Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
New American Reality:
An Empire Beyond
Salvation Due to Neo-Con Wars
By Ramzy Baroud
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, April 15, 2014
US Secretary of State John Kerry couldn’t hide his frustration
anymore as the US-sponsored peace process continued to falter. After 8
months of wrangling to push talks between Israel and the Palestinian
Authority forward, he admitted while in a visit to Morocco on April 04 that
the latest setback had served as a ‘reality check’ for the peace process.
But confining that reality check to the peace process is hardly
representative of the painful reality through which the United States has
been forced to subsist in during the last few years.
The state of US
foreign policy in the Middle East, but also around the world, cannot be
described with any buoyant language. In some instances, as in Syria, Libya,
Egypt, the Ukraine, and most recently in Palestine and Israel, too many
calamitous scenarios have exposed the fault lines of US foreign policy. The
succession of crises is not allowing the US to cut its losses in the Middle
East and stage a calculated ‘pivot’ to Asia following its disastrous Iraq
US foreign policy is almost entirely crippled.
Obama administration, it has been a continuous firefighting mission since
George W. Bush left office. In fact, there have been too many ‘reality
checks’ to count.
Per the logic of the once powerful pro-Israel
Washington-based neoconservatives, the invasion of Iraq was a belated
attempt at regaining initiative in the Middle East, and controlling a
greater share of the energy supplies worldwide. Sure, the US media had then
made much noise about fighting terror, restoring democracies and heralding
freedoms, but the neo-cons were hardly secretive about the real objectives.
They tirelessly warned about the decline of their country’s fortunes. They
labored to redraw the map of the Middle East in a way that they imagined
would slow down the rise of China, and the other giants that are slowly, but
surely, standing on their feet to face up to the post-Cold War superpower.
But all such efforts were bound to fail. The US escaped Iraq, but only
after altering the balance of power and creating new classes of winners and
losers. The violence of the invasion and occupation scarred Iraq, but also
destabilized neighboring countries by overwhelming their economies,
augmenting militancy and creating more pressure cookers in political spaces
that were, until then, somewhat ‘stable’.
The war left America
fatigued, and set the course for a transition in the Middle East, although
not the kind of transition that the likes of former Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice had championed. There was no ‘New Middle East’ per
se, but rather an old one that is in much worse shape than ever before. When
the last US soldier scheduled to leave Iraq had crossed the border into
Kuwait in Dec 2011, the US was exposed in more ways than one. The limits of
US military power was revealed – by not winning, it had lost. Its economy
proved fragile – as it continues to teeter between collapse and ‘recovery.’
It was left with zero confidence among its friends. As for its enemies, the
US was no longer a daunting menace, but a toothless tiger.
a short period in US foreign policy strategy in which Washington needed to
count its losses, regroup and regain initiative, but not in the Middle East.
The Asia pacific region, especially the South China Sea, seemed to be the
most rational restarting point, and for a good reason.
Forbes magazine in Washington, Robert D. Kaplan described the convergence
underway in the Asia pacific region. He wrote, “Russia is increasingly
shifting its focus of energy exports to East Asia. China is on track to
perhaps become Russia’s biggest export market for oil before the end of the
The Middle East is itself changing directions, as the
region’s hydrocarbon production is increasingly being exported there; Russia
is covering the East Asia realm, according to Kaplan, as “North America will
soon be looking more and more to the Indo-Pacific region to export its own
energy, especially natural gas.”
But the US is still being pulled
into too many different directions. It has attempted to police the world
exclusively for its own interests for the last 25 years. It failed. ‘Cut and
run’ is essentially an American foreign policy staple, and that too is a
botched approach. Even after the piecemeal US withdrawal from Iraq, the US
is too deeply entrenched in the Middle East region to achieve a clean break.
The US took part in the Libya war, but attempted to do so while masking
its action as part of a larger NATO drive, so that it shoulders only part of
the blame when things went awry, as they predictably have. Since the January
25 revolution, its position on Egypt was perhaps the most inconsistent of
all Western powers, unmistakably demonstrating its lack of clarity and
relevance to a country with a massive size and influence. However, it was in
Syria that US weaknesses were truly exposed. Military intervention was not
possible – and for reasons none of which were moralistic. Its political
influence proved immaterial. And most importantly, its own legions of allies
throughout the Middle East are walking away from beneath the American
leadership banner. The new destinations are Russia for arms and China for
President Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi
Arabia in late March might’ve been a step too little too late to repair its
weakening alliances in the region. Even if the US was ready to mend fences,
it neither has the political will, the economic potency or the military
prowess to be effective. True, the US still possesses massive military
capabilities and remains the world’s largest economy. But the commitment
that the Middle East would require from the US at this time of multiple wars
and revolutions is by no means the kind of commitment the US is ready to
impart. In a way, the US has ‘lost’ the Middle East.
‘pivot’ to Asia is likely to end in shambles. On the one hand, the US
opponents, Russia notwithstanding, have grown much more assertive in recent
years. They too have their own agendas, which will keep the US and its
willing European allies busy for years. The Russian move against Crimea had
once more exposed the limits of US and NATO in regions outside the
conventional parameters of western influence.
If the US proved
resourceful enough to stage a fight in the South China Sea and the East
China Sea, the battle – over energy supplies, potential reserves, markets
and routes – is likely to be the most grueling yet. China is not Iraq before
the US invasion –broken by decades of war, siege and sanctions. Its
geography is too vast to besiege, and its military too massive to destroy
with a single ‘shock and awe’.
The US has truly lost the initiative,
in the Middle East region and beyond it. The neo-cons’ drunkenness with
military power led to costly wars that have overwhelmed the empire beyond
salvation. And now, the US foreign policy makers are mere diplomatic
firefighters, from Palestine, to Syria to the Ukraine. For the Americans,
the last few years have been more than a ‘reality check’, but the new
- Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated
columnist, a media consultant, an author and the editor of
PalestineChronicle.com. He is a PhD candidate at the University of Exeter,
UK. His latest book is “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold
Story” (Pluto Press, London).