World policeman

Updated 05 Jan 2020

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THE killing of Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad early on Friday by the US sends several messages to America’s foes.

The most obvious of these signals is that American exceptionalism prevails and that Washington plays by its own rules, throwing international conventions to the wind.

This may temporarily prove to the world that the US remains the globe’s primary military and economic power. Yet the turbulence such reckless actions cause to the international order in the long term is considerable, something that the policymakers in Washington seem completely unconcerned about.

Moreover, such unilateralism only adds to anti-Americanism amongst the nations of the world, with people feeling that the US cannot be trusted.

Clearly, there is no remorse or afterthought in America’s power circles; in a tweet following a conversation with army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa after Gen Soleimani’s assassination, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “our resolve in protecting American interests ... will not waver”, indicating that such actions will continue.

The fact is that America’s desire to act as global policeman has played a major role in creating a more unstable world, including a more volatile Middle East, especially in the period following the Second World War.

Different American administrations have backed tinpot dictators and cruel regimes from Latin America to Africa, all the while helping thwart democratic movements, particularly if the movements espoused socialist or nationalist tendencies.

In the Middle East, it has supported potentates and strongmen as long as they have danced to Washington’s tune, while expressing anger with regimes that have refused to play along.

Much of the mess in the Middle East today is the work of American interventionism and desire for regime change; Saddam Hussein, once a client as long as he was useful against Iran, was quickly toppled after dubious claims of weapons of mass destruction were conjured up in order to get rid of him. Israel has long enjoyed American patronage, as the US has shielded its principal Middle Eastern client from global criticism, even though Tel Aviv’s hands are soaked in Palestinian blood. Israel has also violated the sovereignty of its neighbours multiple times. Also, Syria and Libya today are broken states because Washington and its allies felt it was time to remove Bashar al-Assad and Muammar Qadhafi; both these individuals are/were brutal autocrats, but plans of regime change hatched in foreign capitals have helped destroy Syria and Libya.

Washington under successive governments — particularly under Donald Trump’s watch — has come a long way from the Fourteen Points championed by Woodrow Wilson for world peace.

The operative American policy seems to be ‘shoot first and ask questions later’. However, this reckless unilateralism has created a more dangerous world, and unless there is a change of course, it will imperil American interests across continents as Washington’s foes decide to answer in the same coin.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2020