Alternative Insight

The Politicization of United States Foreign Policy

Ever since the highly successful 1947 Marshall Plan, United States' foreign policies have been mostly counterproductive. One basic reason is the subordination of foreign policies to political interests, how they reflect on domestic policies and elections. Compounding the errors in attaching foreign policy to electoral politics is using it to appease lobbies, influence campaign contributors and reward special interests. Steering foreign policy from choppy waters of political uncertainties directs it to a purposeful clouding of reality and distortion of facts to suit political agendas.

The U.S. has AIPAC, Religious Right, defense industry, oil industry, Latin America investors, the military-industrial complex and a plethora of lobbies and special interest groups driving foreign policy in a direction suitable to each of them.

The U.S. has had a spurious Tonkin Resolution, false charges of weapons of mass destruction, deliberate propaganda against and forced replacement of rulers who protested excesses of U.S. interests in Asia, Africa, Caribbean, South America and Central America, provocations leading to conflict, manipulation of the human rights issue to attack "unfriendly" nations while ignoring more serious abuses in "friendly" nations, and twisting facts in the wars against drugs and terrorism, which creates unnecessary adversaries and enhances the importation of drugs and the escalation of international terrorism. What a record!

In recent years the United States has had as Secretaries of State, Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Clinton, none of whom had any special accomplishments. 'Play safe' politics guided their emptiness - not making waves that would upset the appearance of the Secretary. Political considerations derailed objective appraisals of the situations and drove them to failure.

Foreign policy strategy follows domestic political strategy -- gather friends, attack enemies, and forget diplomacy -- ignoring that sovereign nations have only interests and not friends, conflicts need not automatically create enemies, friction provides an incentive for cooperation and that diplomacy is the desired approach to resolve opposing positions before using the gun.

Three principal objectives of U.S. foreign policy are:
(1) Securing the homeland against external threats.
(2) Defeating international terrorism, and
(3) Diminishing the intrusion of drugs into the nation.

All of these objectives have had misdirected approaches, suborned observers to meet agendas and remain unfulfilled.
Were North Vietnam, Iraq, and Soviets in Afghanistan threats to the United States? History has shown otherwise. The forceful removal of leaders in Lumumba Congo, Sihanouk Cambodia, Sandinista Nicaragua, Allende Chile, Arbenz Guatemala, Noriega Panama, Duarte Dominican Republic, Gaddafi Libya and Milosevich Yugoslavia, none of whom were threats to the U.S., brought problems to each of the subdued nations and rarely satisfied U.S. arguments. The political drivers of these policies are not apparent but exist - being more hawkish than political adversaries, silencing those who thwart U.S. companies from access to resources, and making certain markets are open to U.S. industries.

The hypocritical actions that pretend to "secure the homeland against external threats" are well documented and not subtle. Reasons for failures in the other objectives -- "defeating international terrorism" and "diminishing the intrusion of drugs into the nation" -- are less known and more subtle.

Defeating International Terrorism
A previous article,
Making the World Safe for Terrorism, detailed the misguided policies that govern America's War on Terrorism. Its conclusion had a recommendation: "Separate the battle against international terrorism from general foreign policy initiatives and compare the activities of the Northern Arab nations, with whom the U.S. is extremely hostile, with the southern Arab nations and Israel, whom the U.S. supports. Comparison demonstrates the U.S. is confusing the objectives of its War on Terrorism with its global objectives and complicating its War on Terrorism." As U.S. troops leave Afghanistan after 13 years of war, and Al Qaeda elements engage populations in several countries, the faults in U.S. policies are clearly exposed.

What has the U.S. led 2001 invasion of Afghanistan accomplished?
Initially designed to rid the world of a master terrorist and decimate Al Qaeda, NATO envisioned its incursion as appropriate to replace the despotic Taliban with a representative regime. By the time Osama bin Laden was dispatched in 2011, his effectiveness had been greatly diminished, the U.S. military suffered almost 2000 fatalities and 20,000 wounded, the Taliban still controlled much of Afghanistan and the future predicted a sharing of its power with the government in Kabul. If the purpose of Al Qaeda is to inflict casualties on Americans, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq provided the opportunity and they seized the initiative.

In 2001, Al Qaeda was mainly identified with one organization situated in camps in Afghanistan and allied to other groups in Africa and Yemen. Now it has branch offices of look-alikes -- Al Qaeda in Iraq, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Al Qaeda in Somalia, Al Qaeda in Syria. Al Qaeda in Pakistan, Al Qaeda in Egypt, Al Qaeda in Libya, Al Qaeda in Lebanon, Al Qaeda in the Maghreb and the UN Security Council declaring Nigeria's Boko Haram as "a terrorist group linked to Al Qaeda." Never thought possible, Al Qaeda has expanded to militias and been able to capture territory and establish temporary control of cities in Syria, Fallujah in Iraq and Mogadishu, Somalia. An alarming growth has given Al Qaeda affiliates a footprint in territory that extends from Pakistan to the Atlantic Ocean.

