As we stand at the threshold of World War 3, it can be difficult to figure out which vice drives America above all others. For a country which was founded on such lofty ideals, our descent into iniquity is all the more painful to behold.
Is it hypocrisy? We never tire of pointing out territorial expansionism and imperialist tendencies in others. Americans were the loudest voices criticizing Putin when he annexed the Crimea following the area’s Ukrainian residents voting in a referendum to join Russia. The decision was framed as a warlike act of imperialism, a violation of the right to self-determination of Crimeans, despite the fact that 90% of voters in that referendum chose to join Russia. On the US side, we have Puerto Rico, an administrative commonwealth of the United States whose residents cannot vote in the country’s elections. A recent referendum on statehood revealed over 97% of Puerto Ricans were in favor of statehood, but no action has been taken, and they continue to languish in legal limbo with fewer democratic rights than a convicted felon.
Is it greed? The story of the 2008 financial crisis need not be told again, and other countries were involved besides the United States, but only we chose to reward the criminal too-big-to-fail financial institutions with $700 billion, refuse to jail or even fire most of the perpetrators, and basically continue down the same bubble-laden path that got us into the mess. The $700 billion gifted to the banks by TARP was only the beginning of the no-strings-attached bailout (the few regulations which made it through the legislation process were toothless and laughable) and Wall Street has not changed its business practices since the crash. London, too, saw a few token firings and fines, but the city of London does not pretend to be a free-market haven of lifting oneself up by ones’ bootstraps. The US claims anyone can make it - that our economy is a meritocracy - then picks up the losers when they fail, fail big, and fail with other people’s money. If you have the right connections, you are not only allowed to ruin the average citizen’s life - you are rewarded for it.
Is it belligerence? Since the death of JFK and the rise of the CIA, it seems America has never met a country it didn’t want to bomb, overthrow, or otherwise meddle with. From regime changes and neoliberal economic imperialism in South America to supporting and training Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in the Middle East to propping up murderous dictators in Africa, US foreign policy makes sure our weapons get around. We demonize any head of state who dares conduct his own missile tests or defend his country, but we give ourselves wide latitude to kill at will.
Is it hubris? The US seems to think that not only is it always correct in geopolitical or economic matters, but that it has the right to impose its view by force and that it will win any conflict, whether ideological or military. This has led to a number of military quagmires, from Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan, in which our opponents saw things differently and continued to see them differently no matter how much we bombed them. The US is pathologically incapable of learning its lesson.
US foreign policy truly crossed the rubicon in the aftermath of September 11th. Even if you believe the official story, you must admit the event was expertly manipulated to create favorable circumstances for both the military-industrial complex and the national security state - it certainly looked like they had been preparing for just such an attack. Indeed, the documents of the Project for a New American Century, the neoconservative group, cite just such a “new Pearl Harbor” as a necessary condition for pushing through the Patriot Act and other police-state-enabling legislation. This order-out-of-chaos methodology surfaces time and time again in US policy, both at home and abroad. Before the dust had settled in downtown Manhattan, we had the Transportation Security Administration conducting intrusive patdowns at airports across the country, libraries keeping records on patrons who checked out “subversive” tomes, warrantless wiretaps legalized down to the lowliest local police force, and soldiers on their way to Afghanistan to keep the world safe for democracy.
What many don’t remember about the aftermath of 9/11 is that the Taliban actually offered to turn over Osama bin Laden for prosecution - if we just gave them some evidence that he had been responsible for the attacks. Bush blustered that he didn’t negotiate with terrorists and continued with the invasion. If the US government was so certain - and they certainly acted as if there was no doubt - that bin Laden had masterminded the attacks, surely they could have pacified the Taliban with a shred of evidence or two without compromising their case. After all, bin Laden was an Afghan citizen and a foreign government can’t just extradite a foreign national without some sort of evidence that there is a case against him. But the US does not feel itself bound by international law. As the world’s greatest hypocrites, we demand that all other countries follow it to the letter while flouting it ourselves.
After the Taliban fell, the US installed Hamid Karzai as our puppet president. Karzai, the brother of notorious opium trafficker Ahmed Karzai, ran a notoriously corrupt government dogged by accusations of election fraud, among other crimes, and was openly despised by the Afghan people. Despite the high-minded rhetoric of the Bush administration, which assured Americans we would be hailed as liberators after taking out the authoritarian Taliban, Karzai’s rule merely succeeded in driving the Afghans back into the arms of the Taliban; when they began fighting the US in the insurgency that continues to this day, it was with the help of many Afghan citizens, who saw the US army as an occupying force with no business “nation building” in their villages.
Afghanistan produces 90% of the world’s opium. Under the Taliban, in 2001, opium production had fallen to its lowest level in years. Over the past 16 years, it has risen to 40 times that number. US soldiers openly stand guard outside poppy fields as the drug is funneled into the US. The opiate problem stateside continues to grow, as overdoses outpace even car crashes as the leading cause of death. Mention this link, of course, and you get called a conspiracy theorist, but a population too drugged to function is a nice, docile, manageable population. Now that fewer and fewer Americans are turning to religion, the classic opiate of the masses, it’s time to pacify them with, well, opiates.
