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Foreign Policy, Lord Palmerston And Appendectomies

By       Message Conn Hallinan     Permalink
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Cross-posted from Dispatches From The Edge

From flickr.com/photos/42310076@N04/15073953919/: Let's do it!
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(image by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff)
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Thinking about these days brings to mind a line from songwriter/comedian Tom Lehrer: if you are feeling like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis you have good reason.

1) The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is creating a Rapid Reaction Force to challenge Russian "aggression" in Ukraine, and the U.S., the European Union, and Russia are lobbing sanctions at each other that have thrown Europe back into a recession. Russian planes are buzzing U.S. and Canadian warships in the Black Sea.

2) The U.S. is bombing Iraq and Syria in an effort to halt the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), while at the same time supporting insurgents trying to overthrow the Assad regime in Damascus -- the pool from which ISIL was created.

3) After 13 years of war, Afghanistan is on the verge of a civil war over the last presidential election, while the Taliban have stepped up their attacks on the Afghan military and civil authorities.

4) Libya has essentially dissolved as a country, but not without supplying insurgents in central Africa and Nigeria with greatly enhanced firepower.
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5) The U.S. encouraged the Japanese government to bypass Article 9 of Japan's peace constitution that restricted deploying its military outside of Japan. Washington also committed the U.S. to support Tokyo in the event of a clash with China over the ownership of a handful of islands in the East China Sea. American, Japanese and Chinese warships and military aircraft have been playing chicken with one another in the East and South China seas.

What is going on? Did some Greek open a box she shouldn't have? Is the Obama administration -- take your choice -- incompetent? Trying to wind down two of America's longest wars? Giving liberal cover to a neo-conservative strategy to re-institute a new cold war? Following an agenda?

How about all of them?

There certainly has been incompetence. The 2009 surge into Afghanistan did nothing but kill a lot of people, and the Libya intervention substituted Chaos Theory for diplomacy.

It is also true that old wars are winding down. In 2008 there were 110,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and 182,000 in Iraq. By the end of 2014 there will be no U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and -- at this time -- only a handful in Iraq.

Cover for the neo-cons? The Obama administration did help engineer the coup in Ukraine, and Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland -- who oversaw the action and handpicked the interim coup president -- was Dick Cheney's principle foreign policy adviser.

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And the U.S. certainly has an agenda, which may best be summed up by 19th century British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary Henry Lord Palmerston -- England's hammer of empire, who oversaw the Opium Wars with China and the Crimean War with Russia: "We have no eternal allies and we have no eternal enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and these interests it is our duty to follow."

What are our "interests" in Ukraine?

Certainly not spreading democracy. We supported a coup against a corrupt, but legally elected oligarch, and replaced him with another oligarch in an election that excluded half the country.

There are, in fact, multiple currents at play. During the Cold War, disagreements about foreign policy among the ruling elites were suppressed by the overarching need to defeat what was perceived as a real threat to capitalism, the socialist world. "Politics stops at the water's edge" was the watchword back then. But once that threat evaporated with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, those disagreements were free to come pouring out. Democrats and Republicans now openly sabotage one another's policies in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, and different wings of both parties battle over using the American military.

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http://dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com
Conn M. Hallinan is a columnist for Foreign Policy In Focus, "A Think Tank Without Walls, and an independent journalist. He holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. He oversaw the (more...)
 

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