By Faiz Ahmed
I had to read an interesting book for class called “Killing Hope – US Military and CIA Intervention Since World War 2” authored by William Blum.
Blum was an employee of the State Department and he resigned in 1967 because he did not agree with what the US government was doing in Vietnam.
He has since then worked to expose the interventions that have been carried out in the name of the citizens of USA and with their tax dollars.
The United States of America has intervened in the political affairs of different countries in the world many times. There are a few different reasons for the US to have followed a policy of intervention in the foreign political arena.
The first reason which is the basis for all other reasons is to maintain US hegemonic control over the rest of the world. Hegemony means control and influence. The control of the economy of the other nations of the world is the key idea. To control the economy of a foreign country would mean to control the politics of that country by deposing the leaders that are not subservient to the interests of the US and to put in place leaders that are subservient.
The original idea was thought out by historian Brooks Adams. It was Adams that thought out that with the loss of British hegemony, the position of the leader of the world was free for the taking. Other thinkers and politicians who also saw this phenomenon understood that the way to gain control was by way of economic superiority. At the time, American products were far more cost effective and American companies and manufacturers were leading the world in terms of technological advancements. The problem that remained was of not being able to finding new markets to sell to.
The European Colonizers had their ‘realms of influence’ and other manufacturing nations or ‘economic blocs’ could not trade in each other’s territories without a lot of tariffs. This reasoning was the seed of the policy of intervention. Because of this it was imperative to want the complete death of rival economic power blocs and spheres of economic influence so that all countries would be able to trade with America.
The rise of the military industrial complex is another factor. H Rap Brown, a senior leader of the erstwhile Black Panther Party is known to have said that “It is profitable for America to go to war”.
To illustrate this, it is necessary to understand who the stake holders are in the profit making game of war, death and destruction.
The military equipment manufacturers definitely benefit from war. The Federal Reserve Bank aka the Banker to the government is a beneficiary in the war game. The government borrows funds from the Federal Reserve Bank to pay for its expenses. The businesses who will then acquire contracts for the rebuilding of the war torn nations find it beneficial for America to go to war. The ‘Department of Defense’ receives a higher budget in times of war. The products that are produced in America will be sold in these new territories and thereby increase the flow of money into the US and thus international companies find it profitable to go to war. Oil and resource corporations find it profitable to get resource extraction contracts in countries with huge resource reservoirs and thus they also find it profitable for the US military to depose any government that tries to nationalize their natural resources.
Most of these interest groups lobby in the congress for legislation and foreign activity in to be carried out in their favor. Many people who hold equity in military, banking, and oil resource sectors also old high offices in the government.
Apart from hegemony, and the military industrial complex, there is another factor that calls for interventions and that is the value of the dollar. Since it is no longer pegged to the gold standard, rather to the vague and complex phenomenon of demand and supply of currencies, almost all international trade is done in American dollars. The two major oil exchanges in the world, London and New York use the dollar as the currency of trade.
Thus this keeps the dollar afloat because of the demand created. It is then necessary to keep any other currency from becoming the international currency instead of the dollar so as to keep the value of the artificially created dollar demand alive.
A fourth reason that is also responsible for interventions and war is that it is a way for a president to consolidate power in a divided congress and history shows that war time presidents have a stronger approval rating. That happens until the population is not sick and tired of war.
It is also a matter of national embarrassment to walk away from a war that was started previously.
Methods of Intervention
The principal methods of intervention usually change from time to time. The methods used have been covert operations, overt operations, and all out war.
In his book Blum goes through many of the methods used case by case. For instance in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, the foreign intervention has been war and the toppling of regimes. In places like Italy it has been leveraging the public opinion by money and threats so as to buy votes for the pro American party. In places like Philippines, it has been conventional war and a mixture of psychological war based on the superstitions of the uneducated class. In places like Iran (to get rid of democratically elected President Mosaddiq) the use of indiscriminate violence carried out in the name of President Mosaddiq. This is called the false flag attack.
In places like china, funding the anti-Chinese rebel forces to harass the Chinese government by staging frequent attacks on military and public sites of interest.
All out war and regime changes are usually coupled with propaganda machinery. Whole villages and towns have been leveled by bombs just to get the point across to the populations of these countries that if they do not agree to the American way then more bloodshed would follow.
The justification the US uses, usually follow the few patterns that have been tried and tested.
The Communist scare – any country that got freedom from colonization and tried to institute planned economies that restricted opportunities to foreign companies was blamed and called communist.
The propaganda employed in the US against communism and socialism has been so strong that anytime the word communism was used then it was a legitimate reason to attack and interfere.
Another reason that was used was “that the people did not know how to govern
themselves and if left to their own devices would destroy themselves and those around them”. This was the way with the Philippines occupation by America.
The newer means has been the Islamic scare. It worked very well with communism but since the USSR fell, the new bogey man was the Islamic theocratic system.
It was easy to try to connect Saddam Hussein’s regime to Al-Qaeda although both the groups despised each other. However the American people did not know of that.
Another way was to make the American public believe that America was working to spread democracy and was interfering to “liberate” the people in the foreign countries.
Results of Intervention
The results of this expansionist, imperial policy of the US has had many nasty consequences. There is a growing resentment of America outside the US. Most people see the US as a threat to world peace. Many times the world votes as a whole in one direction and the US and two or three allies vote in their own self interest. A vibrant anti American culture and resentment is noticeable in the world outside. However many countries the US intervened in now have friendly relation with the US and trade with the US. Vietnam, China, Italy and Russia now trade freely with the US although they maintain resentment in the undercurrent of social consciousness in these places.
It would be fair to say that in the first four decades after WW2, US intervention has inhibited revolutionary change in many countries. The US has been successful in the majority of its interventions and has quelled rebellions and revolutions and kept these countries part of the American economic system. The American economic system has been given the name “Globalization” so as to keep the world from thinking that all the countries have an equal footing in trading with each other. However a few countries have come out stronger, China and North Korea for instance.
In the last decade however, with the US intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq, insurgencies and anti occupation forces have been having more sway. The Obama administration has on the table the plan to leave Iraq (or at least the idea and promise to do so) and Afghanistan is proving to be quite a challenge. In recent months, the US has had a few of the deadliest months in both these countries in terms of US fatalities and the resistance fighters are gaining support every day.