US adopts wild west diplomacy
The end of the Cold War leaves the remaining superpower free to call the tune
The United States government’s imposition of its pax Americana - loosely translatable as old-fashioned, wild west gun law applied to international relations - grows more brazen all the time.
US imperialism now openly undertakes actions which in the Cold War era of Soviet power would have been done only in secret, or not at all.
Recent weeks have witnessed what appears to be a qualitatively new dimension to this phenomenon. In a radical shift of policy, the Clinton administration has now espoused a policy of overt and direct military intervention in order to remove the heads of government in such ‘pariah’ states as Iraq, Serbia and North Korea. Even the notional constraints governing the US in its role as global gendarme, acting in the interests of the ‘international community’ - adherence to international law and resolutions of the United Nations Security Council - now count for nothing.
The trend towards an increasingly arbitrary use of violence was already apparent in August this year, when the United States deployed cruise missiles against targets in Sudan and Afghanistan in a blatantly adventur-ist show of force designed to execute retaliation for terrorist bomb attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The catalyst for the latest change of strategic direction, whereby individual heads of state are singled out for removal by force - appears to have been the abortive confrontation between the US and Iraq over weapons inspections. Saddam Hussein’s 11th-hour acceptance of the resumption of Unscom inspections thwarted the US’s intention to deal a decisive blow to his regime, and once more exposed the contradiction between the western powers’ alleged aim of containing the military threat allegedly posed by Iraq and their real policy objective of deposing Hussein himself.
The frustration created by this turn of events was evident: secretary of state Madeleine Albright, defence secretary William Cohen and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff general Henry Shelton urged Clinton to go ahead with the planned military onslaught despite Saddam’s climbdown. Only the intervention of national security adviser Sandy Berger appears to have dissuaded the US president from authorising the attack.
Of the five-member UN Security Council, China, Russia and France had sanctioned military action with considerable reluctance. To them, Saddam’s decision must have come as a relief. But the US and the UK could not conceal their disappointment. In a strikingly bellicose statement, Tony Blair declared that there would be “no warnings, no wrangling, no negotiations … The next withdrawal of cooperation and Saddam Hussein will be hit ... I will have no hesitation in ordering the use of force. President Bill Clinton’s position is the same.” In effect the outcome has been the formation of a US-UK axis pledged to remove Saddam, come what may. The strategic objective is, of course, to instigate a coup d’état in Iraq, whereby the essential power structures remain unchanged.
In the immediate aftermath of Saddam’s decision to back down on the Unscom issue, Clinton confirmed the intention of the US to “intensify” its support for “the forces of change” by implementing the Iraq Liberation Act, which was passed by the Republican-dominated Congress in October. Under its provisions, the US will provide $97 million (£60 million) for the military training and equipment of Iraqi opposition groups, with the intention of stimulating a civil war which will lead to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Fomenting an armed uprising in Iraq is, of course, not a new policy - since the end of the Gulf War in 1991, the CIA has funded a futile guerrilla war in Iraqi Kurdistan and an abortive coup by dissident officers of the Iraqi armed forces. Such operations are the bread and butter of imperialist intelligence and special services - the overthrow of the Allende regime in Chile in 1973 was engineered with the help of some 400 CIA ‘advisers’. What is new about the present situation, however, is the overt espousal of the cult of force by the US and British governments in what amounts to the militarisation of international relations.
Prior to the collapse of the USSR, the imperialist powers were restrained both militarily and ideologically from giving free rein to their appetite for intervention in the affairs of sovereign states. The need to preserve their mythical ‘moral superiority’ meant that such intervention was for the most part conducted on a clandestine and deniable basis. The collapse of the USSR freed them from such constraints, and the increasingly aggressive stance of the US towards any state which fails to comply with its demands is a reflection of the fact that there is now only one super-power.