Afghanistan was irresistible to the US military complex for a number of reasons. Its location in the center of the Eurasian continent made it strategically valuable, especially with regard to Zbigniew Brzezinski’s “global chessboard” view, and as the poorest country in Asia it appeared to be ill-prepared to fight the world’s largest military. It was also ideally situated for the construction of a pipeline which would have brought oil into Europe from the Middle East while bypassing Russia, allowing the US to cash in on that continent’s energy needs while cutting out its mortal enemy. Still, they should have learned from the mistakes of the Russians - after all, it was the US which funded and trained the mujahideen in order to cripple the then-USSR - Osama bin Laden began his political career as one of the CIA’s best pupils - and it was those mujahideen who grew up to found al-Qaeda. If Russia, with all its military might, couldn’t take Afghanistan, why should we think the US could?
Worse still, and showing the world just how much we have failed to learn our lesson, the US is doubling down on its Afghan quagmire. Donald Trump, elected president on an America-first non-interventionist platform, has done a 180 regarding the war in Afghanistan, which he called a “mistake” among other derogatory names while on the campaign trail. Under the influence of the generals with whom he has packed his cabinet because of a misguided and tragic military fetish, he announced he will be increasing troop levels in Afghanistan and possibly expanding the conflict into Pakistan. Why have one war when you can have two? This is America - clearly, more is better.
The rationale for entering the Iraq war was even more tenuous than Afghanistan, if that is possible. The US had been thirsty for Saddam Hussein’s blood ever since the first Gulf War, when we leveled the country but left the dictator in power. Congress passed a 1998 resolution officially supporting regime change, and all that remained was to find a rationale for war that would pass the smell test with the American people. When Hussein had the audacity to sell Iraq’s oil to a group of European nations in Euros instead of the hallowed petrodollar, we saw it as an act of war and stepped up the timetable. A slapdash chain of cause and effect was constructed in an attempt to link Hussein to al-Qaeda following 9/11, and we relied upon the obviously false and dubiously-motivated accusations of Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi to declare the Iraqi dictator was plotting nefarious things with weapons of mass destruction. War green lighted, we swarmed into Iraq high on self-righteousness, expecting an easy victory.
Saddam Hussein was a polarizing figure. He was a brutal dictator who murdered thousands of his own people, but he was also a strong nationalist who brought Iraq into the modern age. He nationalized its oil wells and used the proceeds to modernize infrastructure and expand free education (particularly to girls). His secular regime quelled the eternal sectarian tensions between the country’s Sunni and Shi’a populations. The US had even considered him an ally in the leadup to the first Gulf War, siding with him during the Iran-Iraq War. When he prepared to invade Kuwait, Bush stood back and allowed the invasion, only crying foul after it was too late to stop. Accompanied by a heavy-handed tearjerker propaganda campaign that claimed Iraqi soldiers were rampaging through Kuwaiti hospitals, grabbing premature infants and ripping them out of incubators to die on the cold ground, the US stormed into Iraq and essentially destroyed the country. As Hussein tried to rebuild in the aftermath, he agreed to relinquish his weapons of mass destruction in return for the repeal of US sanctions, which were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children by hunger and disease.
Heavy-handed propaganda once again got us into war with Iraq, as the New York Times and other supposedly reputable outlets pushed stories of yellowcake uranium, aluminum tubes, and other specious evidence that Hussein was plotting something apocalyptic. Bush made his famous Axis of Evil speech, lumping the country in with its mortal enemy Iran and far-away, unrelated North Korea. The US military arrested, tried, and executed Hussein; Bush stood in front of a laughably premature banner and declared our mission “accomplished.” The insurgency began - the sectarian tensions quelled by Arab nationalism had flared up again in the absence of Hussein’s strongman rule - and rather than hugs and flowers we got IEDs and ambushes. No proof of WMDs ever surfaced, and the Bush administration tied themselves in logical pretzels trying to shift the rationale for war over to everything from human rights abuses (which Hussein had committed while an ally of the US during the war with Iran) to a claim of “divine inspiration” (Bush actually claimed, with a straight face, that God had inspired him to “hit at Saddam”). Realistically, analysts have suggested that in addition to control over Iraqi oil, the war was fought to establish a US military base in the region, though Iraq’s proximity to America’s bosom-buddy Israel calls that idea into question. Regardless of the real reason(s) for war, US contractors made billions rebuilding the destroyed country. We got what we wanted - never again would Iraq try to sell its oil in a currency other than the petrodollar.
Iraq also served as the springboard for the next great bogeyman in US foreign policy - ISIS. Like any drug, fear requires greater and more frequent doses in order to have the same effect. The fear of al-Qaeda experienced by the average American in the aftermath of 9/11 had dwindled significantly over the years, as constant red and orange terror alerts and 24-hour news coverage wore heavily on our cortisol system. Something new was needed to jolt us back into a properly terrorized state. ISIS is a cartoonishly evil group, kidnapping westerners, selling women as sex slaves, beheading prisoners, inducing children to behead prisoners, setting prisoners on fire, and releasing expertly-edited videos of all these acts. Not only were they brutal killers, but they were exceptionally skilled in Final Cut. Clearly, these were scary people. ISIS came onto the terror scene in Mosul, where their initial confrontation with the Iraqi army went off without a shot fired. The Iraqi soldiers, trained by the US Army (who had since returned home, cutting their losses), merely laid down their weapons and fled before this new, superior US-trained force (the CIA and Special Forces had trained ISIS leaders in Jordan).
Iraq also marked the point at which international relations began to noticeably deteriorate. Despite our “Coalition of the Willing,” those countries the Bush regime was able to blackmail or otherwise intimidate into joining in our war of aggression, the peace movement both domestic and international was massive and many countries that usually followed the US line (including France) refused to back us. Remember Freedom Fries? The Bush regime’s rhetoric - “you’re either with us or against us” - won the country no friends, and it took years of Obama’s expert lying and intellectual veneer to repair some of those relationships. Many countries still look down on us for our imperialistic foreign policy.
