I wrote the first version of this essay in June 2014. Since then, I had over 4,000 hits on it in my blog. I decided to update it partly because of some elements of neo-isolationist proposals from the Republicans Party and presidential candidate Trump who claimed that Obama and Clinton were the founders of ISIS. More importantly, I see a downward spiral in US foreign policy whether the White House is under a Democrat or Republican administration.
From 1953 when the CIA staged a coup in Iran to topple the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mosaddeq in 1953 until the Obama administration’s endeavours to replace the Assad regime in Syria, destabilisation has been at the core of how the US policy toward the Middle East. US destabilisation policy is not a post-9/11 phenomenon that can be defaulted to the “war on terror” nor is it an aberration from US foreign policy and the mainstream media and various analysts claim.
Regardless of warnings by neo-isolationist and anti-interventionist critics that the costs of such destabilisation policies rooted in counterinsurgency operations and militarism are unsustainable for the economy, the US is unlikely to change course in the near future not only because such policies serve certain corporate interests in the US and Europe, but because the political culture in the US is immersed in a “military-solution mode” to political crises in developing nations and especially the Middle East.
Neo-conservatives advocating the preservation and expansion of Pax Americana and neoliberals interested in securing global market share for US and EU-based multinational corporations realise the gradual decline of the West amid the ascendancy of East Asia. In 1918 Oswald Spengler warned about the decline of the Western World. Europe’s decline took place because of the wars of Imperialism (1880-1914) that led to WWI, followed by the Great Depression and WWII. Inadvertently, Europe’s decline in the first half of the 20th century helped to propel US global ascendancy by leaving a global power vacuum after 1945. The US is not in a comparable position as post-WWII Europe. Nor does the “social cycle theory” of repeating cycles of historical patterns, mentioned in Peter Turchin’ Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall, 2003, adequately explain the complexities and uniqueness of the global power structure in the 21st century.
The demise of the Soviet bloc and rise of Asia with China at the core of the world economy and the inevitability of global power shifts at a time of relative US economic decline actually coincided despite academics, media and politicians alike celebrating America’s winning the Cold War and enjoying “the peace dividend”. All indications are that the “American Century” is winding down, though this does not mean the US would lapse very far from the core of the world economy in the evolving cycle that Asia will dominate.
Cycles of rising and declining empires are nothing new in history. People who live through such cycles hardly notice the subtle changes that appear to evolve at a snail’s pace; a theme developed by Fernand Braudel in his analysing the transition from the feudal/manorial structure to capitalism (La Méditerranée et le Monde Méditerranéen à l’Epoque de Philippe II (1949). Militarism and destabilising policies are archaic policy modes of a declining empire from the Roman Empire to the British Empire. Despite losing its global power status after WWII, Great Britain for example remained militaristic as a NATO member. The irony in transitions of global power shifts is that the entrenched elites in the declining country revert to militarist policies of the past when the country enjoyed preeminent power that the economy could support. The reason is not only ideological but it also serves the privileged interests of the political and socioeconomic elites to preserve the status quo.
Naturally, policies that have been successful when a country is at the zenith of its power will actually hasten the decline simply because the economy cannot sustain the costs thus irreparably damaging the civilian economy. This is exactly the case of the US that experienced the zenith of its power during the Truman administration but began the long road to decline shortly after the Suez Crisis of 1956-1957 when the IMF secretly warned the Eisenhower administration that the dollar as a reserve currency was artificially overvalued because of chronic balance of payments deficits. Despite the warning that Eisenhower issued regarding the dangers of the military-industrial complex absorbing capital from the civilian economy and weakening the US, this monster dictating foreign policy remained alive and well, determining in large measure US foreign policy no matter the scope of the crises it has been creating since the early Cold War.
The driving force behind US foreign policy has been to maintain the economic, political and social status quo at home by keeping its hegemonic role in the world. This is a foreign policy that the US adopted from the mother country – the sort of Empire as a Way of Life, as William Appleman Williams argued when explaining the historical continuity in US foreign affairs from the early years of the Republic until the Vietnam War. Destabilisation as a modality of foreign policy in essence serves a multifaceted purpose, everything from maintaining the imperial network with military bases throughout the world and regional alliances, to securing a global market share and keeping the dollar as the dominant reserve currency. Above all, it serves to maintain the status quo at home by placing security above social justice and the need to address social justice and economic justice issues of the citizenry.
Post-Cold War Crisis Convergence
The post-Cold era was supposed to mark the triumph of American capitalism and its hegemonic role in the world – hyperpuissance as some French analysts labelled the US to describe its comprehensive superpower status. The end of the Soviet-American confrontation did not mean the end of US-Russian rivalry but rather its revival through client states allied with one side or the other. This was inevitable as the US and Western Europe scrambled to secure former Soviet republics into the Western political, economic and strategic zones of influence.
Crisis convergence in the Ukraine and the Middle East during the Obama administration posed challenges for US foreign policy and its future prospects as the world’s policeman since the early Cold War. This seemingly irresolvable crisis with millions of victims in the theatres of military operations also demonstrates glaring contradictions and credibility gap in US foreign policy not just today, but as a historical phenomenon that has been evident since the early Cold War. This is not to suggest there is no logic to the Truman Doctrine for the time it was promulgated in 1947 amid the Greek Civil War and US goal of creating a security zone across Greece, Turkey and Iran (Northern Tier) to make sure that the Middle East remains free of Communist influence and the oil keeps flowing West.
Similarly, there is an imperial logic to the strategy of “Military Keynesianism” introduced during the Truman administration (increased defence spending that would in turn result in broader economic growth) as part of a containment strategy of the Communist bloc and the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Russia that led to the arms race. However, there is a price to be paid for remaining the world’s number one military power and pursuing an interventionist foreign policy as leverage for global economic hegemony when the dollar as a reserve currency is so artificially high for more than half a century and the public and private sector debt undermines the real economy. The result is the inevitable relative economic decline of the US in relationship to East Asia and Europe, and the four-decade decline of the American middle class.
In the post-Communist era (the New World Order), US foreign policy is impractical given the status of the economy and its prospects. Sailing in turbulent ocean without any sense of direction or realism of where it wishes to go and for what purpose and resting on the foundations of a manufactured “war on terror” that has only been expanding without any end in sight, US foreign policy has nowhere to go except to anachronistic Cold War models. Containment of Russia, a policy with roots in 19th century Britain and France, combined with US-NATO attempts to deny Moscow any role in influencing the balance of power in the Middle East and even with its own neighbouring states have proved unsuccessful and costly for the West. This is partly because Russia is nearly self-sufficient in natural resources. Moreover, China that may have an interested in a weaker Russia than when it was part of the USSR cannot permit the weakening of its neighbour to the degree that it would afford the US and NATO hegemony in Eurasia.
