US Foreign Policy in Crises:
From Manifest Destiny to Failure in Iraq and Afghanistan
Eddie J. Girdner
This article will briefly survey the tragectory of American imperialism from Manifest Destiny in the nineteenth century era of the expansion of the American frontier, to the global reach of Wilsonianism in the early twentieth century, World War II under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Eisenhower to Reagan Cold War era, the crises of the New World Order in the l990s, the era of the Bush Neoconservatives, and finally the decline of US foreign policy under President Barack Obama. Today the American Empire is confronted with greater global resistance and the increasing inability to control events as its economic and political power declines.
Post War American Foreign Policy Goals:
There were four major Post World War II goals of US foreign policy. First, is global security. Generally, this meant making the world safe for US business interests, that is, US transnational corporations and their profits.
Secondly, war profits. This meant ensuring profits for defense corporations and private contractors through war production. Public subsidies to private capital for research and development was concealed in the military budget as part of the system. Up to ninety percent of US war spending is direct profit for American corporations. Third, has been deterring democracy. This has meant preventing the rise of any society which could serve as an alternative to the US capitalist model. For example, the invasion of the small island of Grenada on October 25, l983, whose socialist government might have provided a successful alternative model of development. Another example is the Contra war against Nicaragua under the Sandinistas in the l980s. There are many more examples.
Fourth, has been ensuring the power of the Empire forever. This has meant maintaining US political, economic, and military hegemony and preventing any challenge to US global control from any quarter.
From 1945 to 2000, the US participated in the overthrow of more than forty governments. Since then, the US has carried out regime change in Iraq and Afghanistan and helped to over throw the government of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya. The US has attempted to crush more than thirty nationalist-populist movements and has influenced or prevented elections in at least thirty-five countries. The US has carried out military operations around the world resulting in millions of deaths since l950.
The Roots of US Foreign Policy:
The religious and political roots of US foreign policy are grounded in at least five precepts. The first is Novus Ordo Seclorum, or a new order of the ages. Second is the ideology of Manifest Destiny. Third is the ideology of American Exceptionalism. Fourth is the ideology of radical individualism. And finally, the ideology of racial superiority. These are explained briefly below.
Empire is as American as cherry pie. Noam Chomsky has noted that “the United States is the one country which was explicitly founded as an American Empire.”Chomsky points out that according to the Founding Fathers, the US was founded as an “infant empire.” This statement is from George Washington. Modern imperialism is just a later phase of the American project. The model comes from the Roman Empire and was borrowed from the British. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “We shall drive them with the beasts of the forests into the stony mountains” to create a country “free of blot or mixture.”
A famous painting by John Gast in 1872 shows Columbia as a symbol of the United States leading American settlers across the Great Plains to the Pacific Ocean. The wild bison and Native Americans are being driven out. White settlers are moving west in a covered wagon. Stage coach routes are being established and railroads laid down. Settlers are plowing the land for crops and miners are searching for minerals. Forests are being cleared. Columbia as a lady with long blonde hair is wearing a white flowing robe. She holds a book in her right hand, presumably the Bible.
Manifest Destiny was the American ideology of expansion. Texas and California were taken from Mexico by force in the nineteenth century. Manifest Destiny became the basis for the “American Mission to promote and defend democracy” throughout the world. Historian William Appleman Williams explored these ideas in his works.America was the “New Jerusalem.” Many Americans believed that they were “God’s chosen people” like the Israelites in the Bible. God had chosen America to lead the world to Truth and Righteousness. This was the ideology of millenarianism. Today, America is seen to be secular, but there has always been an underlying religious thrust to American expansionism.
Another basis for American imperialism is the ideology of American exceptionalism. Americans tend to believe that the US is not just another country, but a special country blessed by God. They see America as the greatest country and the best country and as a classless society. So, by definition, whatever the US does is right and just and never self-serving. This means that to criticize America is often seen as unpatriotic or even hating America.
Woodrow Wilson, the father of Wilsonianism, was President of the United States from 1913 to 1921. Wilson was a protestant theologian who believed that the US had a mission to “make the world safe for democracy.” This mission came from God and was an extension of Manifest Destiny. Wilson ran for President in l916 on an anti-war ticket, pledging to keep America out of the war in Europe. Then he took the US into the war.
In a speech in l918, Wilson sees the US as projecting a Godly force into the world. “Force, force to the utmost, force without stint or limit, the righteous and triumphant force which shall make right the law of the world, and cast every selfish dominion down in the dust.”