Libya was the first example of a unilateral act of unjustified regime change. Obama, who had sailed into office buoyed by the anti-war vote and a public sick of the Bush regime’s toxic belligerence, proceeded to out-Bush Bush, continuing all his wars and starting a few more. Some coverage has lumped Libya in with the Arab Spring - a string of nonviolent “color revolutions” beginning in 2011 that overthrew a number of authoritarian Arab regimes - but the Libyan regime change was anything but nonviolent.
Muammar Gaddafi was an eccentric but mostly beloved autocrat who had created a technologically- and socially-advanced society admired by the rest of Africa over almost 40 years of rule. His Libya saw levels of gender parity unequalled in the region, with free education and healthcare for all citizens; Libyans also received a percentage of the profits from the sale of the nation’s oil. Gaddafi had a heavy hand in dealing with dissenters and protest, but he also kept a lid on terrorism and Islamic extremism and indeed was considered an ally to the US in fighting terrorism in northern Africa. Relations between the two countries had normalized somewhat in the 10 years leading up to the invasion, with Gaddafi dismantling his nuclear weapons program in return for the easing of US sanctions. Unfortunately, in his drive to raise the standard of living for all Africans, Gaddafi proposed a pan-African gold currency for all oil-producing nations in the continent - a direct attack on US oil hegemony.
With NATO-backed no-fly zones providing cover for anti-Gaddafi rebels based in the leader’s home town of Benghazi and US dollars and weapons arming rebel forces, Libya was transformed from the most advanced country in Africa into a failed state within a year. Protests inspired by the Arab Spring centered on corruption and unemployment but were manipulated to skewer Gaddafi, whom western media outlets accused of crimes against humanity. There is still no unified government; chaos reigns as the rebel militias duke it out for regional control and the Islamic terrorism suppressed by Gaddafi rises to the surface. The country’s infrastructure lies in ruins - a state-of-the-art desalination plant that had allowed Libyans to convert a desert region into arable farmland was bombed, as were the standard targets of hospitals, factories, and wedding parties. Gaddafi was brutally murdered while Hillary Clinton chuckled sociopathically. But at least that pan-African gold currency would never come to be.
After the Libyan debacle, even the warmongering Obama was reluctant to initiate another unilateral regime change via military means, despite his administration clamoring for war in Syria. For reasons still unknown, he failed to follow through on his “red line” ultimatum, which promised military intervention should Assad use chemical weapons. Immediately after that speech in 2013, there was a chemical attack in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, which the US lost no time in blaming on the Assad regime despite a paucity of evidence. UN weapons investigators eventually uncovered proof that not only were the anti-Assad rebels responsible for the attack, but the weapons had come from the US and UK; perhaps Obama’s reluctance to jump off from this fraudulent “red line” led to his refusal to intervene via an official war for regime change. Regardless of his reasons, Obama restrained his administration to funding anti-Assad rebel groups, misleadingly designated “moderate” - terrorist organizations such as al-Nusra and the White Helmets responsible for terror campaigns across the country and the lion’s share of refugees. US media paints a simplistic picture of the Syrian war in which the US-funded “moderate rebels” crusade for truth and justice against ISIS on one side and thuggish Syrian army forces loyal to Assad on the other; the reality is more of a two-sided war, with Assad and the Syrian military trying to maintain order while American and Saudi money floods into rebel terrorist groups running the spectrum from White Helmets to ISIS.
After Obama’s indecision spared Assad the catastrophe of a US ground war, Russia brokered a peace deal whereby Assad would surrender his chemical weapons. Additionally, the government held a constitutional referendum that revealed widespread public support for Assad and laid the groundwork for democratic elections. By stepping in to Assad’s defense, Russia provided a layer of protection against the geostrategic bullying of the US, forcing it to double down on the proxy war, having missed the chance to score with “boots on the ground.” Iran joined the Assad-Russia alliance, while Israel’s funding of ISIS placed it on the side of the US and Saudi Arabia. The tide of the war was turning in Assad’s favor, as US public and military opinion criticized the Obama regime’s refusal to bomb ISIS in the country (as well as its preemptive leafletings to areas that were about to be bombed, informing them of the impending bombing).