The situation in the Ukraine clearly poses challenges for Russia’s regional strategic interests that the US and its EU partners have been working to undermine during the second term of Obama’s presidency. Although there was no military solution for the situation in the Ukraine, just as there was none for Syria, which Russia, China and Iran supported, the US and its EU partners, especially Germany and Poland, pursued covert military means to bring down a corrupt pro-Russian government only to have it replaced by an equally corrupt pro-West billionaire totally dependent on the West for everything from military to economic assistance.
In the absence of reaching an agreement with Moscow on natural gas supply and a host of other economic and strategic issues, as well as protection of the Russian-speaking minority, the Ukrainian crisis was as hopeless a failure for the Obama administration as regime change in Syria, even if Bashar Al-Assad ultimately leaves as the US demands. As the power behind the client regime in Kiev, the US refused to reconsider a confrontational course reviving the Cold War that was destructive for the vast majority of Ukrainians given the horrible state of the economy and state finances. Western sanctions on Russia have proved a two-edged sword impacting Europe’s low-growth economies as well. Given the political opposition to any Keynesian measures to stimulate economic growth, the only course of action to stimulate growth amid a relative slump since the great recession of 2008 has been to increase defence spending, justifying on the basis of the threats that Russia and jihadist terrorism pose. Eventually the EU and the US will return to the negotiating table once there is no choice other than pursuing a political solution because the costs are too great to withstand.
Similarly, the US is not backing down on the reckless military solution it has been pursuing in Syria, a manufactured civil war crisis that in June 2014 spilled over to Iraq and threatened regional stability even more than it was prior to the US and its European and Middle East allies trying to secure Syria as a Western satellite.
Why has the US been pursuing destabilising policies toward the Middle East and Ukraine?
If the answer is containing Russia and Iran to determine the balance of power in the Middle East then the question is whether destabilisation of existing regimes is the best course of action.
I do not subscribe to theories that the people conducting US foreign policy are asleep at the wheel, dumb, uncreative, and lack the experience of their brilliant critics inside and outside of the US government. Nor are policymakers and professional diplomats implementing detrimental policies to US interests because they lack common sense. Foreign policy bipartisan consensus has been the rule rather than the exception since Truman, bringing into account geopolitical as well as corporate interests. The US has opted for covert operations, destabilisation and militarism as a first option when dealing with developing countries while a multilateral approach that involves the United Nations has largely been a last resort only when it was absolutely necessary and the outcome favouring the US.
Only when there was no other way but to negotiate a political solution with tangible political, military, and economic advantages, as in the case of the deal with Iran on the development of nuclear weapons, have the US and its partners abandoned the military option and destabilisation policy (March-April 2015 – Permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany). The “Iran—P5 + 1 deal” proved that the people conducting and implementing US policy follow certain perimeters and conforming to guidelines from top down after political consensus is reached between government and disparate business interests that stand to gain either by a military or political solution to US policy. While one cannot disregard ideological reasons behind US policy, invariably they serve to justify military/strategic and economic interests that play a catalytic role.
Causes of Destabilisation in the Middle East
There are many causes that account for instability in the Middle East both internal and external. One long-term external cause stems from the fact that in 1916 the European colonial powers drew the regional map arbitrarily to serve their geopolitical and economic interests, rather than permit any sort of self-determination for the people affected in artificially created nation-states. As the Ottoman Empire had lapsed into an economic dependency of Europe unable to retain control of its Arab provinces after the Greek War of Independence in 1821, England and France reduced the Middle East into economic dependency. In 1916, the French and British governments drafted the Sykes-Picot Agreement that drew the map of the Middle East along Europe’s neo-colonial interests. The Treaty of Serves in 1920 formalised the end of the Ottoman Empire and forced the Turks to renounce any claim in the Middle East and North Africa where the European imperialist powers had already laid claim.
Despite the wish of some Arabs throughout the 20th century for solidarity if not unity, pro-Western Arab rulers and a comprador bourgeoisie were content with neo-colonial conditions. At the same time, the Western European, Israeli, and American governments have been undermining any chance of Arab solidarity. However, the main sectarian divisions, which predate Western interventions, remain a major internal cause of regional instability. Besides tribal identity, religious fanaticism does extraordinary things to the human mind, including driving people to sacrifice themselves while taking down their brothers and sisters in suicide bombings. Added to religious sectarianism that has fanatics on all sides embracing military solutions, there are tribal and ethnic identity issues intertwined with alliances based on the cult of personality and clientist relationships built around it.
Although there is no Clash of Civilisations, as Samuel Huntington in 1996 argued, inherent between Islam and the Christian West that is divorced from political, military and economic motives on both the colonial powers and colonised, the concept of national identity is very different in Iraq, Libya and Yemen than it is in Norway, Canada or Germany. In the Middle East, alliances and alignments with disparate interests from the socioeconomic elites to the military are complex and often contradictory. In part, this is because capitalist integration entails broader societal integration in the culture while maintaining strong ties to Islamic institutions and traditional identity. This is evident not just in Turkey struggling to keep the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (founder of the Republic of Turkey and moderniser during the interwar era) but also Egypt once a non-aligned leader under Gamal Abdel Nasser where the Muslim Brotherhood and the military have long-standing historic roles influencing society. Authoritarian regimes based on consensus of domestic elites and foreign alliances have been the mechanism to keep society together in most countries.
Another chronic source of division is the gap that exists between the Muslim-based culture, values system and way of life opposed to the forces of modernity identified with the increasingly xenophobic Christian West which is more materialistic/hedonistic in practice and much less spiritual than its religious and political leaders proclaim. Modernity encompasses everything from science and technology necessary for material progress and the ability to remain competitive in the world, to consumerist culture and value system that help to buttress capitalism in the age of globalisation.
It is difficult to adjust to the modern economic system that creates a middle class and materialistic values while clinging to traditional values and institutions rooted in religion at the core of society. This ideological clash was evident in Arab Spring uprisings in the first half of the 2010s and it continues to manifest itself among political opposition groups. Clearly, governments use Islam as a means of social conformity and political manipulation just as Western countries have used religion as a conformity mechanism. For example, under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has been playing the Muslim card by forging a coalition of nationalists looking back to the glory of the Ottoman Empire and counterbalancing the entrenched Kemalist elements.