Or are they Al Qaeda? Ansar al-Shari'a (partisans of Shari'a) is a new moniker for Muslim extremists who hope that the religious identification will attract a wider audience. Michael Ryan, in an opinion paper, Al Qa'ida: Time to Engage the Deep Battle, Middle East Institute, August 2, 2013 describes the notable difference: "Al Qa'ida is not simply the terrorist organization responsible for the 9/11 attacks; it is a violent manifestation of a social movement that rejects the international order." That definition gives the earlier Al Qaeda a different perspective, more political than missionary. Those termed Al Qaeda by U.S. administrations neither share one distinct ideology, fight in similar circumstances, nor are dependent on one another. In Syria, Radical Islamic extremists are fighting each other.

Incomprehensible is the word for allowing Al Qaeda elements to move from Pakistan and establish themselves in the Fertile Crescent during the U.S. occupation of the Iraq. While American troops searched frantically to capture Saddam Hussein, similar to their absorption with Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, credited with being the mastermind of Al Qaeda in Iraq, organized a terrorist insurgency of foreign fighters. The success of Al Qaeda in Iraq, more than its predecessor in Afghanistan, motivated similar Al Qaeda structures throughout the Middle East and Africa. The U.S. led invasion of Afghanistan did not destroy Al Qaeda, while the invasion of Iraq vitalized counterparts and enabled Radical Islam to spread over other parts of the world.

A similar travesty occurred in Libya. Although aware that one, if not the principal force in contesting Mohammar Gaddafi were Radical Muslim extremists, whose leaders had fought NATO in Afghanistan, and with the Libyan dictator not considered any threat to U.S. security, NATO overthrew Gaddafi and permitted Al Qaeda militias to gain power. The years of the new Libya have been those of anarchy and battles between a disorganized government's military, tribal forces and Islamist militias. Radical Islamists, trained by the militias, have spread out to fight in Syria and other places, while left around armaments have fueled insurgencies by Malian, Algerian and other extreme Islamists. Instead of debating responsibility for the killings of U.S. Ambassador J Christopher Stevens and U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith in Benghazi, Congress should be debating why Islamist extremists, contained by Gaddafi, were allowed to become a force in the nation and plot terrorist actions?

Another failure in the War on Terrorism has 'friendly" Pakistan evolving to a severe critic of the United States. Most responsible for creating and maintaining the Taliban, primarily to have a weak neighbor devoid of any Indian influence, Pakistan could not readily join forces with the U.S. in its battle against the Taliban. Nor could it remain passive as Afghan Taliban retreated into Pakistan borderlands and Pakistan Taliban came to the aid of their related tribes. U.S. drone attacks against the Taliban in Pakistan and the Pakistan government's inability to halt the raids unsettled the Islamic Radicals and pushed Pakistan into a war it did not want. Military commanders, after concluding that government sponsored peace talks with the domestic Taliban had collapsed, sent its air force to launch strikes against them in the isolated and uncontrolled Waziristan region near the Afghan border.

This violence provoked a break between the military and the government, always a portentous event in coup-minded Pakistan. In retrospect, instability and a rift in relations between Pakistan and the United States followed the 2002 invasion of Afghanistan. U.S. drone attacks within Pakistan, which have killed civilians and violated Pakistan sovereignty, exacerbate the instability and disagreements.

Why has the War on Terrorism been a counterproductive failure?
Examine each of the battles.

Immediately after the 9/11 attack, President George W. Bush reacted by demanding that the Taliban surrender Osama bin Laden to U.S. authorities, disburse his Al Qaeda organization, and close the training camps. The Taliban had definitely sheltered bin Laden and permitted Al Qaeda to train and plan on Afghan territory, but no information indicated that the Taliban either knew of or was involved in the 9/11 attack.

The Taliban were willing to force bin Laden to leave but pleaded that without proof of the Al Qaeda's leader involvement in the crime, which was true at that time, they could not extradite him. Even if they agreed, it is probable they could not locate bin Laden. Bush wasted no time, refused the conditions, launched Operation Enduring Freedom on October 7, 2001, and led his forces into a never ending battle.