Wilson’s League of Nations foundered on the pitfalls of domestic politics, but the US would remain a global player and become the global hegemonic power.
FDR and the Post War World:
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President from l933 until his death in l945, stated: “I hate war.” He said he wanted to keep the US out of World War II, but after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 6, 1941, the US declared war on Japan. Actually, it seems that Roosevelt had already secretly made a deal with the British to take the US into the war.
Roosevelt’s false promise to the America people was, “I give you one more assurance… Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.” Under the Lend-Lease Program, the US sent fifty destroyers to Britain just before the Japanese attack.
In the Post-War world, after 1945, the US emerged as the “One Great Power” with half of the world’s industrial production. The other superpower, of course, was the Soviet Union. The Cold War was soon to begin.
The post-war global political economy would be largely designed by the United States and Great Britain. John Maynard Keynes and others in l944 at Bretton Woods New Hampshire, set up the Bretton Woods Monetary System. The US dollar was king. The United States would control the United Nations up until the l960s. The global economy would be controlled through the powerful levers of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Another institution was the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The US was largely exempt from the rules imposed upon the rest of the world. These institutions empowered and serviced US imperialism.
Under the Bretton Woods System, the US dollar became the global reserve currency and could not be devalued. This system officially ended in l971, but the Bretton Woods institutions, while weakened, continue to rule the global economy, particularly the IMF and the World Bank.
The postwar Soviet view of the world during the Cold War projected that Marxism is relevant and that the future of the world would be socialist. The Soviets believed that the uneven development of capitalist countries could lead to violent disturbances and that this could split the capitalist world into two hostile camps, the West and the rest. Joseph Stalin stated on February, 9, 1946, that war is inevitable as long as capitalism exists.
On the other hand, in the Iron Curtain Speech, on March 5, 1946 in Fulton, Missouri, Winston Churchill proposed that “God has willed” the United States, not “some communist state…” to have the atomic bomb. “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent.”
In l945, the United States had dropped the atomic bomb on Japan. In l945, President Harry Truman said that “the bomb is the greatest thing in history.” On the other hand, author John Hersey, writing about the bomb, wrote “It would be impossible to say what horrors were embedded in the minds of children who lived through the day of the bombing in Hiroshima.”
The bomb, in fact, was a warning to the Soviet Union. There was by that time no military strategic reason to use the bomb. Truman and General Douglas McArthur would shape US policy in East Asia and the policy of containment would lead to the Korean War (l951-1953), the Vietnam War (l962-1975), and other proxy wars. This was the beginning of counterinsurgency.
After World War II, the US was the great global superpower and had the ability to control global events to a great extent. Domestic support would be largely ensured by the instillation of fear of communism into the population.
The Truman Doctrine, the Cold War and Counterinsurgency:
The Truman Doctrine was proclaimed on March 12, 1947. “I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.”
The fear of communism would be used to make Americans support the Cold War policy. Congress gave Truman great power to wage cold war. The US used the communist pretext to intervene in the Greek Civil War against the left and said that Washington could intervene anywhere in the world by seeing the problem as “communist.”
The Marshall Plan was launched to boost American business interests and capture the European markets. In l946, a US official commented on getting Turkey on board. “Turkey was slipped into the oven with Greece because that seemed the surest way to cook a tough bird.” From the perspective of Pravda in the Soviet Union, the Marshall Plan was “a Truman plan with dollars.” The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan were “two halves of the same walnut.” It was also a plan to rebuild Germany and Japan economically and dominate European and Asian markets.
Under the Marshall Plan, the American economy would also be boosted. Dollars to Europe from American taxpayers went mostly to big corporations in the US which provided the goods for Europe. It was another mechanism for the accumulation of capital from taxes from the working people of America and Europe.
The promulgation of NSC-68 in l950 established the American blueprint for waging the Cold War for the next twenty years. This document declared that the world was divided between the “slave society” and “the free society.” The document claimed that the USSR wanted to dominate the Eurasian land mass, unlike the USA, of course. It said that the US must be the world’s policeman and impose order on the world. Also, according to Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, limited wars could be fought “to compel the acceptance of terms consistent with our objectives.”
The National Security Council laid down a list of recommendations. There would be no negotiations with the Soviet Union. The US must develop the hydrogen (nuclear) bomb and engage in the buildup of conventional military forces. There would be increased taxes for the military and American society would be mobilized for the necessary sacrifice and unity forged in the population. There would also be a strong system of alliances. The US would work to subvert the Soviet Union from the inside.