Another cause of internal divisions in the Middle East is directly linked to perpetual foreign influences through international financial and trade organisations, including the International Monetary Fund that promotes austerity and neoliberal policies resulting in wealth concentration and rising rich-poor gap. In their 2014-book Aid and Power in the Power in the Arab World: IMF and the World Bank Policy-based Lending in the Middle East and North Africa, J. Harrigan and H. El-Said argue that geopolitics and political motivations primarily by the US have determined IMF and World Bank lending policies geared to open domestic markets to Western corporations.
Along with the impact of economic integration that benefits a few wealthy nationals and foreign corporations, covert and overt military intervention by the US and its NATO partners has historically kept the Middle East structurally underdeveloped even in oil-rich nations.
Largely because of the importance of oil and Israel’s regional role that the US identifies historically with its own national interest, the influence of Western powers has been much higher in the Middle East than any other part of world. During the era of the non-aligned bloc when Nasser’s Egypt played a major role in the 1960s, nationalism and Arab autonomy gained some momentum but it was short-lived both because of regional and Western influences undermining it. As a nationalist reaction to the domestic (comprador) bourgeoisie and US support of the puppet Shah regime, the Iranian Revolution of 1979 was as much a reaction to the West as the non-aligned despite the heavy reliance on Islam as a catalyst on the part of Iran.
The Middle East-North African reaction to the hegemonic West continued to manifest itself with regimes that embraced strong nationalist leaders that the US adamantly opposed. Although under a corrupt dictatorship, Libya under Muammar al-Qaddafi was relatively stable as was Syria and Iraq when compared with what took place after US-Western military intervention. With all of his considerable shortcomings as a dictatorial leader, Qaddafi had managed to forge a popular consensus since 1969 and kept the country unified; a challenging task as history proved after the US, France and the UK toppled the Qaddafi regime and left the country deeply divided and in perpetual chaos in every sector from the political arena to the economy.
This is not to say that Libya’s population was enjoying social justice and human rights before 2011. However, neither did Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States that the US and its EU allies have been supporting. Of course, it is now well documented that much of the funding sources for what the US identifies as Islamic terrorism originated in Saudi Arabia, while Qaddafi was secretly working with Western intelligence to combat jihadists in his country and abroad. Choosing what regime to overthrow and what regime to preserve was never about freedom and democracy, but about economic, political, and military advantages accruing to the West.
In the years after the US-NATO intervention in 2011, justified supposedly on the basis of enforcing a 1973 UN Security Council resolution, Libya remained chronically unstable. Suffering a marked absence of any human rights, Libya’s national sovereignty surrendered to the West and its prospects for economic development that would help its population were much worse than under Qaddafi. Worse of all, the country was reduced in a semi-civil war conditions with regional-local-tribal divisions and political violence raging on, and thousands of people trying to cross the sea over to Europe as refugee that Europeans do not want. Jihadist activity, symptomatic of the US-NATO intervention considering that the US and its allies assisted to remove Qaddafi from power with jihadist collaboration, backfired on the West and its puppet regime in Tripoli. The West found itself having to assist its newly-acquired satellite militarily to combat “domestic terrorism” that Western destabilisation (regime change) policy emboldened, while Italy was left to deal with Libyan refugee problem that became a European-wide political issue impacting British voters’ decision to leave the EU.
Like Libya, Egypt is now under a façade of a democratic regime, a very thin façade. The BBC was correct to label General Al-Sisi’s regime something of a giant company running the country on the basis of a corrupt and decadent clientist system with ties to foreign corporations. As of August 2016, the IMF struck a deal with this corrupt regime to bring about austerity and neoliberal policies that would in fact transfer even more income from the lower classes to the wealthy. Everything from basic foodstuffs to utilities is much higher, adding to the political turmoil that the pro-Western regime has created. Even the pro-business magazine Fortune headline betrayed the ugly truth of what the IMF is doing in this poor country: In Egypt, IMF Deal Brings Austerity Few Can Afford.
Following the Egyptian uprising of 2011 that set off Arab Spring, the US proclaimed that it was on the side of popular democracy and against authoritarianism. Like Libya, Egypt surrendered its sovereignty along with any trace of social justice, merely because this was the way to survive for the Sisi government and it was what the US and its allies demanded. The West refused to accept the Islamist Mohammed Morsi regime that took power in June 2012 and deposed in July 2013 by the armed forces and army chief General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. The Islamist Brotherhood which Morsi represented was marginalised and repressed even more than it was under Mubarak, while the human rights situation is no better than it was before Arab Spring.
What has taken place in Egypt under General Al-Sisi is hardly much different in terms of forging a democratic façade than what existed under Hosni Mubarak. It is true that the ultimate goal of the US and its EU partners was to create more opportunities for multinational corporations and not have the economy under the tight control of Mubarak’s cronies. However, the assumption is that more globalisation under neoliberal policies would benefit the majority of the people and strengthen the national economy; assumptions that have proved totally false as much in developing nations as in the advanced capitalist countries. Therefore, we have in Egypt as much a suppressed minority situation as in Libya with lesser commitment to democracy and human rights than what existed under the previous authoritarian regimes.
Both Libya and Egypt are in this current state of affairs in part because of deeply divided social-political groups but also owing to US-EU interference, with the participation of Saudi Arabia and some of the Gulf States. In both Egypt and Libya the end result was that the people were much worse off after the formation of pro-Western regimes than they were before Arab Spring that the West manipulated to make sure a pro-West regime secures power. Largely because of covert and overt foreign intervention, all of North Africa and the Middle East became far less stable than it was before Arab Spring.
This is not to suggest the futility of popular uprisings or a Western conspiracy is operating in the Middle East, but rather a systematic US-NATO policy intended to keep the region politically, economically, and strategically subservient to the West, and its natural resources and markets secure. This precludes any attempt at national sovereignty Nasser-style of the 1960s, or Iranian style that resists integration under the “patron-client model” with the hegemonic West. It further means denying Russia and China the region as a sphere of influence, and maintaining a containment policy toward Iran. In short, US destabilisation policy makes perfect sense if one considers that its goal is to keep the region dependent on the West as it has been since the Sikes-Picot agreement in 1916.
US Invasion of Iraq and Its Consequences
- As the British “Chilcot Inquiry Report” in July 2016 made very clear, blatant lies on which the US and UK invaded the country, namely: A) Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and B) There was a link to al-Qaeda, when it was well known that the al-Qaeda organisation was made up primarily of Saudis with which the Bush family as well as a number of well-connected Republicans had multi-billion dollar interests. The real reasons were the oil reserves, the US obsession to counterbalance Iran, and strengthen the defence industry in which Republicans and Democrats had personal financial interests. It is interesting to note, that the US defence and intelligent budgets skyrocketed as a result of this war combined with Afghanistan, while the US economy continued losing ground to China.
