Inter Press Service
The events unraveling in the Middle East have proved that the vaunted “Arab Spring” has turned into a searing summer of wildfires exploding unpredictably in diverse Islamic fronts without competent firemen to hose down the unmanageable conflagration.
It confirms that Washington has lost its grip on managing and/or directing global politics according to its agenda.
Global events spinning out of its control is another sign of declining U.S. power. Its shrinking power has manifested in two main ways.
On the one hand, the U.S. has lost its way in the flowery rhetoric of President Obama. His grandstanding speech at Cairo University has ended in producing two extremes in Egypt: 1) the democracy of the Muslim Brotherhood led by Mohammed Morsi and 2) the military coup that overthrew the Morsi government elected by Egyptians.
Both situations have placed Washington in a dilemma: it could not act against the democratically elected government of Morsi nor could it act against the illegal coup of Gen. Abdel Fattah El Sisi. Action against Morsi would have been condemned as betraying Washington’s commitment to democratic principles.
And action against Sisi would have been against U.S. self-interests. Its power and options are so limited that it is left watching while Egypt slides into virtual chaos.
On the other hand, and more damagingly, the U.S. is sinking in a bottomless debt hole running into trillions, inhibiting its power to act as freely as it did in its hegemonic days.
In 2010, the Washington Post revealed that the Iraqi war has cost three trillion dollars. Quoting Prof. Joseph E. Stiglitz of Columbia University and Linda J. Bilmes of Harvard University, it said that “if anything, it [that number] is too low”.
Mark Thompson of Time reported that the real cost of the war on terror, since 9/11 (including the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan) is five trillion dollars. And counting.
A report by Brown University’s Watson Institute of International Studies put the total deaths at an “extremely conservative estimate” to be 225,000, with 365,000 wounded.
These grim statistics lead to the ineluctable question: after investing human capital, money and material, what has the U.S. got in return—other than an incurable cancer eating into its body politic?
Its advertised role in Iraq was to restore democracy and stabilise the divided nation. The strategy was to train and equip an Iraqi force to take on the responsibilities after the U.S. leaves Iraq.
According to estimates, the U.S. invested 25 billion dollars in building up the Iraqi forces alone. But when the armed forces of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) / Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) attacked Mosul and Tikrit the American-trained Iraqi soldiers shed their military uniforms and fled.
Having withdrawn earlier, President Obama is dithering, not knowing whether to send troops again or not. Unable to face the reality of the total failure of U.S. policy, President Obama and the State Department are blaming Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister who was handpicked and planted in Baghdad by Washington as their man.
It’s Vietnam all over again.
With a few exceptions, the failure of Big Powers to fix internal affairs of other troubled nations has been a recurring feature. Big Powers assume that they know the answer, and when their interventions fail they blame the victims of their misguided meddlesome politics.
Right now Washington is blaming Maliki for the rise ISIS forces advancing towards Baghdad.
In the Middle East, in particular, the interventions have undoubtedly exacerbated the ground situation, leading to a post-interventionist period of chaos.
Eventually, the burden of restoring normalcy falls in the laps of local regimes taking over from the foreign interventionists.
The legacy of the failed policies of the interventionists gathers a momentum of its own, adding to the burdens of the victims of interventionists.
The unbearable part of the post-interventionist period is the callous disregard of the interventionists for the consequences they leave behind.
At this point they disown total responsibility and gang up to accuse the victims of their follies, as if they had no hand in it. They pretend as if they have been the misunderstood do-gooders who were not allowed to fulfill their constructive role.
This is the ruse they adopt in the post-interventionist phase to absolve themselves and divert attention away from their responsibilities arising from misguided roles. They come in on the principle of Responsibility to Protect.
When they leave there is none to take on the “Responsibility for the Destruction and Chaos” they leave behind. Overnight they turn into Pontius Pilates passing the buck to victims of their destruction.
This washing of hands, coupled with the tactic of blaming their victims, is absolutely hypocritical and counterproductive for their own domestic stability and that of the world at large.
Washington’s prescriptions for global cures are no better than the smallpox blankets offered to the Native American Indians.
These days they don’t offer infected blankets to their helpless victims. These days they send drones to wipe out those human beings they don’t like. It’s the same old death-dealing policy of human extermination but with different tools.
The world is lurching from crisis to crisis because the U.S.-led interventions are making bad situations worse.
H.L.D. Mahindapala is a senior Sri Lankan journalist residing in Australia.