US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. File picture: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. File picture: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Everything you always wanted to know about US foreign policy (but were afraid to ask)

By Opinion Time of article published Apr 1, 2021

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Ilya Rogachev

It is astounding how many proverbs there are which prove the point that use of force is hardly the best option in the majority of the time. “Force is no argument”, “a forced kindness deserves no thanks”, “reason succeeds where force fails”, “you cannot force water up a hill”– these are American proverbs on the issue.

It appears that the people’s wisdom has been unknown to the US leadership for decades.

The reason we decided to bring up this matter is the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s speech entitled “a foreign Policy for the American people” which he delivered in Washington on March 3.

Among other things, he said : “We will incentivise democratic behaviour. But we will not promote democracy through costly military interventions or by attempting to overthrow authoritarian regimes by force. We have tried these tactics in the past. However well intentioned, they haven’t worked ”.

Well, first of all, we would like to commend Blinken for admitting that the US has been using force to interfere in other states’ domestic affairs. If you ever wondered what was Washington’s perception of the international law and to what extent it values other countries sovereignty and territorial integrity – that’s your answer.

The US has been invading other nations all these years and all it cared about was inventing pretexts to make it look “well intentioned”. So much for the international law with all its principles and norms. International law which the humanity has come to after the most devastating war in history.

It is astounding how seemingly easy the US disregarded something that humanity paid such a high price to achieve. Well, at the very least, admitting that is definitely a step in the right direction.

Some might even see it as a signal that US will no longer resort to the use of force in its foreign policy. In this regard, we would like to quote a line from worldwide famous comedy in the verse from Woe from Wit by Russian poet, composer and diplomat Alexander Griboyedov: “Tis hard to credit now, though fresh is its renown”.

One of the reasons behind our reluctance to believe that US is discarding the use of force from its foreign policy toolbox is because we heard that vow before and it didn’t stand the test of time.

Here’s what Elizabeth Warren, US Senator from Massachusetts replied to The New York Times’ question “Is there any situation in which you could see yourself using American troops or covert action in a regime-z change effort? If so, under what circumstances would you be willing to do that?”

She said last year: “No. We have a long history of intervention to remake other countries’ societies and governments — sometimes this has been idealistic, sometimes cynical and self-serving, but always fundamentally misguided”.

So, Blinken did not say anything new. However, in February 2021, the US military, upon Joseph Biden’s permission, had already performed a missile strike on Syria’s territory, as a “warning” to Iran. Well, one might say, this one doesn’t count because, technically, this was not a “regime-change effort”.

The problem is Washington considers whether or not to use force on a case by case basis, while ignoring the fact that use of force in the international law is illegal (unless it is for self-defence or coercive action authorised by the UNSC under Chapter VII of the UN Charter), regardless of what the US thinks of the situation in this or that country.

Moreover, let’s have a closer look on what Blinken said. He said that the US will not “promote democracy” through “costly military interventions” because they “haven’t worked”. Haven’t worked. That’s the key word. What we get out of this, is that Washington would gladly keep using force to change regime in other countries if such a measure would’ve turned out to be “working”.

Besides, Blinken spoke about abandoning the practice of “costly” military interventions. If they weren’t so “costly” the US would just carry on with them – this is what Blinken said and it proves that all US interventions (military or not) have nothing to do with democracy and human rights.

In this context, “promoting democracy” is not the goal, but a mere pretext, a façade, which allows Blinken to mark the US military interventions as “well intentioned”.

What he also confessed in is that the term “United States national interests” has been substituted by the term “democracy” in political discourse in today’s US.

Besides, Blinken only said that the US will not resort to military

interventions, yet that does not include other ways of interfering in other countries’ domestic affairs. As we know, Washington is no stranger to those other ways.

The US and the collective West could write a whole instruction manual on how to meddle in other nations’ business without using brute military force. There is a bunch of options to choose from, ranging from demonising the West’s political opponents through Western mainstream media to inventing and promoting fake history to divide the nations and pit its people against each other to inspiring and financing coloured revolutions. O

One of the recent examples is the Ukraine. Courtesy of Victoria Nuland, who is currently assuming the office of US under secretary of state for political affairs, we have a remarkable revelation.

As she said during one of her interviews to CNN few years ago: “The United States has invested some 5 billion dollars in Ukraine since 1991 when it became an independent state after collapse of the Soviet Union and that money has been spent on supporting the aspirations of Ukrainian people to have a strong democratic government that represents their interests”.

As we mentioned earlier, “promoting democracy” in this context means nothing else except “US national interests”. From this standpoint, let’s go back to Ukraine in 2014 – everything falls into place. It explains why not a single Washington’s intervention (military or not) brought peace or democracy – simply because it was not their purpose.

The US does not care whether there are dictators out there in the world. Dictators can be as much of dictators as they like, as long as they promote Washington’s interests.

As much as we would like to believe Blinken’s words and, moreover regard them as a signal that Washington alters its methods of acting in the international arena, we are afraid it’s impossible. So far, hardly any real changes can be seen.

“Promoting democracy” will continue to serve as a smokescreen for Washington to invade and interfere, meanwhile accusing others of meddling in its internal democratic processes. It’s entire toolbox to do so is still intact and what the US is doing now is repairing what’s broken and enhancing what’s proved itself efficient.

In Blinken’s own words: “Shoring up our democracy is a foreign policy imperative. Otherwise, we play right into the hands of adversaries and competitors like Russia and China, who seize every opportunity to sow doubts about the strength of our democracy. We shouldn’t be making their jobs easier.”

See? Struggle against Russia and China is everything that “promoting democracy”, in Washington’s understanding, is good and must be used for. One might wonder: why so? Why would Blinken put democracy on one hand and Russia and China on the other, in such a rigid contraposition? It doesn’t make sense! Well, if you replace “democracy” with “US national interests” – it does. And don’t get deluded, it’s not about China or Russia. As soon as any other country stands up to protect its national interest, it will immediately join the list of “bad guys”.

The entire “promotion of democracy toolkit”: demonisation in the media, sanctions, political pressure and, yes, military intervention (if it’s cheap and effective) will be used against it. Blinken is warning you: “Authoritarianism and nationalism are on the rise around the world. Governments are becoming less transparent and have lost the trust of the people. Elections are increasingly flashpoints for violence. Corruption is growing.”

The world is still a dangerous place and the US is still willing to protect you, even if you don’t need its protection.

We understand that Blinken’s words about leaving the practice of military interventions behind might be appealing. How can we comment on that? In 2014, US ex-president Barack Obama, said: “President Putin would be judged on his actions, not words”. We believe it’s time to “return the favour” – same applies to you, Washington.

* Ilya Rogachev is Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Republic of South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.

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