Enter Donald Trump, who campaigned on a promise to avoid further imperialistic adventures in the Middle East. All it took was one chemical attack under deeply suspicious circumstances to get him firing Tomahawk missiles at one of Assad’s airbases. The Trump regime tore into Assad for the attack, notwithstanding the fact that it was impossible to tell just hours after such an event who was responsible; UN Ambassador Nikki Haley even encouraged further false flag attacks by declaring that any future such attacks would be blamed not only on Assad but also on Iran and Russia. No mention was made of the illogicality of Assad using chemical weapons on his own people at this stage in the war, when he was so close to winning - as a preternaturally intelligent and level-headed leader, he would under no circumstances shoot himself in the foot in such a way. Even Israel had to admit that Assad was on the path to victory - a petulant Netanyahu complained to Putin that if Iran didn’t pull out of Syria, Israel would be forced to “defend itself” by bombing Assad’s palace. With ISIS nearly vanquished in Syria, the country has experienced a resurgence of al-Qaeda, demonstrating that the US has endless terrorist groups waiting in the wings to topple regimes it dislikes. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Who’s next on the US’s military invasion list? Venezuela is blinking red right now. The country has been a socialist thorn in our side ever since the election of Hugo Chavez in 1999; he sharply reoriented the country from a neoliberal, pro-US and pro-Europe business paradise with levels of income inequality unequalled elsewhere in the world into a socialist country focused on ending the IMF’s austerity measures and stemming the tide of privatization. The living situation of the average Venezuelan improved markedly under Chavez’s anti-poverty programs, further irritating the US, which wanted to return to plundering the country’s oil reserves - the largest in the western hemisphere. Free healthcare, free education, and land transfer made him a very popular president until he was imprisoned during a 2002 coup. Interim president Pedro Carmona immediately dissolved the constitution and reversed Chavez’s policies, to the applause of the US, which lost no time legitimizing the coup plotters with recognition. Pro-Chavez demonstrations erupted across Venezuela, storming the palace and freeing the former president within a week. Post-coup investigations revealed, unsurprisingly, that it had been sponsored by the US, and that US groups such as the National Endowment for Democracy continued to plot his overthrow. Another attempt to oust Chavez followed in 2004 with a recall election; the majority of Venezuelans, however, continued to support their president.
Following the coup attempts, Chavez began severing ties in earnest with the US and building up the country’s military to ward off possible invasion. He made no secret of taunting the Bush regime, referring to the country as “the devil” in a UN speech and launching an oil subsidy program to supply impoverished Americans with heating oil. Following Chavez’s death in 2013, the US held its breath that his successor would return to the capitalist fold, but Nicolas Maduro continued down the road of Chavismo. The US tanked the price of oil, which represents a quarter of Venezuela’s GDP, while the country’s business interests manufactured a food shortage. With Venezuelans caught between a rock and a hard place with poverty and hunger, the US sadistically imposed sanctions, an act Maduro decried as “economic war.” Instead of buckling to the neoliberal wishes of the US, he announced Venezuela would dump the petrodollar, instead embracing whatever other currency came along - if buyers wanted to pay in rubles or rupees, yuan or euro, the US would no longer have a say in the marketplace. In effect, he called Trump’s bluff, because the sanctions do not target oil and the US still buys almost 40% of Venezuela’s oil. The Trump regime has stepped up its demonization of Maduro, claiming the recent elections are illegitimate and decrying police violence while turning a blind eye to the much bloodier and more extensive violence of the opposition. Although Trump has mentioned “boots on the ground,” analysts believe he is more likely to follow a Syria-esque line in overthrowing Maduro, funding a proxy “civil” war so as not to have to actually declare a conflict and risk the open disapproval of the war-sick American people.
An Alternative to Military Intervention
The US is not a one-trick pony, and military intervention has largely fallen out of favor as its preferred method for regime change. With the national debt creeping ever upward to the point that Trump, in the wisdom of his quasi-schizophrenic magical thinking, is actually considering discarding the debt ceiling altogether - a catastrophic move that would devalue the dollar and tank the US economy - war is simply too expensive. Color revolutions are the regime change method du jour, especially when a country is too rich, large, or well-connected to be easily toppled by a military invasion.
Color revolutions, as described by Gene Sharp in _From Dictatorship to Democracy_, are nonviolent protest movements geared toward toppling a dictator or authoritarian regime. Color revolutions begin when social groups not aligned with the regime begin protesting, airing their grievances, discussing their problems with the existing society, and encouraging each other to speak out. These protest energies are then channeled against the regime - whatever the problem of that particular group, it is presumed to be the leader’s fault. Outside funding is often channeled to these resistance movements, whether they are student groups, ethnic and religious minorities, or political opposition groups. As protests increase in size and intensity, they receive favorable media coverage and frequently attract international support while the embattled regime tends to respond with police and military crackdowns. Finally, as the protests reach a fever pitch, movement leaders stage a coup. If successful, the people are congratulated on a successful “people power” revolution and elections follow - though how democratic these elections actually are varies wildly depending on the country. Sharp’s methods rose to prominence in the wave of pro-democratic uprisings that followed the demise of the USSR, popping up in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan as well as in Milosevic’s Serbia.
The Arab Spring began in 2011 in Tunisia, a wealthy, secular country in northern Africa with a repressive leader known for his heavy hand with dissenters, his human rights violations, and his pro-business policies. Zine Abidine Ben Ali had ruled the country for more than 20 years as an ally of the US and Europe, but he was sacrificed to provide a blueprint for this series of regime change operations that would change the character of Northern Africa and the Middle East.
The protests in Tunisia began after a 26-year-old vegetable seller set himself on fire in the public square. Police responded to the protests with a violent crackdown, which engendered larger protests, leading to a more vicious crackdown, et cetera - this self-perpetuating feedback loop is characteristic of successful color revolutions, particularly those imposed from without, as it allows the mastermind(s) of the revolution to sit back and watch while protesters and police do all the work. As the movement grew, political figures predating Ben Ali’s government began meeting with foreign groups and non-governmental organizations to plan the future government, though they had no way of knowing Ben Ali would necessarily fall - he was cycling through many attempts to mollify protests, including promises to step down, to hold elections, to appoint one of his ministers as president, and so on. Finally, he was forced to flee, and the political parties that had been banned under his regime re-entered the political mainstream. The first democratic election in 21st century Tunisia saw the surprise victory of the Ennahda party, an Islamic group that had been outlawed under Ben Ali’s secular government. The economy subsequently cratered, as tourism dwindled to zero and terrorism became a problem for the first time. Tunisians responded by voting Ennahda out of power and electing a secular government.
