hi Caitlin… as the elements of Universal Plan are so evasive ….. The USA invasion of Afghanistan happened because of 9-11-2001 Event in N.Y and lasted 20 years… In harmonic evaluations , time must create time … 9+11=20 years of occupation … and 21 is short for year 2001 … in that same way as Vedic number 108 is short for 1008 … 8 the very magic number … and 8 Billion people on Earth soon…

    • And Jesus was born on 25/12, which is 37 and died when he was 33, which is a 4-year difference. We have 4 limbs, 2 eyes and 2 ears, which makes 8, the exact double of 4. Isn’t that amazing? Thereby we can infer that the winning number for the next draw of the lotto will be Bonus 08 (the very magic number with soon 8 billion people on Earth). Isn’t numerology incredible?! Even Gloria never thought of that!

      • LOL

        • Ohhhh. I have my powerball number for tonight. Ty ty ty.

    • Someone forgot to take their meds…

  • “We’ve been seeing this same cycle repeated year after year:…”

    Yes, Chomsky pointed out about 40 years ago that we brutalise our rivals then use their inevitably brutal responses as a justification for escalation.

    • He provoked me by hitting me back first! :o)

  • Has Jeffrey Sachs YouTube account been terminated?

  • That was a nice explanation of how the US continually upgrades it’s provocations by calling any reaction China or Korea makes a further escalation. I thoroughly agree and I hope many people read this and start to understand what is actually happening.
    But I’m surprised that you didn’t include the US’s constant poking of Russia as Russia continually says it has no plans or wish to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine or anywhere else. Yet every time Russia so much as mentions nuclear weapons,(usually in response to the US accusation that Russia is saying they plan to use nuclear weapons), the escalation keeps on building. Russia says they don’t plan to use nuclear, and the US essentially turns around and announces the Russia has just said it will use nuclear simply because the word “nuclear” has been used, even though it is used to say that Russia will not use nuclear weapons. The problem is that very few Americans ever read a translation of what Putin actually says. So almost all Americans believe Putin is saying he might use nuclear weapons in Ukraine because our media tells them that.

  • I wonder if there were any other empires that squandered their wealth on faraway wars.

    • Roman Empire.

      • We might consider the Catholic church during its massive rise to power with its Crusades and Inquisition which were wars of greed and profit as well as power

  • Read a similar article today (forget the writer) that talked about American narrative. You are under US thumb and no horrors performed , as Israel’s apartheid, extreme racism and torturous brutality of the Palestinians or bombing of Iran or targeted assassinations, will be criticized. But any nation that seeks independence will be set up as an aggressive boogeyman (my word). America does not support democracy anywhere’s, including here at home where the focus of the oligarchy is to destroy free speech, and any attempt to control its monopolistic and totalitarian control over all resources and services. If it doesn’t make a fortune for them, the goal is to destroy it. Nothing is more expressive of this than the history of the pharma/medical industry that has destroyed 100’s, if not 1000’s of people who worked independently of the patented drug corporations. Just take a look at what is being done to medical practitioners and researchers around Covid. There was no basis for an EUA that pushed untested, toxic drugs on the pubic for billions in profit as there were numerous products on the market that worked quite well with no horrible adverse effect. But the assaults on numerous well credentialed and respected professionals has been brutal simply because they raised questions. This has occurred in other fields as well but the medical one is quite prevalent and current.

    What many independent people are saying is that as more nations, Russia, China, India in particular, separate themselves from the US dollar and intimidation is driving the US into a state of economic hysteria as it loses power and the dollar will fail. Regimes never go quietly and neither will this one.

  • I don’t understand how racing to the bottom is a strategic objective.

    • Except of course if you’re a team of Navy Seals and want to blow up pipelines at the bottom of the Baltic Sea :o)

      • I still recall reading Dick Cheney saying that every failure/problem is an opportunity to do more. While that may be a good bit of philosophy in our life generally, it is not good when all that happens is further escalation of the problem. The race to the bottom is actually the pitiful, dangerous and expensive expression of major hubris that prevents recognizing a wrongful attitude and dangerous goals. Arrogance and self-entitlement leads to some pretty horrific policies and practices. This country may see some of the challenges to staying on top but it refuses to see or accept that it has no ethical or moral right to be in that position. The problem can be reduced to understanding that it is Capitalism which promotes profit and power by any means ‘necessary.’

      • Based Navy Seals

leave a comment