America may be the only superpower standing, but its diplomacy is getting a real battering now. It is none more so than in the Middle East, where hundreds of billions of tax-payers’ dollars and over 4,500 service personnel fatality over a decade or so could not save America from being relegated to playing a second fiddle to Russia. What has caused America to fall from grace precipitously in the Middle East?
It may well be recalled that at the time of Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, America was in the lead in political and diplomatic fronts not only in Afghanistan but also over the whole of Middle East. But then things started to go pear shaped for America.
America sponsored the anti-government Islamist rebel group, the Mujahedeen, financially and militarily. With American encouragement, Pakistan lent logistic support and Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries offered financial support. When Mujahedeen managed to drive Soviet Union out of Afghanistan, America left the scene feeling exceedingly elated at Soviet Union’s defeat. No consideration was given to rebuilding the war-torn country and that was the beginning of American disgrace.
This Islamist Mujahedeen group, when left on its own in a country, gradually metamorphised into a radical Islamist group called Taliban. When Taliban gave sanctuary to Osama bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda, in 1996, Afghanistan came back to haunt American. When Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, the chief architect of 9/11 attack, America had no option but to take military action. But Taliban had all the American weapons at their possession from the days of Soviet invasion and so to beat them America had to pour more advanced weapons into the field and fight real hard. The American soldiers fighting against an enemy armed with American weapons had a touch of surrealism.
The policy of aggressive militarism by America arose from the convergence of some disparate historical events. First, the neo-cons in charge of American administration from 1990s realised that America was the only superpower on earth, after the collapse of the USSR and the existential turmoil of Russia. So there was virtually no need for them to hold back militarily anywhere in the world. Secondly, the neo-cons had the vested interests in American military industry – the more wars there were, more weapons could be traded and more profits for the neo-cons! Third, wars in the Middle East – pitting Muslims against Muslims, one Muslim country against another Muslim country – would not be a bad thing after all. The Arabs would be left in tatters and American and Zionist dominance over the area would prevail. So war for America in the Middle East was a win-win situation.
When George W Bush egregiously blamed Saddam Hussein of possessing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and invaded Iraq without the UN authorisation, America lost all its moral standing. America dropped all pretences of decency, diplomacy, foreign policy and opted for sheer military might. The world was viewed in pure binary terms – black and white; them and us. The famous statement by George W Bush in preparing for the Iraq war in 2003 that “You are either with us or against us” sums up the American psyche.
In the aftermath of Iraqi war when no WMD was found, it transpired that Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law and a middle ranking Iraqi engineer defected to the West before the war and gave a detailed account of Iraq’s possession of WMD. The Western Intelligence took it as incontrovertible evidence of Saddam’s possession of WMD! That they could have given false information to prove their importance to the West and make a case for their asylum did not occur to the West’s Intelligence Services!
During the uprising in Syria in 2011, the so-called “Free Syrian Army (FSA)” proclaimed that the uprising was entirely spontaneous against the dictator Bashar al-Assad. The West applauded such spontaneity of the people and assumed the “Arab Spring” had finally hit Syria. The fact that just beyond the borders of Syria the religious conflict was raging and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries comprising Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and UAE were pumping billions of dollars to promote Wahhabism/Salafism did not strike America that the uprising may have sinister motive.
When the Syrian government tried to quell the uprising by attacking the FSA and maintain the integrity of the country, it was the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, who became the culprit for attacking his own people! This FSA was the umbrella organisation for Jihadists. However, it transpired eventually that America was, in fact, sponsoring this FSA in the vain hope that the dictator Bashar al-Assad would be overthrown and democracy would prevail!
When British Parliament decided not to support America in yet another military adventure in the Middle East, America became diplomatically isolated and had no option but to call off this adventure. But American military industry was vying for a direct action and wanted to do what they did to Saddam Hussein some years earlier. When there was a chemical attack on civilians just before the UN Inspectors were to visit a place with the approval of the Syrian government, America screamed foul play and immediately blamed Assad. It did not occur to America at all that it was in the interest of the FSA to carry out such an attack in front of the world media and blame Assad and at the same time garner military support for themselves. Barack Obama declared ominously that Assad had finally crossed the red line and must be punished.
When the GCC countries and America had been giving money and material support to the FSA quite generously, much of that had been passed on to various Jihadi organisations such as al-Nusra and ISIS/IS. Only when IS turned out to be a Frankenstein and threatened to devour the rest of the Middle Eastern Muslim States did Saudi Arabia pulled back and stopped material support. Even then, America held on to the pious hope that the FSA would be the moderate Islamist group and continued supporting them. How far it is the failure of the American Intelligence and how far it is the triumph of American military machine over Intelligence and diplomacy is yet to be seen.
When after two years of American dilly-dallying and telling the world that Islamic State is so well entrenched that it would take years to dislodge them (and in the meantime carry on trading arms and ammunition with them), Russia stepped in and called the American bluff. In one month, Russia literally broke the IS’s backbone as well as of the FSA. Only when Russia decimated the FSA did America admit that FSA was actually nurtured by her.
When President Vladimir Putin of Russia sought cooperation with America and asked for Intelligence sharing, America flatly declined. Then Russia had established an Information Centre in Baghdad to share information between Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria to combat the menace of the IS, America came forward.
America had so far displayed unmistakable proclivity for military actions in the Middle East as it serves American military machine extremely well. That American foreign policy and diplomacy go completely out of the window is of little concern to the powerful military industry in America. It may be said that in any advanced country the State has the military industry, in America the military industry has the State.