A potent tool for this would be the fear of communism. After World War II, US taxpayers did not want high war taxes. Senator Arthur Vandenberg told Truman that he had to “scare the hell out of the American people.” Of course, this use of fear is still going on today.
The beauty of the system would be the hidden subsidies going to US corporations. The working class pays for the war, corporate research and development, and subsidizes the profits of capitalism far beyond the war industries. Up to ninety percent of the appropriated money would be direct profit for corporations.
With the fear of communism, the “Evil Empire” was born. In the early 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy launched a witch hunt, claiming he had proof that the state department had been infiltrated by communists working for the US Government. Experts on East Asia were fired. This was a vicious attack on the American working class that was to continue.
In the Korean War, weapons of mass destruction were to be used. The US Air Force used mass chemical warfare to destroy villages and people. Napalm (petroleum jelly) and Agent Orange (dioxin) were used massively. There is strong evidence that the US secretly used biological warfare.
The War in Korea lasted from l950 until l953. The conflict began on June 25, 1950 at the 38th parallel. The US suffered 142,000 casualties and some three million Koreans died. Fourteen countries sent soldiers. This was the first use of the Truman Doctrine to wage war in Asia to support a dictator, Syngman Rhee. At this time, the US was already sending money to support French imperialism in Vietnam.
The Korean War is important for several reasons. First, the war allowed Truman to re-arm the US, tripling defense spending. Secondly, the US increased aid to Formosa, Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang forces. Third, the US sent support to Vietnam against the nationalist-communist leader Ho Chi Minh. Fourth, Southeast Asia was to remain non-communist as an outlet for Japanese capitalist investment. Finally, it set the stage for the Vietnam War.
Dwight Eisenhower became President of the United States in 1953. Ike had been the Commander of Allied forces in Europe in World War II. This was the Cold War Eisenhower Era with the policy of rolling back Communism. John Foster Dulles (sometimes known as Dull Duller Dullest) promised to liberate the “slaves” from Communism. He launched the threat of “massive retaliation” with atomic weapons and sent more support to the French in Vietnam.
This was also the beginning of the era of visual politics, the age of television. Now Americans would be able to watch the US spread freedom and democracy around the world right from their own living rooms. In the l950s, television was just beginning to penetrate the country and was the greatest propaganda tool ever invented. It was a way of manufacturing consent, a concept from Walter Lippmann. Another way to look at it was that of anarchist Edward Abbey. To be free, you have to shoot your TV. 
Television was to bring war right into the American living room. There was a big challenge for news management with the Vietnam War. Television also greatly enhanced the advertising industry. War reporting would be controlled and censored by the Pentagon after the Vietnam War when reporters were allowed to go around freely in Vietnam and report the news.
John Kennedy was elected President in November 1960. His roughly thousand days in office lasted from January 1961 until November 1963. In his famous inaugural speech, he challenged young Americans: “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” The Kennedy era brought a new post-war generation into American politics, the “best and brightest.”
This was billed as a new, fresh, and clean generation. Kennedy looked great on Television, unlike Senator Richard Nixon who he had defeated in 1960. They were the Eastern intellectuals and seen as the really brilliant elite. The good guys. They were liberals but rabidly anti-communist. They would search for a way to stop revolution in the third world. By using the Peace Corps, they could help further the Cold War without the killing. The Peace Corps would truly win hearts and minds with their sacrifices. They were also dirt cheap, costing the government a fraction of what it cost to send a soldier or sailor overseas. For the most part, it was old wine in new bottles. Nothing really changed, but the world was changing with the rise of new nations coming out of colonialism.
The Third World view was that of national liberation. New countries freed from colonialism wanted independence and development. In these countries, socialism was popular. Capitalism was not. Liberation took the form of nationalism and sometimes “socialism.” Freedom meant economic and political freedom from traditional ruling classes and western colonialism and domination. Socialism was and is no threat to the global majority who make one dollar a day, or less. Would Peace Corps volunteers be infected by such common sense third-world reality, as some conservative congressmen feared, or convince the natives that capitalism was truly the way to go?
So what young Americans could do for the country in the age of counterinsurgency was to “kill a commie.” Or at least, the best thing. This was the dawn of a new type of American warfare. Counterinsurgency. In other words, preventing revolution. This also meant preventing democracy and preventing any alternative to capitalism from emerging. It also meant supporting an established ruling class and preventing social change, as in Vietnam.
The Kennedy Doctrine of Counterinsurgency would use war to support repressive governments under the name of promoting democracy. Defense Secretary, Robert McNamara, would run war like a business, but the US would get bogged down in the quagmire of Vietnam.
