Africa & Beyond

American Gunboat Diplomacy and Global Security

If they want peace, nations must avoid the pin pricks that precede canon shots

Napoleon Bonaparte

Relations between the United States of America (USA) and other countries go back to the onset of her history as a nation-state, but the Second World War was a defining period, so we’ll commence this discourse from there.

While most of America’s industrial rivals – such as Germany, Britain, France, Japan, Italy et al – were either softened or completely devastated by the war, the U.S profited largely from it. No battle was fought on her soil and her production increased exponentially. Long before the commencement of the war, the U.S had been by far the leading industrial power – a position she has retained since the turn of the preceding century. The U.S emerged from the war as the first true global power. She had over 50% of the world’s wealth and literally controlled both sides of both oceans. Never in recorded history had any nation possessed such stupendous wealth, near total control of the world, or such astounding security.

globeThe eggheads who plan American policy – domestic and foreign – were visionary strategists who foresaw that the U.S would emerge from the II World War as the new world power. So, in the course of the war, and afterwards, they were carefully planning how to shape the postwar world. American planners – from those in the State Department to those on the Council on Foreign Relations (the main channel through which captains of industry determine foreign policy drives) – concurred that the overwhelming dominance of the U.S had to be maintained, using all available means. This was based on the thinking that the nation’s new status – economically, militarily, politically and in other significant ramifications – made her an object of envy and resentment. Thus, the real task before the think-tank of U.S policy was to devise a pattern of relationships that would help maintain a position of disparity. To this end, comprehensive plans were developed for the post-war world in terms of what was codenamed the ‘Grand Area’ – which was to be totally subordinated to the needs of the American economy. The Grand Area which was divided into raw materials catchment areas were to include the Western Hemisphere, Western Europe, the Far East, the defunct British Empire (which was in decline), the surplus energy wealth of the Middle East (which were passing into American hands as she pushed out her rivals, France and Britain), the rest of the Third World, and by extension the entire globe.

Towards achieving her lofty goal of global dominance, a general consensus was reached that all sentimentality and day-dreaming were to be dispensed with, with full attention concentrated everywhere on immediate national objectives. Vague objectives, such as human rights, raising the living standards, and democratization, were to be relegated to the background, as they were seen as idealistic slogans that could hamper the speedy achievement of more practical national objectives. A cursory glance through official Policy papers such as National Security Council Memorandum 68 (1950), Policy Planning Study23, National Security Memorandum, NSC 1 (1948) and other similar documents, clearly shows the bent of U.S policy from the beginning – to establish, secure, and promote the interests of the American state and her people over those of others. Since the U.S is an open society, these documents are available for further research.

To secure this vast treasure chest, a very intimidating posture had to be assumed; a frightening appearance that would ensure that no other party would dare interfere with this ambitious project. This was the major reason for the mad rush to acquire nuclear armaments (especially during the Cold War years), setting up of military bases in strategic parts of the globe, direct or covert interventions in troubled spots of the world to supposedly keep the peace, together with other moves that were geared towards deterring any form of challenge to her imperial mandate. According to the saying, ‘if you want to lead with your strength, play your strong card’. The strong card of the U.S is force. The thinking is that if the U.S can establish the principle that force rules the world, that’s a victory for her.

It is in the light of this forceful mien that countries that attempt to show the good example that they can progress without U.S assistance are either branded communists (during the Cold War era) or terrorists states. From her contradictory “Good Neighbor Policy” in the Americas, which resulted in the harsh crucifixion of El Salvador, the headmasterish reprimanding of Nicaragua, the genocidal depopulation of Guatemala, the outright invasion of Panama; to the insidious inoculation of Southeast Asia, the unlicensed invasions of Iraq (Gulf War I & II), the vindictive instigation of the Libyan Civil War, the Scotched Earth campaigns in Vietnam and Indo-China, and countless other adventures across the globe, the U.S has been the real denominator; the big man wielding the big stick ready to beat recalcitrant countries into line; the choir master orchestrating the elegy of sweat, tears and blood that has become the sad lot of all the unfortunate countries that have fallen prey to the whims of the power politics of the U.S. But this ability to use extreme force was limited during the Cold War era, especially in very remote areas such as third world countries, where she did not have a large conventional force advantage, as any attempt to employ force in these areas would (possibly) have resulted in a Third World War since the now balkanized (Communist) Soviet union was allied with some governments and political movements the U.S sort to suppress. With Soviet deterrent gone, the U.S became more emboldened to use force anywhere in the world.

The use of force seems to be embedded in America’s character. Back in 1818, John Quincy Adams hailed the ‘salutary efficacy’ of terror in dealing with ‘mingled hordes of lawless Indians and negroes’. He wrote that to justify Andrew Jackson’s rampages in Florida which virtually annihilated the native population and left the Spanish province under U.S control, much impressing Thomas Jefferson and others with his wisdom. That is why America’s current system of global management abhors the use of diplomacy or other peaceful means of conflict resolution, unless it is pursued under the gun. The U.S has very little popular support for its goals in the committee of nations. This isn’t surprising, since it’s attempting to impose structures of domination and exploitation on them. Diplomatic settlements benefits America less because her rivals are just as good or better in that domain.

In the pursuit of her foreign policy objectives, which are naturally extensions of her domestic policy, the U.S has turned the world into one gigantic boiling point of violence; a world from where peace has taken flight. Rather than being a harbinger of peace or guarantor of security, as we have been made to believe by its highly effective propaganda machine, the US, through the selfish, greed-driven, debauched and forceful projection of its foreign policy initiatives, has become a major threat to world peace. America’s national interest has been transformed into the interest of other nations of the world and the cover for the outright disrespect of the sovereignties of others. She has turned the entire globe into a gigantic slave colony dominated by one supreme superpower, habitually bullying its constituent units to achieve her ends. Just like the empires of old, the U.S holds the entire globe in a vice-like grip, exploiting its resources and peoples to ceaselessly feed the insatiable needs of its giant corporations. This monstrous posture has inadvertently thrown up an avalanche of security challenges globally as evidenced by the emergence of antithetical groups in different parts of the globe opposed to the hegemony of the U.S, the increasing cases of civil wars and coups, especially in the third world, revolutionary uprisings in Africa and the Middle East, and several other acts of internecine violence in other parts of the world.

However, like its predecessors (the ancient empires), the leaders of the U.SA are obviously oblivious of the fact that the rise and fall of empires and states are marked – if not specifically caused – by a pattern of military successes followed eventually by crushing defeats. Empires that rose by the sword, subsequently died by the sword. But humans seem not to learn the lessons of history. They only memorize names and dates. The frightening rise of China is a sure pointer to the dwindling power of the U.S. The U.S is an ‘Uncertain Power’ that is fighting desperately to survive.

In the same manner the Egyptians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Medo-Persians, Greeks, Romans and other great powers of old rose and ultimately fell, a similar fate awaits the United States of America. History has a way of repeating itself! Shalom!

IMAGE: Riley Kaminer

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