- War and occupation destroyed Iraq, resulting in millions of people displayed as refugees spread through neighbouring nation s and others fleeing for the West. During the occupation, US forces committed war crimes, but the International Court has not dared to charge any US official. Just as the US destroyed Vietnam where it committed war crimes, and just as Vietnam has taken many decades to rebuild and it is still in the process of doing so, similarly it will take many decades to rebuild Iraq that the US and UK left in ruins. Yet, there is no talk about helping with the reconstruction of Iraq as there was with Japan, Germany and Italy after WWII; only about dividing and exploiting Iraq’s oil reserves and using the country as a strategic satellite.
- US tax payers paid for a war in order to advance the profits of Republican party-linked corporations in which the Bush family, Dick Cheney, Jim Baker, Donald Rumsfeld and others in the Republican administration were connected to corporations such as the Carlyle Group and Halliburton that defrauded the US government of millions of dollars in contract work in Iraq. This is the same Halliburton against which Nigeria filed corruption charges against Cheney as CEO, and the same company that was partly responsible for the Deep Horizon oil disaster in autumn 2010. This does not mean that Democrats, including the Clinton Foundation, have been above the money that influenced Republicans in their pursuit of a militarist foreign policy.
- Before the US-UK invasion of Iraq was not among the top 20 most corrupt countries in the world, but it advanced to the number #2 spot during the occupation! The US reduced the country into a concentration camp where corruption was the way of doing business. Focused only on oil and counterbalancing Iran, the US was unable to do anything with Iraq other than leave a devastated country that its people must rebuild.
- The issue of federalism and/or breaking up Iraq was one that concerned American politicians, think tanks, journalists, and academics after the US invaded. The question is why? While the Kurdish population has historically wanted autonomy, the US has never been interested in this minority group; otherwise it would demand that Turkey also submit to some type of federalist system. The goal is to keep Iraq weak and dependent on the US so that it can exploit its oil and counterbalance Iran, while also determining the regional balance of power.Iraq and Afghanistan represent the twilight of Pax Americana, the last vestiges of an imperial democracy operating on a foreign policy based on a predominantly Protestant missionary pretext about the White Anglo-Saxon Christians “saving” the weaker dark-skinned non-Christian brethren whose land just happens to have natural resources that the West needs, and it just happens to be located in a place of strategic interest. The larger issue here is the credibility gap in US foreign policy, considering that ISIS would not exist if it were not for the US and its allies trying to remove Assad from power. ISIS was made possible by the US and its allies, including Sunni-dominated Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
US Divide and Conquer Policy in Syria and Iraq
To demonstrate the logic of US destabilisation policy, greater analysis is needed on the multifaceted reasons for US-led interference and intervention. Demonising the US and the West, deflecting focus from internal political problems and regional conflicts owing to religious, political, and geopolitical reasons, or implying that the US and its allies are solely responsible for all the divisions among Muslims who are no different than Christians when it comes to sources of divisions does not explain underlying policy motives. By the same logic, modern versions of “White Man’s Burden” theories intended to blame the victim of imperialism as the Israelis blame the Palestinians for the latter’s chronic subjugated condition hardly reflects the realities of very complex problems.
Having engaged in many wars since the founding of Islam, Muslims are not strangers to conflict in the last fourteen centuries; not much different in this respect than Western Christians who undertook the crusades (1095-1291) not just for the glory of God, but trade routes that Arabs and Byzantines controlled. In so far as wars go, it is Christians who have been responsible for some of the bloodiest conflicts from the era of the Crusades to the present, mostly against each other over land, ethnicity, spheres of influence, military, and political hegemony. The “Sacking of Constantinople” and the creation of the Latin Empire (1204-1261) proved that the Western crusaders were in the last analysis more after land, trade, and power and much less for the glory of God.
It is hypocritical for Western politicians, the media and analysts that reflect mainstream views to argue that Muslims create political problems entirely on their own for no apparent reason other than the historic Shiite-Sunni differences, innate personal traits rooted in Islamic culture, or the whole Middle East-West conflict is rooted in a clash of civilisations owing to religious/cultural issues.
There were no Muslims during the Vietnam War when the US became involved in a covert war (CIA operations via AIR AMERICA) in Laos and Cambodia and backed the Khmer Rouge because Washington was losing the military conflict with North Vietnam. Just as the US created a catastrophic situation in Cambodia because of its covert operations intended to win the unwinnable Vietnam War, similarly, almost half a century later the US has created another monstrous mess in the Middle East. This is in part because it has been trying unsuccessfully to determine the regional balance of power where Iran is at the core in the region.
One result of US destabilisation policy is the Jihadist offshoot of Al-Qaeda known as ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). Part of the blame for the people failing to unite behind their governments must go to the corrupt and divisive regimes in Damascus and Baghdad for pursuing clientism and crony capitalism that neglect to serve the broader public interest. In this sense, Western critics are correct to argue that governments in question ultimately have the responsibility for their policies that only feed sectarianism and social strife. At the same time, however, it is reprehensible that Washington, London and apologists of Western imperialism without any sense of historical context and self-criticism insist that the on-going civil war and rebel activity is a problem solely created by the Arab political leadership and disparate factions. Without the money, guns and ammunition, political support, and covert operations to facilitate such rebel operations intended to secure the goal of regime change how far would ISIS succeed in carrying out its operations?
No one should be surprised at the arrogance of Western politicians and well-paid consultants and analysts echoing official policy when it comes to the Middle East and victim blaming which is official policy in Israel regarding the Palestinian Question and adopted by both Republican and Democrat politicians and the US media. This is archaic imperialist mind-set applied by the West to the non-Western World dating back to the era of European colonialism. The Nixon administration, which created the tragedies of Laos and Cambodia in the 1960s and early 1970s, turned around and condemned the very monstrosity it had created, blaming the very people it had been supporting against Vietnam. Even more hypocritical, the US covertly cooperated with the Khmer Rouge remnants during the Reagan administration at a time that the US was castigating terrorist activity by Iran, a country with which it also secretly collaborated in order to undermine Nicaragua’s duly elected regime.
In November 1986, the world discovered that the US had made an arms sales deal to Iran to finance the Nicaraguan Contra rebels and in exchange for release of US hostages held by Lebanese-based Hezbollah. Despite the numerous legal violations, including the Boland Amendment (1982-1984) prohibiting arms sales to the contras, as well as failure of congressional oversight in this Watergate-style scandal involving a number of top Reagan administration officials, the bottom line is that, as also argued Laurence E. Walsh in his book Firewall: Iran-Contra Conspiracy and Cover-Up, 1997, the US accomplished nothing other than to destabilise both Central America and the Middle East through its double-dealing that violated US laws. Parenthetically, one could point out that defence companies, consultants and right-wing ideologues benefited but at what cost to the broader interests of the US?