It was an anti-revolutionary crusade. As Arnold Toynbee said in l961, “America is today the leader of a world-wide anti-revolutionary movement in the defense of vested interests.” This describes the Vietnam War, 1962-1975. Country Joe and the Fish sang their Vietnam song at the Woodstock Festival in 1969. “And its one-two-three, what are we fighting for? Don’t ask me cause I don’t give a damn. Next stop is Vietnam…. Put down your books and pick up a gun. We’re gonna have a whole lot of fun!” Some 59,000 Americans and three million Vietnamese died in this campaign of preventing democracy. But the fight against “communism” was actually against “nationalism’ and revolutionary change.
In the Cuban Missile Crises in l962, the US declared that the question of international law did not arise when the question of US national security was involved. The Bay of Pigs Invasion to overthrow Fidel Castro was illegal. This is another version of exceptionalism and continues today. The US does not consider itself bound by international law.
After President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in November l963, Lyndon Johnson carried on the war until l969. With the Tet (New Years) Offensive in l968, the US had essentially lost the war. The US could not prevent the overthrow of the corrupt regime in the South. Three million people died in Korea. Another three million died in Vietnam under the name of “stopping Communism.” But this history has largely been tossed down the memory hole.
The sixties generation remembers well the Tricky Dick era (1969-1974). In l968, the Republican candidate for President, Richard Nixon, won. His so-called secret plan to end the war in the l972 election was actually a plan to keep the war going and massively carpet bomb all of Vietnam and Cambodia. Nixon and Henry Kissinger used China to undermine the Soviet Union. Kissinger traveled secretly to Beijing from Pakistan. Mao was then in control, but Deng Xiaoping was waiting to take over power.
Reagan and the Evil Empire:
Ronald Reagan then launched his campaign against the Evil Empire. “Facts are stupid things,” Reagan had said. He meant to say “stubborn things,” but for those running foreign policy, it is true that facts are often stupid things and officials are not to pay them any heed. During the Ronald “Ray Gun” era, the Big Gun, the US spent one and a half trillion dollars on an arms build up from l981 till l989. The US erected its phallic prowess, pouring money into giant MX missiles to counter the “Evil Empire.” They were convinced that size mattered. At the end of the decade, however, the US found itself in a serious crisis. The US had run out of enemies and there was no evil empire to fight.
From 1985 to l989, the US was also busy sending weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to Saddam Hussein because they had problems with Iran. This is something that is also forgotten. Among these were bacillis anthracis (causes anthrax), clostridium botulinium (a toxin), histoplasma capsulatam (causes a disease which attacks the lungs, brain, and heart), brucella melitensis (a bacteria), clostridium perfringens (toxic bacteria), many other toxins, and chemical weapon precursors.
The US was, then, the “masters of the universe.” As Charlie Wilson had said, “The business of America is business.” American corporations demand the freedom for capital, not people, to go anywhere for profits. The global policy changed from developmentalism to neoliberalism by the l980s.
Under the so-called “New World Order” of George H.W. Bush, the “Evil Empire” just vanished. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August l990, the US sent troops to oust Saddam. With neoliberalism, millions of jobs in the US had also vanished.
The US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright carried out a cost-benefit analysis of US action. A reporter asked her in l996, “We have heard that a half-million children have died… is the price worth it?” She answered: “I think this is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it.” The price would go higher, much higher.
President Bill Clinton (l993-2001) used the concept of humanitarian intervention as ideological cover for US intervention in the Balkans. The US continued to bomb Iraq and degrade Saddam’s regime. Back at home the regime was non-humanitarian with Clinton slashing social welfare in the United States.
George W. Bush and the Neoconservatives:
The Clinton era was followed by President George W. Bush (2001-2009). “I am a war President. I make decisions here in the Oval Office with war on my mind.” “If we were to withdraw before the job was done, the enemy would follow us home.”
And then there was Cheney with his Project for a New American Century (PNAC). The US invasion and occupation of Iraq was planned in the l990s before George W. Bush became President. The pivotal group was the PNAC. Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) was just a pretext. Like other administrations, but even more so, the Bush White House was mostly made up of people from corporate America.
The Bush Doctrine of 2002 stated explicitly the defacto policy of the United States for decades, but which was largely kept under wraps. It was a doctrine of preventive war, under the rubric of “preemptive war.” The Bush Administration argued that after 9-11, deterrence no longer worked. The new policy would be “compellence” through the use of force. This was really the Cheney Doctrine.
