For too long, American foreign policy has been dominated by the doctrine of American Exceptionalism. There are variations in the public face of policy between the so-called liberals and the right wing, but essentially the basic marketing plan is the same: the United States is the world’s only (and greatest ever) superpower and as such has an obligation to intervene wherever necessary to preserve freedom and democracy and protect American enterprise. Stripped of its marketing veneer, this is old-fashioned “white man’s burden” colonialism updated for the modern age.
As with colonialism, the external civilizing rationale is a cover for the actual motivations: greed and the lust for power. With neocolonialism, like its predecessor, the needs and even the lives of the people whose government is overthrown are not worth consideration — they are collateral damage of the drive toward “progress.”
In recent decades, we have seen the international bankers, led by the IMF and World Bank and the US megabanks, act first by putting the target country into debt far beyond their ability to pay. This was the message of John Perkins’ excellent work in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. Once the target nation was in over its head, the country was forced to impose austerity on its citizens and use its resources to pay back the bankers. As Perkins described, this technique was used to great effect in the 1970s and 1980s in Latin America and Asia and elsewhere in the developing world. If the nation’s leaders objected to funneling their people’s wealth to Wall Street, the CIA was more than happy to cook up a plot to assassinate or overthrow them and insure their replacement was a willing pawn of the United States.
Today this same technique has been used in Greece, Spain and Ireland which were previously defanged by joining in the European currency union managed by the German banks. Unlike the developing nations who could have simply defaulted and stuck the banks with their well-deserved losses, these nations no longer had control over their currency so had no choice. Their people got brutal austerity so the bankers could be paid off.
In the developing world, a new paradigm has arisen. A nation that has abundant natural resources or acts as a natural conduit for the resources of another is targeted even if it has no significant national debt. First the National Endowment for Democracy and its slave NGOs move in to “build democracy,” by which they mean support groups in the country that oppose the government even if that government is democratically elected (i.e., Ukraine and Venezuela). These groups get training often in the United States in techniques of organizing protest demonstrations, and can range from genuine peaceful organizations that strive to win elections to outright fascists and terrorists who see a chance to gain power and loot the country for themselves. The NGO and the State Department simply don’t care and find both useful…
Once the billions in US taxpayer dollars and the sophisticated techniques taught by the NGO’s have done their work, the “democracy” groups are encouraged to take to the streets. When they do, they are inevitably hailed by the US government and its lackeys in the mainstream media as freedom loving peaceful citizens protesting a corrupt and/or undemocratic government. The government is loudly encouraged to treat the protestors with kid gloves and work out an accommodation with them. (One only has to recall how the United States government dealt with the Occupy protestors to find the irony there.)
If the government fails to roll over and play dead, the next phase is to release the snipers (origin unknown). They first take potshots at the police or security forces trying to incite them take violent action against the demonstrators, who by this time are more belligerent than before. If they do, then the “Responsibility to Protect” or R2P doctrine is wheeled into service to give the US or NATO or some other handy proxy an excuse to intervene to protect the poor beleaguered freedom-loving citizens from their repressive government. If the government doesn’t get suckered in by this ploy, the snipers simply turn their weapons on their fellow demonstrators and blame the government for it. The State Department and the sycophantic press corps never question this and R2P can be employed just as effectively.
What comes next depends on the strength of the target nation’s government and the value of its resources. The weaker governments, like that of Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine, collapse and the strongest voices in the mob seize power. Those are usually the most extreme and violent factions of course, but they will readily do the bidding of the US in order to gain power. If the prize is great enough (if there is oil underneath the ground), then the nation is invaded or bombed to insure that the most extreme and violent opposition factions are put in power (Libya). If not, a prolonged civil war complete with imported weapons and terrorists can ensue as in Syria.
In most cases, these are resource wars. The targeted nation has oil or gas or is the most efficient route for a pipeline to bring oil and gas from some other source to Western markets. The military/industrial/espionage complex is serving the energy industry as well as the financial industry, both of which are dependent on the continued flow of oil and gas to the US and the profits to be gained from controlling the market for these vital resources in the future. It is easy to get support for this neocolonial resource grab because the entire built environment in America is completely dependent on the continued availability of cheap petroleum and natural gas. Every American is concerned about prices at the pump or the cost of heating and that legitimate concern can be easily diverted into support for a foreign policy designed to control oil and gas worldwide as well as unbridled domestic production regardless of the environmental cost. Conservation is for wimps, not superpowers.
This is American foreign policy in 2014. The only fair descriptive terms for this policy are immoral, insane, disgusting, megalomaniac and evil. There is no way to adjust this policy or modify it and achieve a morally defensible result. This is a systemic evil and it must be completely replaced. We could settle for some minor tweaks in policy and a kinder, gentler marketing stance, but in our hearts we would know it was fake and so would everyone else in the world.
Two questions follow:
• What is the appropriate foreign policy for the USA?
• How can it be achieved?
Let’s tackle the first question.
The first objective for a sane foreign policy is that we look long and hard at ourselves — who we think we are and what we are consuming. Before we can hope to change foreign policy, we have to change the attitude that America is entitled to consume 25% of the world’s resources when we have only 5% of the population. We have to reject the idea that American corporations are entitled to go into every nation in the world and reap profits at the expense of the local population. We also have to face the evil that we have done in the world and stand ready to do what we can to right those wrongs.
What would be the logical first steps?
• Close down the NSA and make its work public with an apology to those who have been hurt by it.
• Close down the CIA’s operations division and publish its sordid history on the internet with only the names of the living innocent redacted. Remove the yes-men who have risen to power in the CIA’s analytical division with people who have the courage to tell the truth to power.
• Repeal and disavow NAFTA and the WTO and all the bilateral and multilateral trade agreements that favor American business over the interests of the people of America and other nations.
• Reduce the size of the military budget by at least 50% and bring all US armed forces stationed overseas home.
• Shut down the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID and all other alleged NGO’s that have acted as a front for the CIA and American foreign policy interests.
• Nationalize the energy industry so they can no longer control our government and launch a massive campaign to conserve energy.
• End support of the highway and automotive and associated industries and initiate a massive project to build an alternative transportation infrastructure that is not dependent on oil.
• Break up the big banks and reform or replace the Federal Reserve so that no bank can ever pose a systemic risk to the economy.
• Setup a Foreign Reparations Administration to channel some of the money we have saved in the preceding steps to provide needed aid to the countries that have been the victims of our foreign policy, from Greece to Ukraine.
There’s no need to go further. It is readily apparent that these are politically impossible goals. So we have the questions in the wrong order. We cannot achieve these goals unless and until the people of the United States take control of their government away from the corporations, banks and the wealthy oligarchs. They will not even begin to move in that direction until they come to realize that their interests and the interests of the wealthy who own the corporations and banks are completely opposite to one another. That realization will not come until they reject the media and the consumer culture or if the economy collapses to the extent that the realization is shoved in their face. If that happens, it might be too late.