Monday, 6 January 2020

What's wrong with American imperialism?


If memory serves, the Iraq war was, politically, much like Brexit. Though there was vocal public opposition, you could find national polls in favour of the invasion. I was among them. I wasn't taken in by the WMD's baloney, but I did believe Iraq could be liberated and turned into a halfway functioning democracy. I also thought we should show unequivocal solidarity with the USA. Though the link to 9/11 was tenuous, the USA was on a philosophical crusade whose aims (the export of democracy) I supported.

I thought it could be done and had a few variables been different, it might well have succeeded. What we saw, though, was military incompetence on the back of a number of flawed assumptions. By the time we had a handle on the politics of the situation it was already too late. That said, what stands in Iraq now is based on the constitution they voted for and have since developed. The jury, for me at least, is still out.

In respect of what happened next, ISIS and all that, I do not blame the West as is fashionable to do. Iran has played a role, as did Syria, and a wider regional war was always an inevitability. These despotic regimes were bound to fail eventually. One could even argue that the presence of US forces ensured that Iraq's war of reckoning resulted in far fewer deaths than have occurred in Syria, which is still an ongoing conflict.

I'm also of the view that the West can't win whatever it does. The same people slamming the West for the state Libya is now in would have been viscerally critical of the west had they allowed Gaddafi to slaughter Libyans as per his stated intent. We'd have been accused of propping up an evil regime. From the same crowd it's always "American imperialism", but then when America chooses not to act it's "American isolationism".

As it happens, the initial operation was a success by any military metric with minimal loss of life, only there was no appetite for committing ground troops precisely because of the mess we made of Iraq. Only we left a power vacuum and the international response has been piecemeal and inadequate. The consequences are still felt a decade later with Libya essentially in a state of anarchy and haven for terrorists and people smugglers.

The basic problem, however, is that whatever we do, we face forces at home and abroad who do not want us to succeed while we are forced to choose regional allies out of expedience when there are none who could be said to be good actors. It seems all we can do is limp from one mess to the next at enormous expense. The temptation to do nothing at all is great, but that too has consequences. Decision making in that domain is an unenviable task.

As regards to the big picture, I still broadly support the USA. After all the USA was instrumental in the creation of the global rules based order, which has since been used to undermine US aims, and has become mired in corruption, but ultimately the USA is founded on an idea of human freedoms it continues to promote internationally and will commit its military to those ends (unlike say, the mealy mouthed EU that will sit on its hands in all eventualities chiefly because there is no unity of purpose and no common values beyond the platitudes they spout).

Though international politics is riddled with hypocrisy, the USA is still beacon of freedom, and despite its flaws, is still the global defender of liberal values. The world is generally better when the US wins and the despots lie face down, dead in a sewer. For all that there are those ever ready to condemn Trump, the landscape we see now is one fashioned by Obama who made his own miscalculations in the naive belief that a softer approach would yield greater cooperation from America's enemies.

The liberal globalist consensus believed that treating China as a market economy, showing them love would see China opening up and liberalising. Instead that weakness was exploited. That same strategic naivety was applied to Iran and Iran has clearly done the same. These are not nice people we are dealing with and they're not looking to do us any favours. They are behind efforts to destabilise Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere, and their intent is, unlike the US, wholly malevolent. I'm not going to lose any sleep if America does what it feels it has to.

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