The US invasion and occupation of Iraq was one of colonial conquest and imperialism. The trigger was 9-11. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon served as a trigger to unleash the wars the neo-conservatives had planned. There was no link between Saddam Hussein and 9-11. As Michael Moore said, “9-11 is the temperature at which truth melts.”
“I don’t care what the international lawyers say, we’re going to kick some ass.” This was President George W. Bush on September 11, 2001. This pretty well summed up the situation in a nutshell.
What was the relation between weapons of mass destruction and democracy? Before the invasion of Iraq, the President and Vice President, Dick Cheney, kept repeating “We know he’s got them.” But when they were nowhere to be found, the administration turned to democracy as the pretext for the invasion. Iraq would become a shining example of democracy for the rest of the Middle East. Kenneth M. Pollack, working for the CIA in the l990s said it more accurately. “The goal would be to keep the Americans in, the Iranians out and the Iraqis down.”Sure enough, the biggest US Embassy in the world today is in Baghdad.
“Operation Iraqi Freedom” and the so-called liberation of Iraq, was overseen by “inorganic Don,” Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. George W. Bush became a war hero. This was “Wilsonianism with Boots.”
Patriotism and the Special Relationship between the US and Great Britain meant that Tony Blair followed directions from the White House. The British wanted a piece of the glory… and a big chunk of the oil. This was “British Me-Tooism.” As Samuel Johnson said in 1775, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Under the American system, the President is both the head of state and the head of the government. To criticize the government is then seen as unpatriotic.
That the war was about oil, which is obvious to most, was seen as a “conspiracy theory.” The Bush Administration officials denied it. “Nonsense… it has nothing to do with oil, literally nothing to do with oil,” Donald Rumsfeld said on 60 minutes on December 15, 2002. “The idea that we’re interested in Iraqi oil is absurd, its one of the most absurd conspiracy theories you can imagine.” This was British Prime Minister Tony Blair on February 6, 2003. “It is not in my or BP’s opinion about oil.” This was Lord Browne, the CEO of British Petroleum on March 12, 2003. This was one week before the invasion. That such statements can be made seriously on major media sources says a lot about the ideology of imperialism.
Fuel on the Fire,a book by Greg Muttitt shows that both the Americans and the British lied. Secret memos and official documents from November 2002 show that BP, Shell, and British Gas pushed Tony Blair to invade Iraq for a share of the oil reserves. This was reported in the Independent on April 19, 2011.
According to the British Foreign Office on November 6, 2002, “Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP is desperate to get there.” BP told the Foreign Office, Iraq is “more important than anything we’ve seen in a long time. We’re willing to take big risks to get a share of the Iraqi reserves, the second largest in the world.” And Alan Greenspan, the former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve Board, said in his book, The Age of Turbulence, “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everybody knows: The Iraq War is largely about oil.” Such honesty is rare among the ruling class.
The Right Wing pundits in the US were often more honest. “We go to war for oil. It’s a good reason to go to war.” This was Ann Coulter, a right-wing pundit in a speech at the Carnegie Institute in Washington on April 21, 2011. They seem to not care at all that thousands died for that oil.
Also being honest about the oil was Donald Trump. In an interview with Candy Crowley on CNN, April 17, 2011. “In the old days when you have a war and you win, that nation is yours. Either I go in and take the oil or I don’t go in at all.”
“Just take their oil?” Crowley asked.
“Absolutely,” Trump replied. “I’d take the oil, give them plenty so they can live very happily. I’d take the oil.”
In the event, this was not as easy as Trump imagined.
There were at least two sides to the invasion. Taxpayer’s money to corporations and the dead soldiers in graveyards: 4488 to date in Iraq and 2173 in Afghanistan, plus 1487 private contractors killed.
The occupation greatly increased the number of terrorist attacks from less than ten per month in 2003 to more than 20 in 2005, and up to 50 in one month. This was, in fact, predicted.
The George W. Bush Administration developed a policy of torture with the use of sleep deprivation and water boarding. It was a violation of the Geneva Convention, but a majority of Americans were persuaded to support such a policy. The occupation of Baghdad was illegal. Americanization and privatization under Paul Bremer could never win the support of the Iraqi people. With the US invasion, Iraq became a major power base. The US is not leaving the region, although most of the troops have been moved across the border into Kuwait and stationed on bases in the area.
Some three million Iraqis died between the l991 invasion and present. The invasion was illegal under international law. The US committed major crimes, including torture. Another serious problem is the legacy of the use of depleted uranium weapons. The entire country is now polluted with uranium giving people cancers. The US actually owes Iraq hundreds of millions of dollars in war reparations if there was international justice.
