By Femi Aribisala
THE United States still has not got the memo: we are no longer in the “American century.” The United States is no longer what it was, if indeed it ever was what it was supposed to be: the colossus of the international system. There are now small-state actors that exercise significant regional power without reference to American hegemonic pretensions. There is also a new pretender to the American throne in the form of the Peoples Republic of China, a country with 3.4 trillion American dollars in its reserves.
The United States is a country living on an expired credit-card. It has a sovereign debt of $17 trillion, and continues to rack up annual deficits in excess of $1 trillion. It is simply foolhardy that a country with such debt overhang is now gearing up for another disastrous excursion into Syria.
The “American century” ended long before the end of the 20th century. In Vietnam, the Americans were confounded by a foe that refused to fight them conventionally, but appeared and disappeared like a mirage. In frustration, they decided to “kill anything that moves”, according to Nick Turse. United States dropped more bombs on Vietnam than were dropped by all countries in World War 2 put together. Nevertheless, the Vietcong David prevailed against the American Goliath. With over 58,000 dead U.S. soldiers, Yankee had to go home.
In today’s world, many of the consequences of foreign military intervention are unanticipated. That is a bitter tonic to swallow when you call yourself a superpower. Thus, the Americans met their Waterloo in Vietnam and the Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of military incursions into Afghanistan. The Russians seem to have learnt their lesson, but the Americans are the Bourbons of the 21st century. They seem to have learnt nothing at all.
The Americans remain convinced that they can control the course of international relations. But this is just wishful-thinking. Everywhere they go, they commit one blunder after the other. Everywhere they go, they create more problems than they solve. What we have today is the unraveling of their Middle Eastern foreign-policy. With the United States now contemplating the bombing of Syria because of its alleged use of chemical weapons, it still refuses to confront the reality that this kind of interventionism is unlikely to have any significant impact on the Syrian civil war.
Nobody denies the capacity of the United States to drop bombs from high altitudes, fire cruise missiles and destroy Syria. Indeed, Americans are the great destroyers. They have practically destroyed Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. But this destructiveness is a sign of weakness and not of strength. American bombing hardly ever guarantees American victory. All it brings is chaos and mayhem. Indeed, the United States brings disaster to its friends and cultivates breeding-grounds for its enemies.
American humiliation: Notwithstanding American support and, indeed, because of it, the Shah of Iran came to grief. He was overthrown by a popular uprising in 1979. When he was allowed to go to the United States for medical treatment, after running out of Iran into exile, a group of Iranian students retaliated by invading the American embassy in Teheran and they took 66 American diplomats hostage.
This affront to American “super-powerdom” could not be stomached. President Jimmy Carter put together a rag-tag rescue team to invade Iran and forcibly bring the hostages back home. The operation was a disaster. It failed pathetically as a result of logistical blunders in the desert. The message was loud and clear: in the face of outright Iranian provocation lasting over 444 days, the United States, ostensibly the most powerful country in the world, was humiliatingly powerless yet again vis-à-vis another “insignificant” Third World country.
American mayhem: In Iraq, the Americans lied that Saddam Hussein was amassing weapons of mass destruction to justify invading the country. But after Saddam was overthrown, no such weapons were found in Iraq. In order to liberate Iraq from Saddam, the Americans destroyed Iraq. They bombed practically every major modern infrastructure of the Iraqi economy. At a certain juncture, they even ran out of targets to destroy. Iraq then became effectively an American colony. More appropriately, it became an American albatross with a bill of over 2 trillion dollars and over 4000 dead Americans.
U.S. intervention in Iraq unleashed a civil war from which the country has yet to recover. No day passes now without hapless people being bombed and killed in the internecine sectarian and ethnic warfare that the Americans have provoked in Iraq. Having created this chaos and mayhem resulting in over 650,000 Iraqi deaths, the Americans are now taking to their heels. Yankee has decided to go home, leaving Iraq in a far worse debacle than it ever was under Saddam Hussein.
When President George Bush visited Iraq in December 2008, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist, threw his shoes at him, shouting: “This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog. This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq.”