What did the U.S. troops find -- no bin Laden, a confused group of Al Qaeda militants and an endless war with the Taliban and other insurgents. The alleged three principal architects of the 9/11 attack -- Osama bin Laden, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Bin al-Shibh -- were all apprehended much later, not in Afghanistan but in Pakistan. The Taliban proposal proved not extreme, and events indicted that Pakistan, equal to the Taliban, should explain its role in protecting Al Qaeda elements. Who was more guilty for Al Qaeda's operations?

The invasion of Afghanistan shapes as an impulsive response to the 9/11 attack, mainly engineered to shift thinking from why did U.S. agencies fail to prevent the attack to having revenge cure the damaged psyche. Not that the Taliban did not deserve retribution; they represent one purpose of Al Qaeda - establishment of a state governed by Shar'ia -- and provided tactical support to bin Laden, more in exchange for economic assistance than for ideological reasons. Seven years too late the U.S. tried to put the genie back into the bottle and remove the Taliban that the Clinton administration had indirectly placed into power.

Dr. Mohammad Najibullah Ahmadzai, a leftover from the Soviet intervention era, and President of Afghanistan from 1987 until 1992, wrote into Afghanistan's 1990 constitution that the country had officially become an Islamic state, and removed all references to it being a communist state. With Najibullah in power, Western nations had an opportunity to create a representative and stable government. However, Clinton supported the corrupt and divisive mujahideen militias that overthrew Najibullah, and Kabul eventually succumbed to a revived Taliban.

Iraq was framed as not being included in the War on Terrorism. The picture, without a frame, shows it served to do the opposite - a war for terrorism.
If, as the United States claimed, the Islamic Republic is the number one supporter of terrorism why did it intend to eliminate Iran's greatest adversary, those who could serve to contain Iran? A new Sh'ia dominated Iraq was sure to side with "terrorist" Iran. Because there was no intelligence, it could not be faulty intelligence . Even the documentation of charges for constructing WMDs were so absurd, no rational person could believe there was any danger. Despite the denials, evidence points to administration neocons and the Israel lobby convincing the U.S to eliminate the nation that had potential to become a major power in the Middle East and be able to threaten Israel, and/or the charge that "the Islamic Republic is the number one supporter of terrorism," is exaggerated.

Both wars had their sponsors, special interests who took advantage of the money to be made. National Priorities Project (NPP) estimates that from 2001 through 2014, U.S. spending in Afghanistan exceeded $700 billion. The shorter occupation of Iraq cost more than $800 billion, not including eventual medical costs for disabled soldiers.

With the excessive spending came the usual
waste and corruption - private defense contractors gained almost $140 billion in profits in Iraq. Some of these profits came from flagrant overcharging, such as a contractor that reportedly billed the US government $900 for a switch that was valued at $7.05.

In Afghanistan, according to a SPECIAL INSPECTOR GENERAL for AFGHANISTAN RECONSTRUCTION (SIGAR) Report, April 30, 2014,
o The initial U.S. strategy in Afghanistan fostered a political climate conducive to corruption.
o Massive military and aid spending overwhelmed the Afghan government's ability to absorb it. This, coupled with weak oversight, created opportunities for corruption.
o The lack of a common understanding of the nature of corruption stymied efforts to combat it.
o The lack of political will on the part of both the international community and the Afghan government to combat corruption resulted in a culture of impunity that frustrated anti-corruption efforts.
o The failure to develop a comprehensive U.S. anti-corruption strategy reduced the effectiveness of various anticorruption initiatives.

The War on Terrorism has complementary components -- business from terrorism and politicization of terrorism. No coincidence that nations that counter U.S. hegemony (Iran, Hezbollah, Syria) are, without any definite proof, escalated to being architects of international terrorism, while those that comply with U.S. interests (Saudi Arabia, Israel, Yemen), and have made direct and indirect contributions to international terrorism, are safely ignored. The House Homeland Security Committee Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management report titled A Line in the Sand: Countering Crime, Violence and Terror at the Southwest Border, November 2012, demonstrates the mistreatment. It found a "growing influence from Iranian and Hezbollah terror forces in Latin America." Based on what evidence?

In a follow up to a 2006 report, the Subcommittee noted the presence of both Iran and Hezbollah in Latin America. "Iran now has embassies in 11 Latin American countries that include Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Nicaragua and Uruguay," and "Hezbollah has a large base of operations in Latin America due to the large Lebanese diaspora in South America. With over eight million immigrants and descendants in Brazil and Argentina alone, South America is home to the largest Lebanese population in the world."

A convoluted and dubious relation between a Lebanese bank that knows Hezbollah and one Lebanese/Colombian drug trafficker is the convincer. "We know that Hezbollah has a significant presence in the United States that could be utilized in terror attacks intended to deter U.S. efforts to curtail Iran's nuclear program," says the report.