The greater Middle East Initiative was launched by the Bush Administration when the pretext of WMD collapsed. “The United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East.” (George W. Bush in November 2003) This statement was made when it became clear that there were no WMD in Iraq. Spreading democracy became the new pretext and rationale for the war. The real idea was to spread neoliberalism under US and Israeli capital.
We can see that several ideological covers have been used to forward US imperialism. First, making the world safe for democracy (neo-Wilsonianism). Secondly, stopping communism which often meant preventing democracy. Third stopping tyranny or dictators, that is when they did not serve the interests of the United States. Fourth, spreading freedom and winning hearts and minds. This generally meant pacifying the population so that the area was safe for corporate capitalist investment. Fifth, the global war on terror (GWOT). It has been pointed out that the concept actually makes no sense conceptually or operationally, but it provides a pretext for operating outside of international law. And sixth, humanitarian intervention in the Balkans and Libya. The problem with the latter is that it would generally be more humanitarian not to intervene, as more people are killed and wounded with the intervention.
From the above, it is clear that the US has been a major imperial power for at least a century and the global hegemon since l945. The occupation of Iraq was about oil, but more generally, about global power and hegemony. Geo-strategically, Iraq is at the center of the global power nexus. Many have seen it as the key to a “new American century.”
What is terrorism? According to the U.S. Army Manual, as good a definition as any, perhaps, “Terrorism is the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious, or ideological in nature… through intimidation, coercion or instilling fear.” By this definition, the US and many other nations use terrorism to pursue their goals.
America’s New War is billed as removing terrorists fast, like a new type of laundry detergent. In fact, it creates more terrorists than it removes. The Bush Neocons claimed that democracy promotion was part of the global war on terror. In fact, the US used terror, extraordinary rendition, torture, and secret prisons as part of a global strategy. This greatly increased terrorism and continues.
In fact, the real purpose of the GMEI was not about increasing freedom and democracy in the region. Rather, it was about promoting neoliberal capitalism and ensuring economic and political control. It was about ensuring that the US controls the oil and remains the one global superpower. President Obama sounded different, but the global agenda would not change.
What is the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)? It actually has nothing to do with democracy promotion. It gives money to pro-US, pro-liberal political parties to help them win elections. The neocons would use both force and the NED to “bring democracy.” What they really tried to do was to get their hands on the resources and markets of the Middle East. There is a long list of countries where the US has intervened in elections since the l950s. This includes almost everywhere in former communist countries today.Here is a partial list. The Philippines, l950s; Italy, 1948-1970s; Lebanon, l950s; Indonesia, l955; Vietnam, 1955; Gayana, 1953-1964; Nepal, 1959; Laos, 1960; Brazil, 1962; Panama, l984-1989; Nicaragua, 1984-1990; Haiti, 1987-1988; Bulgaria, 1990-1991; Dominican Republic, 1962; Guatemala, 1963; Bolivia, 1966 and many others.
What did the neocons really want for the Middle East? Historically, the US made a deal with the Saudis after World War II that the King would rule as long as the oil flowed. It is difficult to think of a country where real democracy would serve US interests. The US refuses to recognize democratically elected governments, such as Hamas, when they are not pro-US. This is seen by the recent results of the Arab Spring. The US also tried to rig the elections in Iraq and put up with rigged elections in Afghanistan.
Thomas Carothers has pointed out that “Where democracy appears to fit in well with US security interests, the United States promotes democracy. Where democracy clashes with other significant interests, it is downplayed or even ignored.” This was seen clearly in the Arab Spring countries and in Bahrain today.
We must also be aware of the public relations buzz from Washington. When Washington calls attention to the “international community,” it is referring to the US, Israel, and a few selected countries when their national interests are seen to coincide with the US national interest. The two-hundred of so other countries are presumably not part of the “international community.”
Similarly, “human rights” refers to voting, political parties, elections, “civil society,” and freedom for capital. Elite democracy, rational choice, neoliberalism and markets over politics. Human rights do not mean education, work (employment), health care, proper nourishment, nor national development. The United States does not recognize a right to food.
The promised and hoped for change has not come with Barack Obama. US global imperialism and hegemony is structural. It cannot be changed with a new government, even if Obama had wanted such change. The neoconservative Bush policies have continued under Obama and are often worse. Former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and Obama Administration officials were committed to continuing the war in Afghanistan.