In the summer of 2014, the US and Western European governments announced that they had done all they could to “help Iraq”, just as they “helped” Afghanistan. Considering that the thorough destruction of both countries by the US and its allies, the term “help” must have been a reference to achieving the goal of regime change. It seems that the history of US interventionism and double-dealing is repeating itself in Iraq where there was a secular regime under Saddam Hussein, albeit a dictatorship aided by the US in the 1980s against the war with Iran. When Saddam became too independent of US policy, the latter decided to topple him because of the possession of non-existing weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al-Qaeda. In June 2014, President Obama claimed: “We can’t fix Iraq”, in a reference to nation-building policy.
It was indeed ironic for the US and Europe to argue that they had done “all they could to help Iraq” at a time that they were doing all they could in Syria as well. Responsible for destroying Iraq during the first decade of the 21st century at a cost of $2 trillion dollars and half a trillion owed to veterans ($3.7 trillion when the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan are included), and incalculable catastrophic costs to Iraqis, the US and Western Europe were prepared to “help” in so far as securing the country as a strategic satellite. These grandiose proclamations were made more than two years ago. Western “help” promises for the people of Iraq have yet to materialise.
Arrogantly, the US and the Western Europeans declared in 2014, as they were deeply immersed in the destabilising campaign against Syria, that it was time for the government in Baghdad to defend itself if it was under attack by ISIS Jihadists. This was indeed ironic, considering that Western allies Saudi Arabia and Turkey were helping jihadist groups that might be linked to ISIS logistically and financially while proclaiming they were trying to bring down the tyrant Assad. Two years later Turkey would turn on ISIS, but that was because of Western-Russian pressure and ISIS turning against Turkey.
Until November 2015, the convergence of the goals of ISIS Jihadists to destabilise Syria converged with those of the US and its EU partners. Naturally, the ISIS goals went beyond the struggle against Assad to include the campaign to carve out a larger Islamic fundamentalist state in the Levant. Not until they started using operatives in a number of countries including Libya and even in Europe to carry out attacks against civilians did the West change its tune to contain ISIS. When the jihadists started targeting Europeans in the heart of their cities with Paris hit first in November 2015 with 137 dead, the US was forced closer to Moscow’s position on ISIS, while never abandoning the goal of regime change in Damascus.
US volte face from collaboration with jihadists to confrontation is all too familiar a story. In the 1980s, the US-backed Mujahedin in Afghanistan fighting against the secular regime backed by the Soviets. After 9/11, the war on terror had replaced the Cold War as a permanent institutional structure of US foreign policy. However, the continued practice of selectively opposing and collaborating with terrorist groups remained. Even as the US and the West publicly proclaimed their resolve on the war on terror and opposition to ISIS, in June 2015 the Wall Street Journal carried a headline calling Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nursa Front in Syria a lesser evil and proposing that: “In the three-way war ravaging Syria, should the local al Qaeda branch be seen as the lesser evil to be wooed rather than bombed?”
When ISIS bombed a civilian Russian plane in over northern Sinai on 31 October 2015, followed by an attack on Hezbollah in Beirut two weeks later, Western governments and media had no problem because the targets were pro-Assad. In fact, the Western media criticised President Vladimir Putin for striking ISIS targets, prompting the US to assist ISIS indirectly by providing air cover to protect certain pro-West assets in Syria along the Turkish border. Always reflecting US official position, the US media sent the message to the world that the problem at hand was really Putin and Assad, rather than the barbaric ISIS that Russian fighter planes were targeting; that is until the Paris massacre. The double standard behind which rested the destabilisation policy as a priority was revealing. It was one reason that eventually prompted even some Republican isolationists to accuse the Obama administration of promoting ISIS.
Contradictions of US Policy Goals
It is much more revealing of US goals in the Middle East top actually follow real practices, including logistical support, military aid diplomatic and intelligence support rather than following political rhetoric that does not always correspond to actions. What exactly are US policy goals in the Middle East depends whom you ask in different branches of government, in Congress, think tanks and various analysts. A) Deliver freedom and democracy? B) Fight terrorism? C) Closer economic, political and military integration with the West, while also safeguarding the interests of Israel that is not always in agreement with US goals? D) Redraw the map so it can determine the balance of power and limit Russia and China influence? E) Patchwork of different goals at any given week, mired in contradictions? F) A combination of all of the above with instability at the core to preserve its historically hegemonic role?
From the Iranian Revolution (1979) to the present (2016), the US and its junior strategic partners in NATO have been trying to determine the balance of power in the Middle East based on the early Cold War model that divided spheres of influence, a model itself based on 19th century European and American Imperialism in Asia. The US and its partners contend that the goals of interference at the very least and military intervention at worst is to “help” stabilise the region economically by integrating it into the Western-based market economy, promote “freedom and democracy” and secular institutions accordingly, and to secure strategic alliances that “help” stabilise the region as part of the Western zone. Public statements notwithstanding, independent analysts assess policy based on results and the impact on societies at the receiving end of US-NATO actions rather than rhetoric intended for propaganda purposes.
- Have the US and its partners achieved any of their publicly-stated goals, including democratising and stabilising the Middle East?
- Has the US and the West delivered social justice, greater national sovereignty and economic prosperity to the region since Truman or has their only goal been to exploit its natural resources and geopolitical importance in the global power struggle with its rivals Russia and China?
- Is the Middle East more stable because of US-NATO interference and aggressive intervention in the late 20th and early 21st century, or has the refugee crisis and chronic internal exposed the myths of the West?
- With the exception of a handful of corporations, has US-NATO intervention helped to stimulate economic growth and sustainable development in the Middle East?
- Has Iran, Russia and China, all rivals of the US and NATO, been weakened or strengthened as a result of US-led interference, military intervention and destabilisation policies?
- Has the US-led interference and intervention in the Arab Spring revolts engendered greater democracy or simply resulted in recycled dictatorships of various types, massive refugee problem, and economic hardships for the people involved?
