With Obama’s selection of his first-term ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice as National Security Adviser and National Security Council staff member Samantha Power as ambassador to the UN, he has sent a message to the world that he will continue to seek regime change in Syria, Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, and other countries unwilling to accept dictates from Washington.
At the same time, Obama’s second term policies have expanded to increase U.S. propaganda operations around the world. This effort has been facilitated by the revocation of the Smith-Mundt Act. Since Cold War days, the act prohibited the U.S. State Department and other U.S. propaganda arms from subjecting the American public to government-financed and directed news. Of particular interest to the Obama administration are the Muslim, Hispanic, and Asian immigrant pockets in the United States which the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which set policy for the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, and Radio Free Asia see as prime audiences for the same U.S. government propaganda that is directed in foreign languages to various immigrants’ home countries. The chief targets are ethnic Somalis, Arabs, Iranians, South Asians, Cubans, and Chinese living in the United States.
The smallest of nations are now subject to U.S. influence operations. In July, a group of U.S. Airborne Ranger officers visited the tiny Republic of San Marino, which is surrounded entirely by Italy. The U.S. military brass spoke of a U.S.-San Marino “alliance” dating back to the Abraham Lincoln administration. It was necessary for the Pentagon representatives to refer to a mutual alliance between the 26-square mile country and the United States because San Marino, like Europe’s other mini-states of Monaco, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Vatican City, and Malta, is not a member of NATO. San Marino only has a small ceremonial military service. NATO’s smallest member state remains Luxembourg.
However, that does not mean the United States will ignore countries the size of San Marino. San Marino’s single vote in the U.N. General Assembly is the same as the United States and Washington has been able to cobble together working majorities of countries, including San Marino, to cast no votes or abstain on U.N. resolutions opposed by the United States.
The U.S. team that visited San Marino was from the new U.S. military base in Vicenza, Italy. The base, known as the Caserma Renato Del Din base, which contains an intelligence collection unit, is also home to the headquarters of the U.S. Army Africa command, an integral part of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), currently headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. From Vicenza, the U.S. Army dispatches other influence operations teams to Gabon, Burundi, Liberia, Djibouti, Tanzania, and Sierra Leone. There is a more permanent U.S. presence staged from Vicenza in South Sudan, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Kenya, and Botswana.
San Marino is a target for U.S. strategic influence operations for another reason. San Marino was the home to a powerful Communist Party during the Cold War years. San Marino was home to the first democratically-elected Communist government in the world between 1945 and 1957. In 1990, the Communists reorganized as a democratic socialist party called the Sammarinese Democratic Progressive Party but traditional Marxist-Leninists bolted to form the Sammarinese Communist Refoundation. In 2008, the Communists merged with the United Left, which continues to win seats in the parliament. San Marino’s leftists are opposed to NATO and U.S. foreign policy goals and therefore, San Marino rates a periodic Pentagon “inspection tour.”
The U.S. military’s visit to San Marino followed by seven months the visit of the flagship of the U.S. Sixth Fleet, the USS Mount Whitney, which is based in Gaeta, Italy, to the miniscule Principality of Monaco. Sixth Fleet and ship officers met with Monegasque political leaders, including Prince Albert II, the head of state whose mother, actress Grace Kelly, was a U.S. citizen. The occasion for the visit was Monaco’s National Day celebrations. Sixth Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral Frank Pandolfe, spoke of the “legendary and strong ties” that bind together Monaco and the United States, which was as spun from the same propaganda loom as the Vicenza-based officer’s rhetoric about the “historical alliance” between San Marino and the United States. Like San Marino, Monaco is not a member of NATO. Pandolfe said Monte Carlo had been a favorite destination for the Sixth Fleet over the years.
One semi-independent nation that has managed to largely separate itself from U.S. military influence is the self-governing Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic. The Faroes’s union agreement with Denmark has not prevented it from pressing NATO to close an early warning and intelligence-collection station in the Faroes. Denmark’s Faroes military command has been closed and re-established in Nuuk, Greenland as the Arctic Command. Although Greenland remains under heavy U.S. and NATO influence because of its role in the U.S. missile shield and the presence of rare earth minerals under the melting Greenland Ice Sheet , the Faroes has managed to shake itself free of NATO military installations. However, Washington has let it be known that it strongly opposes total Faroese independence from Denmark.
A November 17. 2009, leaked Confidential U.S. State Department cable from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, revealed that various U.S. diplomatic posts around the world were being used to pressure General Assembly members, including many small countries, into opposing annually introduced General Assembly resolutions having what the Americans insisted were an “anti-Israel bias.” U.S. diplomatic posts were urged to encourage certain UN members unwilling to vote with the United States and Israel to abstain or be absent from the vote. Included in the U.S. list of targeted nations were San Marino and Monaco, in addition to the other European mini-states of Liechtenstein and Andorra, as well as the small island states of Kiribati, Tonga, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Seychelles, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.
The Obama administration has shown itself to be more than capable of twisting the arms of other small nations by means such as threatening to withhold economic assistance, imposing restrictive trade practices and U.S. visa requirements, and causing various problems in New York for member delegations to the UN. For example, in 2010, a coalition of Western nations on the UN Human Rights Council and other UN specialized agencies, called the Umbrella Group or JUSCANZ, and made up of Japan, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein agreed to invite Israel to join its meetings in Geneva but not in New York. U.S. pressure on Liechtenstein resulted in the Geneva invitation being extended to Israel by JUSCANZ.
One country that has managed to stymie U.S. influence operations in small developing countries is China. A February 12, 2010 leaked unclassified cable from the U.S. embassy in Antananarivo, Madagascar, bemoaned the fact that two new Chinese embassies in the region, one in Antananarivo and the other in Moroni, Comoros, the latter described by a U.S. diplomat as the “largest and most impressive diplomatic compound in town,” could not be matched by the United States because of U.S. financial constraints.
The Obama administration has decided that China is its primary obstacle to Washington’s desire to maintain global influence. Therefore, Obama had “pivoted” the U.S. military to the Pacific region in order to confront China in its home waters and land region. Other leaked cables suggest that the Obama global influence operations team, working with France and the United Kingdom, sought to portray China as a potential neo-imperialist power in the developing world. Other Western intelligence rhetoric warned against increasing Russian influence in the South Pacific and Caribbean. Both warnings are relics from the Cold War. Such notions of Chinese and Russian incursions must have resulted in comic relief in the countries of the developing world that once bore the brunt of the two key sources of colonial imperialism — France and Britain – and the chief architect of the Cold War “containment” policies – the United States.