U.S. Blind to Harbinger of Its Decline

The first step for turnaround is to bring troops home

By Ramzy Baroud

04/11/06 "
OMN" -- -- The miscalculated policies of the U.S. administration in the Middle East are quickly depleting the country's ability to sustain its once unchallenged global position. Winds of change are blowing everywhere, and there is little that Washington's ideologues can do to stop that.

The above claim is increasingly finding its way into the realm of mainstream thinking, despite all attempts to mute or relegate its import.

A recent speech by U.S. Republican congressman and chairman of the House of international relations committee, Henry Hyde was the focal point of analysis by Martin Jacques in The Guardian newspaper.

"Our power has the grave liability of rendering our theories about the world immune from failure. But by becoming deaf to easily discerned warning signs, we may ignore long-term costs that result from our actions and dismiss reverses that should lead to a re-examination of our goals and means," Hyde said.

In his poignant analysis -- decoding Hyde's deliberately implicit thoughts -- Jacques argued, "The Bush administration stands guilty of an extraordinary act of imperial overreach which has left the U.S. more internationally isolated than ever before, seriously stretched financially, and guilty of neglect in east Asia and elsewhere."

Ironically, the invasion of Iraq with its "thousands" of "tactical" mistakes -- as recently admitted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- was meant to solidify and ensure the U.S.'s post Cold-War global dominance. According to Jacques, as inferred from Hyde's notable speech, "It may well prove to be a harbinger of its decline."

It can also be argued that the U.S. adventurism in Iraq has provided the coveted opportunity to other countries to further their national and regional interests without the constant fear of U.S. reprisals.

In a recent interview with Radio Havana, MIT professor Noam Chomsky -- known for his sharp critique of U.S. foreign policies, particularity in Indochina, Central and Latin America -- delineated a new global political reality that is being forged as the U.S. stubbornly insists on fighting a lost battle in Iraq.

"What's happening is something completely new in the history of the hemisphere. Since the Spanish conquest, the countries of Latin America have been pretty much separated from one another and oriented toward the imperial power. For the first time, they are beginning to integrate and in quite a few different ways."

That integration is evident, according to Chomsky, not only by examining the unbridled rise of the Left in these countries and the almost immediate alliances -- economic cooperation, for example -- that these populace governments have achieved. There is a simultaneous rise of the political relevance of the indigenous Indian population in Bolivia, and the opportunities it represents to the Indian population of Ecuador and Peru.

Moreover, there is a noteworthy South-South integration that is already breaking regional boundaries and significantly undermining the overpowering grip of the IMF, which has played the infamous role of the unfair middleman between the rich and hapless poor.

China and India, on the other hand, continue to achieve astounding economic growth with China's economic might and relevance to soon surpass that of the United States. In fact, there is an intense diplomatic clash underway between the U.S. and China, since the latter has dared to violate the understanding of the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, which gave the U.S. alone the right to manage its Latin American domains.

For the first time since then, says a BBC news analysis, a foreign country has challenged American influence in that region, and successfully so. Indeed, China is upgrading its economic relations with Brazil -- both increasingly formidable economic powers -- in ways that will eventually help Brazil break away from a domineering U.S. hold.

These are all part of the "warning signs" to which Hyde was refereeing in his speech. While there are indications that Washington is finally waking up to this grim reality, which it has helped create, there are no signs whatsoever that a fundamental change of course in U.S. foreign policies in the Middle East is taking place: the U.S. destructive war in Iraq rages on; the self-inflicting damage of unconditionally backing Israel in its endless colonial ambitions perpetuates; and the same detrimental policy line used with Iraq is employed, almost identically with Iran. U.S. policy planners seem as ever insistent on following the same destructive course that has compromised their nation's global standing like never before.

Instead of healing the many woes, which it helped to mold, the Bush administration is desperately trying to recover some of its Southeast Asia losses by signing a nuclear treaty with India, an action that reeks with hypocrisy and further miscalculations. Moreover, the administration has recently lifted the ban on sales of lethal arms to Indonesia in recognition of its "unique strategic role in Southeast Asia," despite outcries of major international human rights groups to maintain the ban.

Despite President Bush's recent "historic" trip to India and other top U.S. officials' hasty attempts to reassert U.S. global dominance, there should be no illusions that the United States' chief foreign policy debacle starts and ends with the Middle East, particularity its unwarranted, yet "special" relationship with Israel. While the latter has served the role of the client state since its establishment on ethnically cleansed Palestinian territories, this relationship was significantly altered in recent years, with the pro-Israeli lobby taking center stage, not simply by influencing U.S. foreign policies toward Israel, but eventually by directing that policy altogether in the region.

The rise of the neoconservatives (also known as the Likudists for their open support of, and direct involvement with Israel's right wing policies) helped create the false impression that the U.S. and Israeli policies are one and the same, including their mutual interests in maintaining Israel's military "edge" over its neighbors, which eventually led to the invasion of Iraq.

While the neocons are washing their hands from any responsibility in the deadly Middle East impasse, the U.S. administration's arrogance is stopping it from immediately withdrawing its troops from Iraq and seriously reassessing its relationship with Israel.

The world is changing, yet the U.S. government refuses to abandon its old ways: militaristic, self-defeating and overbearing. Indeed, the U.S. must remold, not only its policies in the Middle East, but also its hegemonic policies throughout the world. For once, the U.S. administration needs to tap into its sense of reason, and discern the "warning signs," that should lead to "the re-examination of [its] goals and means." A first step is to bring the troops home, and with them the entire doctrine that unrestrained violence and perpetual wars can further the cause of an already dishonored superpower.

Veteran Arab American journalist Ramzy Baroud teaches mass communication at Australia's Curtin University of Technology, Malaysia Campus.

His most recent book is entitled, "Writings on the Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle" (Pluto Press, London.) He is also the editor-in-chief of the Palestine Chronicle online newspaper.


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