Even the most pro-Western and pro-Israel analyst of US-Middle East relations would not conclude that the US and its allies have achieved their stated goals. Instead, they strengthened Islamic fanaticism and destabilised the Muslim areas from Pakistan to the Middle East and North Africa to parts of sub-Sahara Africa. This is in part because of the very selective course of action at times fighting against jihadists and others siding with them because of common goals centred on destabilisation of regimes. At the same time, the US war on terror has given all countries around the world the pretext of defining their own terrorists that often include political opposition groups fighting for human rights, ethnic minority rights, and social justice. China for example has its own domestic enemies Uyghurs Muslim separatists it deems terrorists, while the US has refused to add this minority group in Xinjiang into the terrorist list. Moreover, the US has demanded that China join US war on terror and stop taking advantage of the spoils of war as in the case of Pakistan and Afghanistan. China’s response has been to promote “stability” so it can continue its global trade expansion.
One could argue that the US is destabilising the Middle East because it is becoming increasingly integrated under Chinese economic influence and to some degree Indian. Meanwhile, Russia has also been striving to keep its foot in the door as a regional power. Engagement and containment is official US policy toward China, which uses its considerable economic power to capture market share in the Middle East and Africa. While the US continues to promote globalisation under a neoliberal model, it is interested in doing so under its aegis rather than China’s in the Middle East and Africa. For the US to weaken nuclear-club members China and Russia directly would be self-destructive. However, it is practical, although costly, resorting to destabilisation policies of countries under the influence of the Kremlin and Beijing.
The nexus of power between economic and military hegemony is very real to Washington while for Beijing, at least judging by the fact it spends ten times less on defence than the US, much less so as they are focused on economic expansion. This is not to suggest that Russia and China are not imperialistic or just as determined to secure market share and have access to raw materials. They are just as intent on securing zones of influence to enhance their power and deny them to the US as the Western countries. In this respect, Spengler’s social cycle theory has a modicum of validity considering that some patterns of the early 21st century global power structure resemble those of the early 20th century when wars of imperialism led to the Great War.
From Axis of Evil to Rapprochement: US-Iran Relations
On 29 January 2002, President George W. Bush made the following statement in his “State of the Union Address”: “Iran aggressively pursues these weapons [of mass destruction] and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people’s hope for freedom. […] States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.”
If Iran was part of the Axis of Evil and at the core of world terrorism in 2002, why collaborate with that country to stabilise Iraq during the second term of the Obama administration, even before the conclusion of the deal on nuclear weapons development? If Bush was promoting war propaganda in order to secure public support for US military solutions to “manufactured crises” of Islamic terrorism, what does the current ISIS crisis reveal about US policy failures?
In 2012, I wrote an article arguing the assumption that Western governments have the arrogance to decide the kind of regime in Baghdad, Kabul, and other Muslim countries, while they would hesitate to do the same for predominantly Christian-Caucasian European countries, Canada or Australia. If Russia or China were doing exactly what the US has been doing in the Middle East since the invasion of Iraq, the US and Western media would label it imperialism, just as they label Moscow’s conflict with Ukraine as such and Beijing’s role in the South China Sea.
In 2012, it was difficult to predict that the fiendish imperialist scheme to divide Iraq would actually backfire on the US and its allies, resulting in the situation of summer 2014 when ISIS was threatening to draw the map of the Middle East and targeting Western European civilian targets in suicide bombings. All along, Iran and Russia were fighting against the jihadists, not out of humanitarian principles, but national interest to deny US hegemony over Syria in a post-Assad era. US foreign policy actually brought Iran uncomfortably closer to Russia over the Syrian/ISIS crisis, just as it did China.
After years of negotiations, the US-Iran nuclear deal, which Israel and American right wing politicians and the media for the most part adamantly opposed, was an integral part of cooperation to stabilise Iraq and contain ISIS. Examined in isolation of the broader US-middle East policy, the Iran nuclear deal was a deviation from the long-standing US destabilisation policy. The nuclear deal, which includes an Iranian commitment to further economic integration with the West – massive capital goods purchases to benefit Western multinational corporations – does not mean however, that the US has abandoned its policy of containment toward Tehran or giving up on its long-time US allies Saudi Arabia and Israel counterbalancing Iran’s role in the region. Besides the $40 billion dollar US aid for the next ten years that the Obama administration offered Israel, which it rejected as unsatisfactory, Washington has also been selling weapons to Saudi Arabia that is as anti-Iran as Israel, if not more so as the lingering civil war in Yemen has demonstrated in 2015 and 2016.
On 16 June 2014, the US accepted Iran’s proposal for collaboration to stabilise Iraq by working together against ISIS. When the Islamic Republic of Iran is trying to maintain Middle East stability by respecting the status quo and fighting Sunni jihadists, while the US and its allies, which accuse Iran of destabilising the region, has in fact been a major source of instability, though by no means the only one given the many regional players at work, the only conclusion is that US, Israel and Saudi Arabia benefit from instability.
There is something seriously wrong that the US is in the odd position of having no choice but to selectively go along with Iran’s goal of stabilising Iraq from ISIS jihadists, an admission of US policy failure both in Syria and Iraq. The glaring contradictions of US foreign policy have in fact resulted in Iran determining the balance of power, a point on which Israel and Saudi Arabia agree and vehemently object. If the goal of the US was to determine the balance of power in the Middle East and exploit its resources, then it has failed miserably toward that goal and in the process it has only created more problems for itself.
ISIS and the Western Media
After the jihadist Paris attacks on civilians in November 2015, the Western mainstream media began investigating the sources of ISIS financing and Turkey’s role. One question is why did the US tolerate its closest allies – Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, all Sunni and all under a form of dictatorship – money transfers to ISIS going through Turkey? The US refused to listen to Iraqi premier Nouri Al-Maliki about ISIS financing sources because the enemies of the Jihadist offshoot of Al-Qaeda were against Iran and Syria that the US and its junior partners adamantly opposed. Therefore, it was not until after the Paris massacre of innocent civilians by jihadists that the issue of financing sources for ISIS began to concern the US. Once the imminent break up of Iraq and the consolidation of Jihadists who are greater enemies than Iran or Syria became a clear threat and once the ISIS operatives began to attack Europeans where they live, there was a policy adjustment, but only an adjustment.
Just as the US had turned a blind eye to ISIS financing until the Paris jihadist attacks, the Western media hardly covered ISIS as the world’s menacing terrorist organisation. Even after the Paris attacks received worldwide publicity, the media’s attention only focused on the organisation’s role in Iraq, not the devastation it caused in Syria and the millions of people displaced. After the Belgium suicide bombings in March 2016, the focus was on the influx of Middle Eastern refugees and Muslim immigrants in general as the root cause of terrorism in Europe. Ignoring Western counterinsurgency operations In Syria as a root cause of the refugee crisis, governments and the media focused on xenophobia and Islamophobia as the real problem confronting Europeans.
