In September, when the US was intent on confronting Iran and if possible mounting military operations against it, there was curious lack of support from many countries which in the past had been willing to leap on the bombing bandwagon to join in attacking whatever unfortunate nation had upset the military-industrial complex in Washington.
It was argued in the Los Angeles Times on September 9 that former puppets had good reason to reject Washington’s advances and, intriguingly, the writer quoted Ivo Daalder, a former US ambassador to NATO as saying “President Trump has made it far more difficult to build coalitions and get people on our side when we need them. When you lose other countries’ confidence, restoring it is hard.” This is certainly so, but the fact that the observation was made by Daalder was staggeringly ironic, because he was so deeply involved in loss of international confidence in the US and its NATO fellow-blitzers of Libya in 2011.
In the course of seven months of US-NATO airstrikes on Libya (Germany and Turkey refused to join the jamboree), the country was destroyed and Daalder, then US Permanent Representative on the NATO Council, and Admiral James G Stavridis, the US Supreme Allied Commander Europe (military commander of NATO), exulted in Foreign Affairs that “NATO’s operation in Libya has rightly been hailed as a model intervention. The alliance responded rapidly to a deteriorating situation that threatened hundreds of thousands of civilians rebelling against an oppressive regime. It succeeded in protecting those civilians and, ultimately, in providing the time and space necessary for local forces to overthrow Muammar al-Qaddafi.”
The war on Libya by the US-NATO military alliance was not “hailed as a model intervention” by those aware of the circumstances in which the US decided to destroy the country and overthrow its leader, who was murdered in disgusting circumstances on October 20 eight years ago. (With the then US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, joking to a television reporter that “We came; we saw; he died”, which is a fair contender for the most subhuman utterance by a public figure so far this century.)
And when the results of the bombing and rocketing became apparent, CNN reported that “Assassinations, kidnappings, blockades of oil refineries, rival militias battling on the streets, Islamist extremists setting up camps, and above all chronically weak government have all made Libya a dangerous place and one whose instability is already spilling across borders and into the Mediterranean. There is effectively no rule of law in Libya.”
So it continues, with the country as ungovernable, dangerous and chaotic as it was rendered by US-NATO eight years ago. It might be imagined that this example of the evil effects of malevolent military intrusion would cause the American public to reject any such further fandangos. But apparently not.
On October 4 poll results were published concerning US attitudes to military intervention in foreign countries. The Chicago Council concluded that “American support for taking an active part in world affairs remains at near–record high levels. This level of support is near the highest recorded in the 45-year history of the Chicago Council Survey.” The President of this Council is none other than Ivo Daalder, he of the “model intervention” in Libya, and it is notable that “in February 2015, the Council partnered with the Brookings Institution and the Atlantic Council to produce ‘Preserving Ukraine’s Independence, Resisting Russian Aggression: What the United States and NATO Must Do’, a report urging the US and NATO to provide lethal defensive assistance to preserve Ukraine’s independence.” (The fact that Russia has no intention of waging war against Ukraine is regarded as irrelevant. Ukraine is welcome to continue in its corrupt, chaotic sovereign fashion, and all that Russia asks is that Kiev should permit the Russian-cultured, Russian-speaking inhabitants of eastern provinces to choose accession to one or other country.)
The Council admits that “Americans are more likely to say that US military interventions make the United States less safe rather than more” but immediately emphasises that “there are times when they think military action is appropriate. For example, Americans favour using US troops to take action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons (70%) and fight violent Islamic extremist groups in Iraq and Syria (59%). Americans also support the use of US troops to defend allies. Majorities across party lines favour committing US troops to defend South Korea from a North Korean invasion (58%) and to defend a NATO ally such as Latvia, Lithuania, or Estonia from a Russian invasion (54%).”
In other words, in spite of the destruction of Afghanistan and Iraq by US invasions and of Libya by a sustained and merciless campaign of bombing and missile attacks, the citizens polled by the Chicago Council are still raring to go to war with the next country that in some manner offends against Washington’s policies. Russia is high on the list.
In this context, it has been obvious that the current Administration in Washington is unable to decide on a consistent policy about Middle Eastern affairs. On October 13 the Washington Post reported that “President Trump has ordered a withdrawal of US forces from northern Syria in the face of a Turkish military offensive targeting Kurdish fighters in the region, Defence Secretary Mark Esper said, two days after he promised that the United States was not ‘abandoning’ its partners in the campaign against the Islamic State… The president made the decision after indications that Turkey intends to expand its attack ‘farther south than originally planned and to the west,’ Esper said.”
Then there was even more confusion when Trump — who is appearing less stable, day by day — was critical of the Kurds declaring they’re “not angels,” and that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party is “more of a terrorist threat in many ways than ISIS.” On October 17 the Post reported regional feeling that “Trump’s abandonment of Syria caps a long erosion of trust that began under the administration of President Barack Obama. His decision not to stand by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak… is frequently contrasted with Russia’s unwavering support for Assad after he faced popular unrest just a few weeks later.” While this is so, Trump’s pronouncement on October 17 about the northern Syria temporary ceasefire served to further complicate the situation when he declared that “It’s a great day for the United States. It’s a great day for Turkey… It’s a great day for the Kurds. It’s really a great day for civilization. It’s a great day for civilization.”
Trump’s absurd babbling was put in context by the Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, who remarked that “Yes, civilization is very happy. Centuries from now, historians will look back at the greatest achievements of all time: the development of democracy, the invention of electricity and the time Trump negotiated a really short cease-fire in a war he basically started.”
The US military ding-dongs in Syria seem to be over, and have resulted in anarchy. Yet Ivo Daalder is proud of his poll’s indication that “the way you make America safe is the traditional way you make America safe, which is: US military superiority, strong alliances, basing forces overseas, being willing to defend your allies when they are attacked. All of those, there is — 50, 60, 70, 80 percent of Americans support that.” That’s the American way in international affairs: Blitz and destroy and move on leaving chaos and countless refugees.