The Tunisian revolution received extensive favorable media coverage, including a great deal of speculation regarding a possible domino effect- wouldn’t it be interesting, they said, if this sparked a wave of revolutions? If all the other Arab strongmen were overthrown by their people? The subtext was clear to the other Arab regimes - stay in line, guys, or the Arab Spring will come to your country.
Egypt was the next country to fall to the revolutionary wave of the Arab Spring. Hosni Mubarak’s government was similar to that of Tunisia, a secular pro-business regime with a reputation for a heavy hand with dissenters. Egyptians turned out to protest against police brutality and election fraud in Tahrir Square, protests which went viral thanks to heavy western media coverage, leading the Egyptian people to believe they had truly been responsible for toppling the president. However, it was US ambassador Frank Wisner who actually made the call that Mubarak must go; Mubarak had followed Ben Ali’s line of attempting to placate protesters with promises of elections, promises he would not run again, promises to appoint some lesser minister as his replacement, and so on, but Wisner was adamant that he must step aside. Credit for his ouster was of course given to the Egyptian people.
Much more than Tunisia, Egypt exemplified the flaws inherent in color revolutions. The interim government, run by the military, wasted no time in criminalizing protest and dissolving parliament and the constitution in the leadup to the country’s first “democratic” elections post-Mubarak. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi was elected president, imposing Islamic law on the formerly secular country and placing himself above judicial oversight. Muslims and Coptic Christians, who under Mubarak’s secular regime had been if not best friends at least at relative peace, began clashing violently under the new hardline Islamic regime. After a year of violence and continued suppression of protest, the military, led by Abdul Fatteh al-Sisi, staged a coup and overthrew Morsi; he was later legitimized in another round of elections.
Color revolutions frequently terminate in this “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” phenomenon, particularly in countries where the government has been authoritarian for a long time. These countries lack the structures to support western-style democracies, and short of importing foreign politicians - a move that would go over like the proverbial lead balloon with political nationalists rejoicing in their overthrow of a repressive dictator - there is no real way for them to develop any rapidly enough to install them in the turbulent aftermath of a people power revolution. The risk is always great that whoever succeeds the deposed tyrant will merely take on the characteristics of that tyrant, not knowing any other way. Al-Sisi’s government resembled nothing so much as that of Mubarak, except with an even heavier hand against dissenters; protesters continued to go missing and turn up dead, and Egyptians just counted themselves lucky they had escaped the Islamic tyranny of Morsi.
Arguably the worst disaster among all regime changes in the past 20 years has been Yemen. The aftermath of the revolution is seldom covered in US media because we are largely to blame for the suffering in that country, which was the poorest in the middle east even before the revolution. President Ali Abdullah Saleh was generally considered a kleptocrat, and the array of anti-Saleh groups ready to join the revolution was vast and ideologically diverse - from student groups to Islamic sects to political separatists to tribal alliances, all with different goals, though many linked to some form of economic justice - in a nation of poverty, they did not want to be poor.
With such a varied group of revolutionaries, it took skilled organizers to channel all that protest energy toward a unified anti-Saleh movement. Tawakkol Karman was just one such skilled organizer - she later took home the Nobel Peace Prize for her role in organizing the Yemeni revolution, which should have been a red flag when one considers that unalloyed warmongers like Barack Obama and Henry Kissinger have also received the prize. Karman spoke out against Saudi interference in the Yemeni revolution, while it was later revealed in the WikiLeaks cables that she had been in contact with the Saudis the whole time regarding their future role in the post-Saleh government - a possible reason for why so few of the revolutionaries’ concerns were addressed when Saleh finally relinquished power. After a year of protests marked by increasingly violent police crackdowns and culminating in an assassination attempt on Saleh, he handed over power to Mansur Hadi, his former Vice President. Many revolutionary groups felt betrayed by the transfer of power agreement, which carved up the country into six smaller areas. One group in particular, a Shi’a religious group called the Houthis, condemned the agreement, protesting that it would widen the chasm between rich and poor and that it interfered with the Houthis’ territorial authority - the borders of these six areas cut through a region which had been under Houthi control for many years.
The disastrous result was civil war. Saleh and his loyalists joined the Revolutionary Council founded by the Houthis, even though the Shi’a group had protested his regime during the revolution, and predominantly-Shi’a Iran also joined the struggle on the side of the Houthis; the new Hadi government was backed by the Saudis, armed with billions of dollars in US weaponry. The extreme wealth of the Saudis should have made it easy for them to crush the impoverished Houthis, but instead the Houthis were able to take the capital Sana’a, forcing Hadi to move his capital city south. Still, the Saudi blockade has resulted in massive suffering for Yemenis, with hundreds of thousands of people affected by famine and disease, mounting civilian casualties, and the rise of terrorist groups like al-Qaeda in the oil-rich region of Usaylan. As enablers of the Saudi war criminals, the US is responsible for much of this suffering; the media takes advantage of the fact that most Americans have never heard of Yemen or at least can’t find it on a map and pretends that these crimes against humanity are not taking place.