Mainly backed by Saudi Salafi-Wahhabi elements and covertly the Turkish government, ISIS have been spreading terror not just among Shias, but anyone standing in their way, including Sunnis. Yet, the media had not revealed anything about the Saudi-Turkish-ISIS connection, or the US indirect links to ISIS through third parties, including Ankara and Riyadh. Once the destabilisation problem seemed to be affecting Western European interests, the Western media changed its tune about ISIS, following the main line of their governments.
One of the most blatant lies to come out of Washington and repeated by the media was that the US intelligence agencies were taken by surprise when Jihadists moved in so aggressively against Iraq, coming so closely to the capital in June 2014. The Pentagon and CIA, among other agencies had tons of information not just about the movements of the Jihadists, but also their sources of financing and their ambitions to establish an autonomous state. In other words, the media was at the core of creating and perpetuating public distraction, blaming lack or faulty intelligence, misrepresentations of analysts’ reports, and other such details intended to cover up the obvious role of the US government and its allies in order to keep silent about the Jihadists until they became a serious threat to Iraq and hit European civilian targets. Manufacturing Consent is nothing new for the corporate media that has served to promote conformity to imperial policies since the Spanish-American War.
It is understandable that journalists and analysts receiving a pay check from an employer who reflects the US or a Western government official position simply present the official version, concealing from the public all sides of the issue. Some of the journalists and analysts have a poor command of the history of US-Middle East relations or even of the facts regarding the “war on terror”. Others cover up the role of the US and its allies in the destabilising campaign of the Middle East because if they do not, their editors will not approve the story and eventually they will have no job. The credibility gap in US foreign policy is not just with the US government but the media as well, although one could argue that opportunism is imposed by the institutional structure and that the first responsibility of the individual is to her/his survival and not to social justice and human rights principles.
US Foreign Policy Credibility Deficit at Home and Abroad
When Obama was elected president in 2008, many people in the US and around the world believed a new era in US foreign policy would begin; a sort of a Good Neighbour Policy applied globally and in sharp contrast to the military interventionism by the Bush presidency. There was the assumption that the US learned its lessons from the Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan wars that failed to achieve publicly stated goals and left the occupied nations seriously damaged. After eight years of Obama, the world discovered the harsh reality of continuity in US policy and an even greater inclination to pursue destabilisation after Arab Spring than under Bush. Obama resenting himself as a US president presumably less inclined to embrace military solutions to crises and more open to political negotiations and conflict resolution by addressing root causes of problems was nothing more than pre-election campaign slogan. The reality was drone warfare in East Africa, Pakistan and Afghanistan where civilians were often casualties (collateral damage not war crimes), and military operations to destabilise North Africa and Syria.
In the summer of 2014, the US and its NATO partners found themselves in the unusual position of sending military assistance to the Shiite Iraqi regime in order to stabilise it and protect the oil fields that ISIS Jihadists coming in from northwest Syria were threatening. Just a few days before the ISIS crisis in Iraq erupted in late spring 2014, Obama candidly admitted that it would be naïve to assume that the US could fight global terrorism on its own, proposing instead a broader partnership and putting $5 billion on the table toward that end. Although the new “terrorism” assistance program was in addition to others, it was extraordinarily naïve to believe that those programs mostly aiming at police/military solutions would be any more effective than spending one trillion dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan chasing ghosts that have returned with real guns and threaten the very regimes the US set up through military means.
When ISIS insurgents were threatening to take control of major parts of Iraq and disrupt oil flows, the question was where do they stop and what about the symbolism of their victories? Having seized Nineveh that includes Mosul, ISIS was disrupting cities and villages and planning to head south to complete their conquest of more territory. Although Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Peshmerga had been helping Iraq against Sunni Jihadists, preventing them from taking over the strategic city of Kirkuk, the government in Baghdad appealed for broader assistance to preserve the country’s territorial integrity. The approach from the EU and US was not to repeat the mistakes of the past by becoming involved with “boots on the ground” as was the case under Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Iran had repeatedly suggested helping in cooperation with the US, a prospect that entailed the US would have to be on the same side with its archenemy in the region. Furthermore, it would mean that the US finally recognised Iran had been and would continue to determine the regional balance of power. In other wor4ds, stability actually benefited Iran not the US. The Jihadists that the US helped to create in the Syrian civil war seized major towns and oil refineries were roughly 60 miles from the Iraqi capital by summer 2014, prompting the US and its NATO allies to consider yet another form of intervention but still focused on bringing down Assad by military means. One problem for the West was that the Erdogan government was secretly facilitating the transfer of ISIS-produced oil, while also focusing on its own historic enemy the Kurdish minority and its political arm PKK as the real terrorist organisation rather than ISIS.
Mired in contradictions of strategy and goals, US policy makers were scrambling to justify why “limited intervention” was the only option and it was up to Iraq to solve the problem that the US created. The irony of all this was that US intervention this time resembled the manner that the US helped to create al-Qaeda in its nascent stage in the 1980s when the Soviets were helping the secular regime in Afghanistan. Confronted with home grown jihadists given birth more by endemic poverty than ideology, many Middle East and African governments were seriously concerned that what had taken place in Syria and Iraq could easily take place in their own countries. Al-Shabab in Somalia and Boko Haram in Nigeria, for example have been among the more active jihadist guerrilla organisations, though the West hardly pays much attention to them in comparison to ISIS that has hit Western cities.
In the second decade of the 21th century, the world power structure resembles the “Wars of Imperialism” era (1870-1914) when the Great Powers were in a struggle for spheres of influence, global markets and access to raw materials. The small wars of that era eventually led to a global conflict. The “long fuse” (1870-1914) finally lit in summer 1914 because the Great Powers, especially Germany, did not see an alternative to war. One key difference today in comparison with the “Age of Imperialism” is that the Great Powers possess nuclear weapons, which impose self-restraint, forcing governments to step back from the madness of the planet’s destruction.
Promulgated a year before the founding of the state of Israel, the Truman Doctrine afforded the US status as the world’s policeman, using Communism as the ideological justification for the struggle for raw materials, markets, and geopolitical advantage. How different the world would have been if the US had chosen the East-West co-existence path of Commerce Secretary Henry Wallace and how different the Middle East would have been if Washington pursued an even-handed policy toward Palestinian and Israelis. One could argue that in the early 21st century the US needs a new doctrine to reflect its actual economic power in the world and the reality that the global power structure is very different in the second decade of the 21st century than it was in the 1940s when Truman promulgated his doctrine of the US as the world’s policeman. The old Cold War policy intended to keep Pax Americana alive hardly has much relevance in the post-Communist era China at the forefront of the world economy enjoys such immense leverage in determining the balance of power.