Do opening embassies in Latin America make Iran suspect in threatening the United States?
Does a large Lebanese population in South America, which goes back for decades, make Hezbollah a suspect in terrorist actions.
Has any action ever disclosed a 'Hezbollah operator" in the United States? Terrorists from almost every nation in the world have had operations in the United States, and, until now, the year 2014, not one of these has been from Hezbollah? If they are present and are terrorists, why have they not performed any terrorist actions?

Homeland Security, CIA and State Department need to focus on real situations. And one reality is that a stable Middle East is a requirement for eradication of a significant part of international terrorism or at least in localizing it. How is this achieved? It seems sensible to start with stopping the harsh conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. If these nations cooperated in Iraq, Bahrain, Syria and other hot spots, terrorist infrastructure could be greatly reduced. As long as the U.S. throws its weight to Saudi Arabia and opposes Iran, the Saudis will feel safe in contesting the Islamic Republic. A less aggressive attitude toward Iran and reduced favoritism to Saudi Arabia will force cooperation between the Muslim powers. Halting them from tearing one another apart and preventing each from supporting internal dissension in the other will overcome the factors that separate Wahhabi from Sh'ia.

The War on Drugs
The war on drugs is a domestic war, as important, if not important than most other wars the U.S. fights. Drug trafficking has provoked severe violence in many nations, leading to breakdown in law enforcement and civilians fleeing to the United States. The social problems of Latin America are shifted to America.

The United Nations World report on Drugs - 2013 reports that Columbia coca is the principal source of cocaine entering the U.S. and Mexico is the largest producer in the Western hemisphere of opium poppies, whose seeds are refined into heroin. From Columbia to Honduras and then through Mexico, drugs enter the United States. The

Honduras is a major transit country for cocaine, as well as some chemical precursors, and synthetic drugs. The United States estimated that more than 80 percent of the primary flow of the cocaine trafficked to the United States first transited through the Central American corridor in 2012. The United States also estimated that as much as 87 percent of all cocaine smuggling flights departing South America first land in Honduras.

All three nations have cooperated in reductions of cultivation and trafficking, and, due to these efforts, use of both illicit drugs has declined in the last few years in the United States. Not enough -- production remains substantial and interdiction is still lacking. Technology is available to track most aircraft, even low flying, and satellite and drones can identify cultivations and laboratories. There must be more to the continuous spread of drugs, such as corruption and compliance from police and military authorities.

President George H.W. Bush sent his military to Panama in December 1989 -- code-name Operation Just Cause - one reason being to "Combat drug trafficking. Panama had [supposedly] become a center for drug money laundering and a transit point for drug trafficking to the U.S. and Europe." Replacing Central American governments that did not cooperate with U.S. interests has been routine for U.S. administrations. Not that the U.S. should continue to do that, but why the sudden reluctance to be more aggressive with the nations unable to halt the flow of drugs? Is it because the president is not politically compromised (as Bush was) and these nations cooperate with U.S. corporations whose interests are not financially affected?

Who can show how to entirely end opium poppy cultivation? Consult the Taliban. At the turn of the century the Taliban decided to ban opium production.

Taliban's Ban On Poppy A Success, U.S. Aides Say, Barbara Crossette, New York Times, May 20, 2001.

The first American narcotics experts to go to Afghanistan under Taliban rule have concluded that the movement's ban on opium-poppy cultivation appears to have wiped out the world's largest crop in less than a year, officials said today.
The American findings confirm earlier reports from the United Nations drug control program that Afghanistan, which supplied about three-quarters of the world's opium and most of the heroin reaching Europe, had ended poppy planting in one season.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) statistics have opium production in Afghanistan on the rise since U.S. occupation started in 2001, with opium poppy cultivation in each of the 2004-2007 years being greater than in any one year during Taliban rule. And that did not occur without warning.

Taliban to lift ban on farmers growing opium if US attacks,
Edict reverses policy that wiped out crop

Luke Hardin, Guardian, September 21, 2001

In a dramatic and little-noticed reversal of policy, the Taliban have told farmers in Afghanistan that they are free to start planting poppy seeds again if the Americans decide to launch a military attack.

The warning and its outcome can be interpreted in many ways:
(1) The Taliban thought it would be clever and could delay the attack by giving a warning.
(2) The Taliban wanted to punish the western world.
(3) Both the Taliban and NATO concluded that halting poppy cultivation would alienate the population.
(4) Neither of the adversaries had sufficient power to ban the cultivation.
(5) Elements of the Karzai government profited from opium production.