Ukraine holds the dubious distinction of having (temporarily, at least) operated under the only neo-Nazi regime in the world. President Victor Yanukovych, a democratically-elected if weak and corrupt leader, refused to sign a free trade agreement with the European Union, sparking protests by various right-wing Ukrainian nationalist groups in Maidan Square. The United States flooded these groups, which included such quasi-fascist luminaries as Right Sector, Svoboda, and Fatherland, with money and other support, hoping no one would notice the neo-Nazi factor. Svoboda’s Oleh Tyanhybok, for example, had called for the extermination of ethnic Russians, the second largest ethnic group in Ukraine; Svoboda and Right Sector both openly idolized the Ukrainian Nazi collaborators the Azov Battalion. US diplomat and Nurse-Ratched-lookalike Victoria Nuland called for the installation of the pro-US puppet and Fatherland party member Arseniy Yatsenyuk to replace Yanukovych, mostly because Tyanhybok was too much of a Nazi and would raise international eyebrows; Yatsenyuk, she said in a leaked phone call, could still call Tyanhybok four times a week to receive his marching orders. He lost no time in persecuting ethnic Russians, attempting to remove Russian as the country’s second official language; Svoboda, meanwhile, took a third of the seats in parliament.
Ethnic Russians in Crimea, chafing under the increased oppression, held a referendum in which 90% voted to join Russia. The US clutched its pearls and accused Putin of imperialism, expansionism, and a number of other hypocritical crimes one wonders how it could utter with a straight face. While the US imposed sanctions on Russia and its reunited province Crimea, Ukraine cut off all services to the area, leaving it with no electricity and water and even blockading the bridge separating it from the mainland. Pro-Russian and Ukrainian nationalist forces clashed in eastern Ukraine, in Donbass and Donetsk Province; the bloody unrest continues, though the international spotlight has largely moved on to demonize Putin for his perceived role in “hacking” the US elections. Unsurprisingly, Yatsenyuk’s government collapsed shortly thereafter amid widespread corruption allegations, and Svoboda lost almost all its parliament seats. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
When Regime Change Fails
Sometimes, regime change is impossible. The US does not take kindly to not getting its way. Faced with a diplomatic impasse, it throws a geopolitical tantrum, stepping up failed policies in the hope that maybe THIS TIME they’ll work. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. But don’t say that in front of the US government; they’ll arrest you. When even magical thinking fails to yield the desired results, there is always the nuclear option - take your ball and go home.
Russia has been a thorn in our side since the days of the Bolshevik Revolution. No longer communist, it still rubs us the wrong way. Huge as it is, military invasion is impossible; they have nuclear weapons and plenty of conventional arms as well, and like any bully, the US is reluctant to pick on someone who can fight back. The Putin administration has witnessed many color revolutions in neighboring states (Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan) and is extremely vigilant in monitoring the opposition for the beginnings of such an uprising. There was an attempt a few years ago to start a protest movement; Putin cannily refused to legitimize it with a police crackdown, instead merely letting the resisters protest. Deprived of moral legitimacy, the movement faded away.
One avenue in which US aggression against Russia has been successful is sanctions, but even those have had mixed results. By tanking the price of oil, the US did hurt the Russian economy, which relies heavily on that commodity; elsewhere, however, the Russians merely found other markets for their goods. The most recent round of sanctions, passed over Trump’s head while he limply condemned them, have inflicted collateral damage on Europe as well, which trades extensively with its resource-rich eastern neighbor - the US can’t afford to lose any more friends, but we don’t seem to care anymore. The US is also fond of funding Islamic insurgencies around the Russian borders, in areas like Chechnya and Abkhazia and in bordering countries like Georgia and of course Afghanistan.
Our primary weapon against Russia is demonization - Putin is held up as an imperialist, with designs on rebuilding the USSR bigger and stronger than before. By accepting the (historically Russian) Crimea back into the country, he revealed his expansionist tendencies. Only the US is allowed to violate the territorial sovereignty of other nations! But most importantly, ever since the 2016 election, Putin has been held up as the all-powerful bogeyman capable of undermining democracy in the most democratic nation the world has ever seen! Clearly he has some sort of superpower. US media is pathologically incapable of admitting that the Democratic party ran a flawed candidate who could not have win even if running against a bag of flaming dog shit - it is not that Trump won, or had any redeeming characteristics; it is that Hillary lost. Few candidates in presidential history have been so loathed. A disgruntled DNC operative, witnessing the machinations of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz in barring Bernie Sanders from the Democratic nomination, leaked the documents. There is no evidence of a Russian hack, and all the investigative committees in the world - no matter how much taxpayer money they waste looking - will find one. The whole process is dangerous, because it takes attention away from Trump’s actual misdeeds, which are legion. If the US media is actually anti-Trump - as his loyalists claim - why don’t they criticize him for what he is actually doing wrong instead of pursuing this Russian red herring? Are they really that stupid?
Iran has a long history with US interference. In the 1950s, they saw their democratically-elected leader, Mohammad Mossadegh, ousted and replaced with the authoritarian Shah Reza Palavi. Iranians have been on guard against US meddling in their government ever since, deterring a 2009 “green revolution” during the re-election bid by president Achmed Ahmadinejad. Bush never followed through on Iran’s part in the so-called “Axis of Evil,” having been too bogged down in the Iraq and Afghanistan quagmires to launch another war, but an invasion has never been far from the US government’s mind. When the color revolution failed, the Obama regime tried a page from the Iraq playbook, offering the Iranians a trojan horse disguised as an olive branch - they would dismantle their nuclear program, discard their uranium stockpiles, and the US would relax its sanctions. President Hassan Rouhani, seen as more pro-western and moderate than Ahmadinejad, readily agreed, and has done away with most of the country’s uranium.
