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WSJ plays into Biden admin's argument that West Africa is in US 'backyard'

Washington is looking for ways to rationalize its primacy over China and the media is all too happy to comply.

Analysis | Asia-Pacific

The Wall Street Journal featured an article this weekend announcing that the United States “aims to thwart China’s plan for Atlantic base in Africa,” as it supposedly encroaches on America’s “home turf.” The Journal published this just days after the Biden administration ridiculed the very notion of spheres of influence when Russia raised it in the Ukraine context.

It is quite stunning to see how the WSJ in its reporting — let alone its opinion section — pushes for American global military domination by creating a narrative that other countries are expansionist. Consider the numbers: the United States has more than 750 military bases worldwide. China has two. 

Yet, according to the WSJ, it is China that pursues an aggressive "expansionist" policy by seeking a base (unclear whether it is military) in West Africa — which WSJ goes on to declare America's "backyard."

This is not about whether China is right or wrong on this issue. If indeed the base is military, there are good arguments as to why Equatorial Guinea should reject it. But one can oppose a Chinese military base in Africa without justifying continued American military hegemony globally — or mislead the readers to not even become aware of that broader context.

WSJ is entirely silent on what the United States itself does, leaving the readers with the impression that China is seeking global military domination while America’s 750 military bases are nothing more than Disneyland-style amusement parks. Though U.S. military bases outnumber Chinese ones by a factor of +300, it’s America that is playing defense, while China is "expansionist"? Perhaps both are? 

And though Washington has encircled China with military bases throughout East Asia, some less than 100 miles away from the Chinese mainland, this reporting suggests it is China that is the aggressor by potentially building one in America's "backyard" — West Africa — more than 6000 miles from Florida. The point is not whether China's actions are problematic or not, but rather how the mainstream media often uncritically advances a narrative designed to strengthen U.S. military hegemony, which increases the likelihood of war, and ultimately makes the United States itself less secure. 

As I wrote for MSNBC last week, the hard truth is that America's endless wars could not have happened without the media failing to systematically scrutinize the foundational assumptions of American foreign policy. This is a true case in point.

A Soldier from Senegal observes the firing range with a Marine, assigned to India Company, 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment out of Little Rock, Ark., during Exercise Western Accord 14, June 19, 2014. ((U.S. Army Africa photo by Sgt. William Gore)
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