The latter has some legs. Before being assassinated in 2011, President Karzai's half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai (AWK), faced accusations of dealing in drugs. A Wikileaks interception of CIA cables noted that "While we must deal with AWK as the head of the Provincial Council, he is widely understood to be corrupt and a narcotics trafficker."

One of the achievements of the thirteen year war, waged by NATO in Afghanistan, has Afghanistan becoming the leading opium producer. The war on drugs conflicts with a war that produces drugs. The Treasury Department and selected House Committee attempted to make political points from Afghanistan's role in opium production and divert attention from drug enforcement failures by accusing America's nemeses of involvement in the drug trade.

In March 2012, the former agency designated Iranian Brigadier General Gholamreza Baghbani, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force officer (IRGC-QF), "as a narcotics 'kingpin,' and the current chief of the IRGC-QF office in Zahedan, Iran in southeastern Iran, near the Afghan border. General Baghbani allowed Afghan narcotics traffickers to smuggle opiates through Iran in return for assistance. For example, Afghan narcotics traffickers moved weapons to the Taliban on behalf of Baghbani. In return, General Baghbani has helped facilitate the smuggling of heroin precursor chemicals through the Iranian border. He also helped facilitate shipments of opium into Iran."

The charge reveals use of a criminal agency for political purposes. Drug trafficking from Afghanistan, as described by the UNODC has several routes.

The Balkan and northern routes are the main heroin trafficking corridors linking Afghanistan to the huge markets of the Russian Federation and Western Europe. The Balkan route traverses the Islamic Republic of Iran (often via Pakistan), Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria across South-East Europe to the Western European market, with an annual market value of some $20 billion. The northern route runs mainly through Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan (or Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan) to Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation. The size of that market is estimated to total $13 billion per year.

More troubling is the lack of coordination between U.S. and Iranian agencies in preventing crimes due to the continuous enmity between the two nations. With many nations involved in the drug trade, why single out one specific General in the Islamic Republic, especially when Iran leads the world in opium seizures? The 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) from the U.S. State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs describes Iran efforts in combating drug traffic in a positive manner.

Iran remains a significant transit and consumer country for opiates and hashish originating in Afghanistan, as well as a growing source of methamphetamine for both domestic and international markets. According to Iran's own statistics provided to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the country led the world in opium seizures in 2011, the last year for which statistics are available. In 2012, media reports indicate that Iran's Law Enforcement Police seized approximately 430 tons of illicit drugs between March 2011 and March 2012 (the Iranian calendar year), with approximately 70 percent of these seizures occurring along the country's 1,147-mile eastern border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. Opium and heroin seizures appear to be remaining stable or declining, while seizures of methamphetamine appear to be increasing dramatically (over 11-fold between 2008 and 2011).

Iran devotes considerable resources to confronting the illegal drug trade, approximately $1 billion annually according to official government estimates. Iranian enforcement strategies rely heavily on border interdiction, and include the construction of moats, barriers and watchtowers along the country's eastern borders.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) World Drug Report 2013 states that "More than 3,700 national [Iranian] law enforcement officials have been killed in counter-narcotics operations over the last three decades." A little cooperation between Iran and the U.S. could resolve many drug problems. However, U.S. authorities are more interested in using rumor and exaggeration to pursue political enemies than concentrate on the real culprits in the drug trade.

U.S. involvement in wars, insurrections and violence never ceases and has one overriding result - body bags sent home. The reasons that dictated the involvements are never resolved.
The War on Terrorism is viewed as an international fighting war; just kill terrorists. For each one killed, several more appear. Terrorism is proving to be a local phenomenon, made international by external interferences. The U.S. leads but include Saudi Arabia, Iran and Hezbollah as external interferences,
Drug trafficking cannot exist without corruption. "Friendly" nations are allowed to be corrupt.

Finally, a hopeful sign. President Barack Obama, in a speech at West Point on May 28, 1914, detailed a new foreign policy for the United States.

But to say that we have an interest in pursuing peace and freedom beyond our borders is not to say that every problem has a military solution. Since World War II, some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures - without thinking through the consequences; without building international support and legitimacy for our action, or leveling with the American people about the sacrifice required.

This leads to my second point: for the foreseeable future, the most direct threat to America at home and abroad remains terrorism. But a strategy that involves invading every country that harbors terrorist networks is naive and unsustainable. I believe we must shift our counter-terrorism strategy - drawing on the successes and shortcomings of our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan - to more effectively partner with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold.

If Obama's proposed policies are allowed to proceed, this could be the shining moment for a confusing administration. Distinguishing between foreign policy and military policy and distributing resources to enhance success in both areas will be a forward step in battles against the evils that inhabit a troubling world..

june 2014


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