Unfortunately, the US does not seem interested in upholding its end of the deal - not only are sanctions still in place, but Trump has added more, in an apparent bid to goad Iran into backing out of the deal and creating a justification for war. Haley, exercising her characteristic lack of restraint and intelligent thought, let the cat out of the geostrategic bag, whining that Iran was violating the “spirit” but not the “letter” of the nuclear deal. The idea is to make weapons inspections so onerous - so frequent, so intrusive, so inconvenient - that Iran pulls out. The US does not want to be the one to violate the agreement, as if any country in the world still trusted its word, but Rouhani is not stupid and he sees what is going on. In response, Iran is backing away from the petrodollar. Trump’s generals are barking for war and he seems ready to let them off the leash. Rouhani may wish he had those nukes sooner rather than later.
North Korea is the country on everyone’s mind these days, as Pillsbury Dough-talitarian Kim Jong-un launches missile after missile over Japanese airspace and South Korean waters, threatening the US daily in a deadly game of chicken. Clearly, the country is too well-armed for the US to invade. A perk of Kim’s totalitarian rule is the absence of a well-organized protest movement that could be galvanized into a color revolution; there are dissidents, certainly, but they are few and far between and any attempt at organizing is promptly met with the heavy hand of the police.
In the quest to demonize Kim, who unfortunately lends himself to being demonized quite easily with his pudgy frame and tendency to have family members killed, Americans forget that his actions are quite reasonable. North Korea was actually in the process of dismantling its nuclear program when Bush made his Axis of Evil speech - Kim Jong-il, then in power, saw what was happening in his co-axial nations and made the intelligent decision not to allow North Korea to go the way of Iraq or (potentially) Iran. The country is surrounded by American missiles, lined up in the de-militarized zone and on aircraft carriers in the South China Sea, and Kim’s missile tests make perfect sense in this context. The US has imposed sanctions, cutting into North Korea’s coal revenues by preventing it from selling as much of the commodity to primary trading partner China, and Kim is looking awfully lonely out there on the world stage.
This is where the nuclear option comes in. Trump, the latest petulant autocrat in a parade of petulant autocrats, is incapable of dealing with defiance. North Korean negotiators have been completely open about their willingness to relinquish their weapons if the US stands down from its aggressive posture - if it takes down the missiles targeting Pyongyang, removes the aircraft carriers just off North Korean waters, and in general plays fair. We’ve established the US does not like to play fair, but even South Korea does not want war - largely because if the US were to launch a “preemptive” “tactical” nuclear strike (I place the other words in quotes because they do not in any way diminish from the seriousness of using NUCLEAR WEAPONS against a SOVEREIGN NATION), Kim would almost certainly fire off a few missiles of his own at Seoul and Tokyo before the bomb hit. Weapons experts don’t know whether Kim’s arsenal is capable of delivering a nuclear payload to, say, New York or Washington, but I think we can agree that this is not the way to find out. The US needs to grow up and solve its problems like a rational adult. It may not BE a rational adult, but as they say, fake it till you make it.
China is rocketing toward superpower status even as the US totters along on its last legs. The Xi regime recently announced it will start trading oil in yuan, and China has come off a recent conference with the other BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa) with a plan to create a gold-backed multinational currency for the purpose of trading oil without having to go through the belligerent, dysfunctional US. One must congratulate China on forcing the US to taste its own medicine. The country out-produces, outnumbers, and out-arms the US but lacks America’s taste for overseas adventures, making it much more popular among neighbors near and far. Expansionist adventures in the South China Sea are somewhat exaggerated, though the US will always side with Taiwan in any dispute. Indeed, the US encourages and funds any opposition it can find, since there’s no chance that a military intervention against China would succeed. A 2011 attempt at a color revolution flopped, however, with Xi’s police effectively crushing the movement before it attracted any real support. The so-called “Jasmine revolution” (lesson learned: never name your revolution until you’re sure you actually HAVE a revolution, or it just looks embarrassing) began on an overseas message board for Chinese dissidents and no single protest attracted more than 200 would-be revolutionaries. When police began cracking down on the gatherings, protesters were told to hold off on actually, you know, PROTESTING and to instead merely file meekly through the square, preventing anyone from discerning who was even protesting and ultimately dooming the movement.
Sanctions, of course, would backfire hilariously. The US owes China trillions of dollars. All Xi would need to do is call in his debts and the US economy would collapse like the house of cards it most definitely is. And with China, we can’t simply take our ball and go home. They have nukes too - lots of them - and they can certainly hit the US. They also have allies - a lot more friends than we do. The US would be crushed in any sort of conflict with China, but their actions strike at the very heart of our global hegemony. There cannot be two superpowers on this playing field. China is clearly on the rise even as we slide downhill. The situation is at least as precarious as anything during the Cold War - once again we have the US as the unhinged mental patient with its finger on the nuclear trigger, willing to blow up the planet for the slightest perceived infraction. China, and to a lesser extent Russia, are the adults in the room, trying to calm down the dangerous nut before he takes us all down with him. The people of the world are held hostage.
Order out of Chaos?