While not totally unrestrained to exercise its dominion on a global scale, US imperialism can target those isolated, medium to small powers that refuse to accept imperialist hegemony. Trampling on conventional notions of sovereignty and territorial integrity, the US declares that certain states are effectively ‘outlaws’ and that their leaders are ‘wanted dead or alive’.
Hence, Clinton has decreed that the government in Belgrade must be ‘toppled’ by the removal of Milosevic himself. To this end, the US openly reveals its intention to exploit current tensions between Serbia and Montenegro as a means of breaking up the Yugoslav federation, the aim being to install Milo Djukanovic, the supposedly pro-western dictator of Montenegro.
The arbitrariness and sheer criminal irresponsibility of US foreign policy in the Balkans is exemplified by a rumoured volte face in its attitude to the crisis over Kosova. To date the Clinton administration has steadfastly turned its back on Kosova’s aspirations to independence. Now, in order to weaken the position of Milosevic, it is apparently intent on playing the Kosova card. The alleged objective of US policy, inspired by Richard Gebhardt, the president’s special envoy, is to create conditions in which the US can back out of what threatens to be a long-term military commitment to ‘peace-keeping’ in the region. Yet the power-play on which the US is set to embark risks bringing about a resurgence of armed conflict in which thousands more in the former Yugoslavia will lose their lives.
The clearest example of the dangers arising from the US’s unfettered domination of global politics can be seen in its venture into military ‘diplomacy’ in the Korean peninsula. In order to topple the regime of Kim Jong-il, it would appear from a deliberately leaked joint chiefs of staff planning memorandum that the US is prepared to contemplate launching an aggressive, full-scale war against the People’s Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
According to a report placed in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the US will exploit any North Korean military threat to the South as an excuse for an outright invasion of the DPRK using South Korean ground forces supported by American naval and air units. The ‘thinking’ - or rather the transparent pretext - on which this threat is based is that the DPRK’s current dire economic situation, which has resulted in wide-scale famine, might lead Kim Jong-il to launch a military adventure of his own.
This case differs from the other two we have mentioned in some important respects. In the first place, any attempt to remove the Pyongyang government is certain to meet with fierce resistance. Casualties and material damage would be on a scale not encountered by US forces since their humiliating defeat by the Vietnamese. Given the fact that the DPRK is believed to have extracted enough plutonium for the construction of at least three nuclear warheads, the possibility of a nuclear conflagration on the peninsula could not be excluded. Interestingly, the leaked document’s extremely aggressive tone is at odds with the cautious and relatively conciliatory position adopted by the US defence department within recent days, a fact that suggests the possibility of political infighting between senior US military officers and Pentagon officials. The document also departs from the so-called “sunshine” policy of trying to defuse intra-Korean tension currently being followed by South Korean government under president Kim Dae-jung.
As with Iraq, the DPRK is being accused of violating weapons agreements - in this case by allegedly constructing an underground nuclear missile facility in contravention of the 1994 agreement that obliged the DPRK to cease work on its nuclear weapons programme. The nature of this facility has supposedly been determined using pictures from a US spy satellite, but even the US special envoy in the region, Charles Kartman, has stated that the Pentagon lacks “conclusive evidence” to substantiate its claims.
Given the unreliability of American intelligence - as evidenced by the fiasco in Sudan last August and by the failure of the CIA to warn the US government of the recent Indian nuclear weapons test - little reliance can be placed on their reports about this purported weapons site.
Even if true, they would in no wise justify retaliation in the form of an invasion by a US-South Korean task force. The leaked strategic plan has yet to be officially confirmed by the US and South Korean top brass, but its eventual confirmation would mark a serious heightening of the war danger. Nothing is more likely to consolidate Kim Jong-il’s tyrannical grip on his disintegrating country than the threat of a US invasion.
To make such a threat is grossly irresponsible on the part of the US and could have disastrous consequences for millions of people. Clearly, the unchallenged hegemony of the United States as the world’s only remaining super-power constitutes an increasingly grave menace to humankind.