Washington’s new-old foreign policy
Note: This story appeared in Suomen Kuvalehti’s website. It is the biggest newsmagazine in Finland. It was published shortly after the US-led coalition invaded Iraq in March 2003. Even so, many parts of the story below could appear as if written today.
As U.S.-led coalition military forces continue to pound Iraqi army positions and the war claims its share of mounting civilian casualties, one matter appears certain: U.S. and U.K. forces are not being greeted by the population as liberators.
Whatever the reasons may be for stiffer Iraqi resistance, it is incredible that Washington has overlooked one very elementary fact: People are nationalistic and don’t like to be invaded by foreign armies.
Loyalty and love of one’s country are the first facts children learn at school no matter how poor or rich their country is. The United States is no exception.
When I was thirteen years old and studying at a Catholic school in California, the history teacher spoke often about how “evil” the former Soviet Union was and how “right” our system of government is.
“People in the (former) Soviet Union live in a prison,” the U.S. history teacher said. “If you open the doors of Russia, millions of people will flee to freedom.”
Having lived in a number of countries, I openly disagreed with the teacher. I tried to use logic: “If the Russians have never traveled anywhere in their lives, surely they consider their country the best in the world,” I said.
A silence descended over the classroom and I felt naively that I had made my point. The teacher looked at me, and then snapped: “What are you – a communist! If you don’t like America go live in Russia!”
Coup vs. régime change
As time moves on so do geopolitical perceptions. One of these is the George W. Bush doctrine’s view of how governments are changed. The new term is “régime change,” which has sidelined a fancier French word used before known as coup d’etat.
Latin America was a region where coups – oops! régime change — occurred on a grand scale. If experience of how the U.S. influenced Latin America in the last century is anything to go by, the people of the Middle East are in big trouble.
In the 1970s, some Latin Americans accused Washington of double standards. Why did the U.S. support despotic and brutal military régimes south of its border if it is a model of a western democracy?
The list of tyrants that ruled Latin America is a long and tragic one. Few will question the CIA’s role in regime change during the cold-war era. Its director during 1976-77 was none other than former President George Bush Sr.
We were told back then by Washington that the justification for régime change and military juntas was to defend Latin Americans from communist tyranny. Even so, any serious student of the region understands that Washington’s main goal was to defend its national security interests.
Will U.S. national security prevail in the Middle East as the driving force of President Bush’s administration as new geopolitical maps are redrawn of the troubled region? There is nothing to suggest the contrary, considering Bush’s obstinacy for a military solution for disarming Iraq and the present administration’s suspicion of the UN.
The scars left by ruthless dictators have traumatized Latin Americans for generations, like the Iraqis, who will not only be haunted by a past tyrant — but by a terrible war waged by the U.S. in the name of a questionable invasion.