We can see now that no US intervention, military or people-power, has ever led to a functioning western-style democracy. Instead, we have spread chaos and death wherever we go, frequently taking functional and progressive societies and turning them into violent shitholes. This is in line with the “order out of chaos” policy, the same notion that gave us the Patriot Act - basically create a state of total desperate chaos, destroy all structures (literal and figurative) within a society, leave the people grasping for something to hold onto; then step in to save the day with a government or organization that the people would in better circumstances find politically or morally repugnant. In the US, the government shattered Americans’ perception of safety and untouchability with the murder of three thousand people in an extremely cinematic event that will forever be burned into our collective consciousness; we responded by allowing our freedoms to be flushed down the toilet, embracing the illusion of security while the reality continues to elude us. In Egypt, they convinced the people that their own protests had deposed a repressive regime, then pulled a bait and switch with an even more repressive leader who added religiosity to the oppression. In Afghanistan, they took out the government and forced a corrupt and fraudulent “democratic” process on the people - Afghans know their votes are meaningless, but they vote under the direction of an occupying army that guards their poppy fields and ships the opium back to the US, ensuring they don’t even profit off that.
If US intervention never leads to a stable functioning democracy, does this mean we’re just doing it wrong? Is the US military-industrial complex criminally incompetent, or just criminal? If this was truly a failure of policy - if all our interventions had merely backfired, accidentally creating chaos and repressive regimes - surely we’d have accidentally created a democracy by now! Even a broken clock is right twice a day! But this is not a failure of foreign policy. This is unqualified success. We set out to destabilize the Middle East, and destabilize we have. The region is now safe - for US corporate interests, for other multinational firms, for US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, which hate competition and want to see their neighbors bombed back into the stone age.
Color revolutions, while generally less violent than military interventions, similarly lead away from democracy in most cases. As mentioned earlier, these revolutions take place in countries that have little to no experience with democracy and lack the structures to support it. The temptation to fall into old patterns of corruption and repression is immense. It’s easy to hold a democratic election but hard to govern democratically. Additionally, protesters, experiencing the rush of success that comes from toppling an autocratic regime, tend to relax once the dictator is out of power. This is exactly the wrong time to relax. Pressure must be maintained on the new regime so that they do not backslide and become that which they replaced. Otherwise, it’s an endless cycle of meet the new boss same as the old boss, and all the effort of the revolution is for naught.
What the US has accomplished in the last 20 years is pitiful. Aside from millions of corpses, both combatant and non-, we have squandered the political good will we had previously built up over the centuries. The US began its life as a nation founded on admirable ideals - the concepts of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion had not hitherto been used as the basis for a country. It was extremely rare for the average citizen to be able to send a representative to the halls of power to vote for his interests. Hundreds of countries adopted various elements of the US government over the years, democratizing and opening their own nations. We were a beacon of freedom to the rest of the world. Now, we are a nation governed by war criminals, a nation that spies on its own people, that criminalizes whistleblowing and other forms of dissent, that sees nothing wrong with murdering our own citizens with drones halfway around the world without the benefit of a trial, or confiscating property without charging its owner with a crime, or locking people up for the rest of their lives for nonviolent drug offenses. We continue to propagandize our children, telling them that Americans are the good guys, that the government only wants what’s best for you and the world, that our army is out there helping people and fighting for truth justice and the American way, and that voting accomplishes something. Basically, we lie. Lying is really our national pastime. We lie to ourselves, we lie to others, we live in denial and refuse to honestly examine ourselves. When misfortune befalls us, we always blame the other - it is not possible that we can be wrong - that our government has spent the better part of a century going down a very wrong road, stripping us of the freedoms that once defined our great nation and rendering us a nation of disenfranchised serfs laden with crippling levels of debt and a ruling class that exploits us and expects us to pay for the privilege. The concept of “democracy” has been hollowed out and perverted in service to this disgusting state of affairs. The term has become meaningless.
Trouble at Home
America is broke, morally and financially. We have wasted trillions of dollars on these wars, leaving the nation in a disastrous state, with decaying infrastructure, no jobs, no future to look forward to, healthcare and education systems that resemble nothing so much as a bad joke, and a corrupt political class that cannot be removed through the traditional means of voting. We have been “meet the new boss same as the old boss”’ed twice in the last ten years, with Obama riding to power on anti-war sentiment only to start even more wars than Bush, and now Trump ascending on an America First platform only to dump that for Afghanistan and Israel First. Is it any wonder that there seems to be a color revolution taking place right here at home?
Groups like Antifa and By Any Means Necessary have one fundamental difference with the standard Sharp color revolution, however - they do not shy away from violence. Sharp advises against the use of violence primarily because the state has a monopoly on it - the regime owns the army and the police and will necessarily win in any armed confrontation. Instead, revolutionaries are advised to approach the government on a nonviolent platform in which they can be more evenly matched - or even outmaneuver the regime. Otherwise, though, the stage is certainly set for a color revolution. In addition to the dedicated anti-Trump groups, you have other protest movements like Black Lives Matter that began as a response to the murder of unarmed black civilians by police officers but now seems to have aligned itself with the anti-Trump movement. You have various feminist groups that have also thrown their hats into the ring. You have the dubious, nebulous leaders funding movements like Antifa that seemed to come out of nowhere after the election and whose roots can’t be traced. These movements are suspect because until we know who is funding them we do not know where the revolution is driving - or who’s driving it. This is extremely important. We do not want the anti-Trump protest energy to be coopted to further yet another criminal agenda. We do not want to be dupes, like the protesters in the revolutions in Egypt and Yemen.
Most importantly, any revolutionary must keep in mind that it is not Trump who is the problem. Trump is a symptom of the problem - the most visible symptom of the problem, yes, but the system that created Trump is the source of the oppression. The ruling class and its attack-dogs the military-industrial-police complex are the ones robbing America blind to fund these foreign adventures, beef up their stock portfolios, destabilize nations, and collect rewards. We are nothing but cattle to these people. They do not expect cattle to rise up. Take the element of surprise and run with it.