The Obama Era:
Today’s major crisis areas include first, Iraq, where political instability continues and the US is unable to fully control events in the country. Secondly, Afghanistan where the surge has failed as the US prepares to leave. The Taliban is back. A CIA report found no net gain in Afghanistan from Obama’s surge, which began in 2009. Third, the Arab Spring. These events took the US by surprise and created problems. They created a “crises of democracy,” which means too much democracy from the perspective of the United States. Fourth, the Iran, Israel, Palestine dynamic. The US blind support for Israel and Iran projected as the enemy, while ignoring the interests of the Palestinians, continues the problem. The US does not use its power and influence to pressure Israel to make the obvious settlement and the emergence of a Palestinian state. Fifth, the expanding drone wars in Waziristan, Yemen, and Somalia. This helps al-Qaeda.
The Future of US Global Imperialism:
Technically, the war in Iraq was a failure in key aspects, but today the US controls the area and the oil as a result. The global trust of the US has greatly decreased since the neocons. The US national debt has increased to over sixteen and a half trillion dollars and is going ever higher. It is not clear how long the US can deal with this problem by simply printing dollars with an ever-shrinking value. Also the relative US economic strength is in decline. The US and Europe remain in an economic crises as neoliberalism creates more poverty in the capitalist center. Neoliberalism has been shown to be a failure for the global economy but great for corporate profits. The US empire is on the decline as China and India rise in the near term based upon the exploitation of essentially slave labor.
The Importance of the US colonization of Iraq:
The US will continue to occupy the key geo-political area of the globe and control oil. With the occupation of Iraq, the US gained leverage to undermine the emergence of the European Union, Russia, India and China. The US prevented the development of Iraq as an autonomous state independent of US hegemony although stiff resistance has been encountered. Also the US established a new norm of preventive war, thus abolishing key principles of international law. All of this has made the world considerably more dangerous.
There are several aspects of the Iraq crises. First, the US controls the oil, but there is continued political instability. The Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, is linked to Iran. The issue of Kurdish regional autonomy threatens the territorial integrity of the country. Bombings, linked to sectarianism continue. Today, no country looks to Iraq as a model of democracy. This debacle has been a significant blow to the US image and the Bush neocons failed in remaking Iraq in the image they envisioned.
Obama’s War in Afghanistan:
Ironically, the US is likely to be defeated by the forces it created to defeat the Soviet Union in the l980s. The Taliban has not been defeated and is growing stronger in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence Directorate continues to support the Haqqani network in the east of the country, with safe havens in Waziristan. The US is now scheduled to wind the war down by 2014.But this is hedged and no one expects the US to be disengaged from the conflicts.
The Surge in Afghanistan beginning with Obama in 2009 sent thirty thousand additional troops, mostly for counterinsurgency operations in Helmand and Kandahar Provinces. This has cost the US at least one-hundred billion dollars a year, some one million dollars per soldier per year. The generals running the war, Stan McChrystal and David Petraeus, billed the strategy as counterinsurgency, but it is not very clear what is the real difference between this and counterterrorism. There is no evidence that America has won Afghan hearts and minds to any great extent. This is another significant failure of US foreign policy.
Even the CIA has documented that there was no net positive effect of the surge, although the White House claims it as a success. Obama’s war in Afghanistan has also failed as did George W, Bush’s war in Afghanistan.With the US concentration on the south of the country, the Taliban moved back into areas close to the Pakistan border in the East. The support from the Pakistani Interservices Intelligence Directorate (ISI) to the Taliban has forced the US to negotiate with the Taliban, as urged by the late Richard Holbrooke before his untimely death.
The Arab Spring:
This outbreak of democracy in North Africa took the US by surprise. People rose up against the US supported rulers in the region. Some were Islamists and some were secular. But all wanted more democracy and an end to US interference in the region. If the dynamic is anything like Iran, the US sees Islamization as preferable to secular democracy. The US can claim to be in favor of democratization while trying to restore as much of the old regimes as possible. Islam will serve to contain the secular and anti-imperialist left and be more favorable to foreign capital. Nevertheless, the dialectic of change has moved forward.
When the Ben Ali government in Tunisia was overthrown, the US supported Hosni Mubarak in Egypt as long as possible. The real power ensuring political stability was the army. With Mubarak gone, the main beneficiary has been the Muslim Brotherhood. This opens up a broader political process if President Mohammed Morsi is willing to allow the functioning of more democracy. So far there is not very much sign of this and the crises continues in the new regime. Israeli-Egypt tensions continue to present a challenge.