American blunders: In order to oust the pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the United States helped to install the Taliban in power. One of their major allies then was Osama Bin Laden. But with the Taliban in power, Afghanistan became the citadel of anti-Americanism. Bin Laden transformed into a sworn enemy of the United States, and the Al-Qaeda was born.
In September 11, 2001, the World Trade Centre in New York, the symbol of American prowess and economic success, was literally reduced to smithereens by suicide-bombers of the Al-Qaeda, America’s former allies. The United States declared a “war on terror” and invaded Afghanistan in order to oust the same Taliban regime it helped install, and destroy the Al-Qaeda it mid-wifed. Such are the unanticipated consequences of the United States’ convoluted meddlesomeness.
The Taliban have been more than a match for super-powerful United States. As happened with the Vietcong, they have checkmated the almighty U.S. army in Afghanistan. After fighting in Afghanistan for 12 frustrating years, the United States has finally admitted defeat. There as well, Yankee has now decided to go home. The earlier American swagger has disappeared. The United States has now decided to engage in peace talks with Taliban “terrorists.” With the departure of the Americans, the Taliban should be back in power in a matter of months. The puppet Karzai government installed by the Americans will be easily overthrown. Such is the absurd nature of American interventionism.
American fiasco: In Libya, the U.S. and its Western allies abused a U.N. resolution, using it as a cover for attacking the country and overthrowing Muammar Ghadaffi. In so doing, they have unleashed mayhem yet again in another country.
Libya is now a divided country ruled by gangs of regional warlords. The armoury of Western weaponry stockpiled by Ghaddafi has fallen into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists. These weapons have flowed from Libya through Algeria and even to Mali, where they are used against Western interests. The American “liberators” of Libya got their comeuppance when their consulate in Benghazi was attacked by the beneficiaries of American incursions into Libya, killing the Ambassador and three other Americans. Thus, American interventionism in Libya backfired, as it does virtually everywhere.
American hypocrisy: Nevertheless, the United States is sounding the drums of war again and is preparing for the bombardment of Syria. This time, the excuse is that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own people. The United States, the world’s self-appointed policeman, has declared itself the saviour of the Syrian people. This salvation is to be achieved in classically American fashion: by bombing and destroying Syria.
The Americans are hardly honest-brokers in Syria. They have been covertly supplying arms to the Syrian opposition for some time now. Assad’s overthrow has been a much sought-after American geopolitical interest in the Middle East, as a counter against the rising influence of Iran. Thus, the United States pretends to be the supporter of democratic reform in the region, while its allies include the despotic dictatorships of Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. American grandstanding about the use of chemical weapons is hypocritical. American use of napalm in Vietnam is immortalized in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979), where Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore says: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” The most vivid picture of the Vietnamese war is of a naked little child running away from her burning body after U.S. soldiers used napalm. It is no longer contested by American sources that in 2004, the United States used chemical weapons (napalm and phosphorous bombs) against Iraqi soldiers in Falluja.
It is not inconceivable that the chemical weapons used in Damascus were fired by American-backed Syrian rebels in the bid to trigger U.S. intervention. Before the latest kerfuffle, Turkish media had reported that chemical weapons (specifically the nerve agent Sarin) were found in their possession in Southern Turkey. These rebels include the Al-Qaeda and other extremists. In short, the Americans are blundering yet again; providing weapons to those who will later use them against American interests.
U.S. policy-makers argue that a strike against Syria will provide a warning to Iran that its nuclear weapons programme will not be tolerated. However, the United States is powerless to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. In any case, the United States is the only country in the world that has used nuclear power irresponsibly. The Americans dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan in 1945, resulting in 220,000 gruesome deaths. That action was not needed to defeat Japan. U.S. General Eisenhower admitted in writing that: “Japan was already defeated and dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary.”
American bombs will serve no useful purpose in Syria. There will be civilian casualties as the bombs land in unintended areas. The Russians have already promised to replace any Syrian military assets the Americans destroy. Stockpiles of chemical weapons are too dangerous to destroy from the air. It would appear, yet again, that the Americans are intent on embarking upon a foolhardy venture that can only lead to the escalation of the Syrian conflict.