A reluctant global policeman

By: Mritunjay Kumar

In the present context, the question uppermost in the mind is whether US President Barack Obama had factored in the possibility of things going wrong when he decided to order the troops back home.

Did such a scenario figure in the war room and has the US Defense Department evaluated a tiered response to these eventualities? The reason for asking this pointed question is simple. The suddenness of the ISIL arrival on the scene and the ease with which it sliced through Iraq to literally overrun the country indicates a lapse in intelligence. Were there no reliable ears to the ground?

So far, Obama has not decided to step in as the crisis mounts in Iraq. “We are not there yet,” the US officials have announced, regarding the possibility of US air strikes in Iraq. The arrival of Russian Sukhoi aircraft from Belarus gives the Russians a lot more clout now than the unmanned drones hovering overhead to safeguard American lives.

If the Russians have an edge are they going to be the new saviors despite the harsh lessons of Afghanistan? And will they like to increase their influence in this hemisphere at the expense of the US. Let’s back up a bit.

Supremacy in oil-rich West Asia was a crucial point of US foreign policy. Suddenly, that unquestioned role seems to be up for grabs. The reasons are related to the prolonged aggressive wars fought in Iraq and Afghanistan; but here, it’s more connected to the sudden shift of its global interests. Another reason could be that US is unwilling to help Al-Maliki government in Iraq, because it does not want to take sides in a sectarian war between the Sunnis and the Shiites, thereby avoiding a rock and a hard place.

Fact is since WWII victory against the “Axis” (helped by allies), the US has never hit a moment of military glory, neither alone or allied. Korea was at best a stalemate — the length of the war, the high number of US casualties, and the exposure of US involvement in war crimes led to troop withdrawal from Vietnam. To bypass this trauma in Vietnam, the US invented cruise missiles but long distance wars are still in the future.

The US bruising sparked off with its Cold War with the USSR after the Vietnam fiasco. It, therefore, set up the “Bear Trap” for the USSR in Afghanistan along with China. Though it led to the undoing of the Soviet Union in 1991, it brought into the world two distinct and herculean forces — the jihadists and the Chinese. Both have wreaked irreparable damage to the US and others. While the jihadists not only attacked mainland US but also American allies in West Asia, the Chinese have successfully challenged the US in the Pacific and used a financial bypass to encroach upon US interests.

Obama had revealed his strategic vision for America’s future last year. “For over the last decade, our nation has spent well over a trillion dollars on war, helping to explode our deficits and constraining our ability to nation-build here at home,” he elaborated at the National Defense University. “For what we spent in a month in Iraq at the height of the war,” he argued, “we could be training security forces in Libya, maintaining peace agreements between Israel and its neighbors, feeding the hungry in Yemen, building schools in Pakistan…”

Obama’s arguments were seriously discussed in the months that followed his speech, unleashing many reasons to doubt that the global order can in fact be defended by funding development or even military proxies.

The reality is that the US will not unveil its future action plans and has reserved prime interest for its future deeds. The country’s shale oil and gas revolution will soon make it a net exporter of hydrocarbons — leaving it with no reason to expend lives and money on containing chaos in West Asia. The country’s armed force still has the power to stretch across the globe, seeking retribution for those who deny critical communication or trade routes.

More importantly, US competitors have vested interests in the pillars that prop up global economy. Put in plain words, they cannot damage the US without stinging themselves!

To put it bluntly, even if the US loses a skirmish it cannot lose a war.



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