In recent elections in Tunisia, the Nadha (Renaissance) Party won some 42 percent of the seats, but have been moderate so far. Moncef Marzouki, the new President is secular. Libya opens up possibilities of a political process. But the US faced blowback with the death of US ambassador Chris Stevens. In Bahrain, the US supports the authoritarian regime with the US Fifth Fleet home ported in Manama. Syria remains unclear. It appears that the Assad Regime is not going to survive much longer, but there are grave possibilities of blow back following his overthrow.
The Iran-Israel-Palestine dynamic continues, primarily due to the policies of the US in support of Israel. Washington continues to build up Iran as a threat to Israel and the United States. Neither seems to be the case. The US has a problem with Iran's oppostion to the US. The country simply does not take orders. The issue of nuclear weapons is phoney. Iran could not use the nuclear bomb even if it had it. Whatever happened to the logic of nuclear deterrence? This seems to have been forgotten.
In Iraq, Nouri al-Malaki has moved closer to Iran as the Prime Minister. Now US sanctions against Iran target the Iranian Central Bank. The blockade against Iran by the US is an act of war, so that the US is already at war with Iran. The US must support Israel due to the Israel Lobby. At the same time, the US is not able to completely isolate Hamas.
The Drone Wars: Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan:
The use of MQ-1 Predator Drones with Hellfire Missiles kills many civilians in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. They are flown from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. They cannot win hearts and minds and they increase local resistance to the wars. They have been denounced by the Pakistan Military Chief. The number of drone strikes in Pakistan was only one in 2004, but reached 128 in 2010 and 76 in 2011. Drone casualties were only 6 in 2004, but reached 905 in 2010 and 465 in 2011. Civilian casualties from drones were only 2 in 2004 but reached 122 in 2009 and 100 in 2010. Deaths from Air Strikes in Yemen may have been as high as 400 in the first six months of 2012.
Obama’s top terrorism advisor, John O. Brennan, has now been chosen to head the CIA. According to Obama Administration officials, he is “The priest whose blessing has become indispensable.”
The Obama Administration uses the George W. Bush policy for “signature strikes.” This policy counts all military age males in a strike zone as combatants unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent. A Yemeni lawyer wrote on Twitter: “Dear Obama, when a U.S. Drone missile kills a child in Yemen, the father will go to war with you, guaranteed. Nothing to do with al-Qaeda.” In May 2010, the Deputy governor of Marib Province, Sheik Jabir al-Shabwani was killed in a Drone strike. His tribe then attacked the main oil pipeline, doing one billion dollars worth of damage.
Public rejection of targeted killings by drones, according to Pew global Attitudes Survey are: Pakisitan, 83 percent; Greece, 90 percent; Egypt, 89 percent; Jordan, 85 percent; Turkey, 81 perent; Spain, 76 percent and Brazil, 76 percent.
Today, war is deeply embedded in the US economy, the Military Industrial Complex and corporate America. This will not change. US military spending is roughly equivalent to that of the entire rest of the world. The US spends at least 46 percent of global costs of war with over 660 billion dollars per year. China is second with 100 billion dollars and seven percent of global spending. Number ten, Italy, spends only 2.3 percent of the global total.
Now the national debt has reached sixteen and a half trillion dollars, never to be paid off, of course. The costs fall mostly on the working class now and on future generations. But they help sustain capitalist profits as long as the empire endures. This is an unsustainable system with money as debt. Some figures: National debt is 16.5 trillion dollars; total personal debt is 15.8 trillion; mortgage debt is 13 trillion; credit card debt is 844 billion; student loan debt is 934 billion. The Fed (private banks) prints money and the government borrows. The taxpayers owe. So off to work they go if their job has not yet been exported under neoliberalism.
The Next War:
There is always another war on the way which Americans do not want. This helps to sustain the system. But good Americans should always consider that this is all for the best and not really question or think about it. And certainly not understand what is really going on.
Today the US is engaged in essentially the same game as during the era of Woodrow Wilson. Only the ideology has been altered. Empires are only destroyed by historical forces. Today, the US is a failing empire. The US has failed in its policies in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. Neoliberalism has hollowed out social welfare in the United States and wars of occupation have greatly increased the national debt. Increasingly, it is difficult for the US to control political instability, such as in the Arab Spring nations and Syria today. As John Agresto, a Bush Administration neoconservative sent to Iraq during the occupation said, “I’m a neoconservative who has been mugged by reality.” Today, the US is being mugged by reality. It is running a foreign policy which has failed.Americans continue to live on lies and images of the past when America had far greater ability to control global affairs. The ruling class has even come to the point of asking if “America is over.”
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