Ever since the Vietnam War, Pax Americana’s decline preserved itself by diminishing the national political, economic, and military sovereignty of other countries over which it exerted inordinate influence. Yet, the American middle class and workers are now paying a heavy for the privilege of maintaining America’s global role under the New World Order in which the US desperately tries to retain its superpower glory of the past. One of the reactions for the globalisation process under US hegemony is nationalist reaction from other countries, an underlying cause of jihadist terrorism, among others related to local, national and regional issues. One has to wonder if Western militarism and economic imperialism, complemented by Western racism and religious prejudice is the most effective method of combating jihadist terrorism. If the only issue is to perpetuate a counterterrorism culture for a variety of reasons already discussed in this essay, then of course imperialism, militarism and destabilisation make sense.
By the end of the Obama administration, there were much greater and wider forms of terrorism than when the Bush announced the war on terror after 9/11. Intended to project the idea that government has the solution at hand and it is in position of protecting its citizens, public diplomacy and media propaganda run against the reality of rising terrorism. Jihadists already reside within the nations that they wish to strike and history has demonstrated that unconventional war has never been won by conventional military means.
It is difficult to know the number of jihadists around the world, but estimates have it between 100,000 and 200,000 identifying with a group out of a total Muslim population number 1.6 billion. Even the US State Department statistics on “Foreign Terrorist Organisations” has the number of jihadists under 200,000, or roughly 25% fewer than the Homeland Security workforce. Meanwhile, 72% of Muslims in opinion polls disagree with violence as a political weapon, although this number can change depending on the perceived or real Western threats to Islamic societies. Alienating the vast majority of Muslims around the world with racist conduct and interventionist policies coupled with economic imperialism is hardly the way to win the war on terror on the part of the US and its European allies. Nevertheless, this is exactly what will continue to take place because it serves the Western elites and even some Muslims who are on the outside and want to be part of the power structure.
The prospects for the future of the Middle East, at least for the next five to ten years, do not look very good even under the most optimistic scenario. Part of the reason for pessimism is that there is low likelihood of any kind of resolution to the Palestinian Question. Historically, Arab governments, especially Saudi Arabia, have opportunistically used the Palestinian Question to show perfunctory solidarity when in fact they did absolutely nothing to democratise their own societies or help with a constructive solution in the Palestinian case. Blaming Israel as the “devil of the Middle East” served as a distraction from problems Arab governments were unwilling to confront. At the same time, it is highly unlikely the US will change its pro-Israel policy or its Cold War militarist orientation and destabilisation methods to embrace a multilateral approach through the offices of the UN General Assembly. As China becomes economically stronger and Putin consolidates power under nationalist policies driven in part by the anti-Russian US-led campaign, the US will continue to seek ways to destabilise Muslim countries. Destabilisation is here to stay, until there are uprisings in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States where the US has vested interests.
Destabilisation is part of a larger policy to expand NATO and SEATO as a means of containing Russia and China as well as their regional allies has been set and it will absorb higher resources in defence and intelligence allocations. Brown University’s Watson Institute estimated the costs of US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan at just under $4.4 trillion; an amount is roughly a quarter of the US public debt when Homeland Security is included. Over 7.6 million have been displaced and reduced to refugee status and more than 210,000 civilians killed. This does not include the numerous human rights violations and charges by governments and international human rights organisations about wars crimes. The US and NATO always defaulted crimes to individual soldiers carrying out the acts and never to governments who conduct policy.
The prospect of militarism hastening Pax Americana’s decline is not a perceptible reality for the vast majority of the political and socioeconomic elites any more than for the majority of the American people who accept the official policy version that the media constantly hammers into peoples’ heads. Although the majority of Americans polled want less military involvement, they favour greater defence spending because they view Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and Muslims as a national security threat. Of course, the media, consultants, academics, pundits and lobbyists, preachers and politicians mold public opinion in the process of manufacturing consent, as Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky argued in the late 1980s. Because opinion makers have vested career interests, they rarely bother with the cost-benefit analysis of militaristic policies impacting society in general. Instead, they focus narrowly on militarism advancing security and corporate profits identified with the “national interest” as defined by Wall Street and the Pentagon.
Just as there was a culture of anti-Communism that existed throughout the Cold War and it was responsible for shaping American society and its institutions that revolved around it, similarly the government and private sector created a culture of counterterrorism after 9/11. It is not just the Department of Homeland Security, all intelligence and law enforcement agencies that revolve around this culture, but hundreds of billions of dollars flowing into everything from foreign mercenaries and intelligence outsourcing to domestic consultants and companies selling the latest high tech equipment whose fortunes depend on the existence of a counterterrorism culture.
Contrary to the impression of some critics that half-crazed ideologues in their cubicles in the State Department, Pentagon, and CIA are trying to figure out how to destabilise the next Syria and Libya, the reality is far more disturbing. There is an entire institutional structure with hundreds of thousands of people working toward a common goal as an integral part of the culture of counterterrorism used to justify the continued strength of the military industrial complex. Whether policymakers or ordinary citizens, it would never occur to the people immersed in the counterterrorism culture to ask if a foreign power subjected the US to destabilisation and militarist policies how they would react and whether a small segment of their countrymen would engage in armed resistance against foreign intervention.
Because of the long history of American Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny rooted in American society, not just the political and socioeconomic elites, but ordinary Americans believe that the US is unique among nations and it has a mandate to transform the world after its own image. Moreover, conduct it condemns on the part of other nations and/or groups is excused and justified in the case of the US because its transformation doctrine justifies it. After all, implicit in American Exceptionalism is the concept of superiority of other nations. Since the US-Mexico War in the 1840s, outward expansion was attributed to the mandate from divine providence.
As integral parts of US foreign policy, American Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny are unfolding horrifically before the eyes of the entire world that reduces them to the lowest common denominator as ideological justifications for imperialism. The political and socioeconomic elites immersed in this ideology and driving policy are wearing institutional/cultural blinders deceived themselves that the mythology of American Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny inherited from the early 19th century is the road to greatness. They refuse to accept America’s inability to carry out transformation policy on a world scale as it did from the end of WWII until the end of the Vietnam War. They are blind to the dangers ahead resulting from such policies as much for countries on the receiving end of US conduct as for the US itself.
Destabilising the Middle East: A Historical Perspective of US Foreign Policy Author: Jon V. Kofas Masher Politics and Culture Journal, Volume 1, Issue 09 (September 2016) © Photo: AP
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