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remembering the past: Pax Americana « Previous | |Next »
October 28, 2008

In June 2002 President Bush in an address at the US Military Academy at West Point laid out a vision of how the US was to operate globally, facing "a threat with no precedent" -----which he identified as al-Qaeda-style terrorism in a world of weapons of mass destruction. At a time when the Afghan war was being hailed as a triumph and the invasion of Iraq was just beginning to loom on the horizon, Bush outlined the basis for the pursuit of American interests:

We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign non-proliferation treaties, and then systemically break them. If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long ... [T]he war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge. In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act ... Our security will require transforming the military you will lead - a military that must be ready to strike at a moment's notice in any dark corner of the world.

Vice President Dick Cheney interpreted this in terms of even a 1% chance of an attack on the US, especially involving weapons of mass destruction, must be dealt with militarily as if it were a certainty.

I've interpreted this policy of "war on terror" as a means to impose a new Pax Americana, endless war in the name of the Global War on Terror, and a future of small wars, expected to be frequent, protracted, perhaps perpetual on the edges of the US empire.

Today Afghanistan and Pakistan are a dark corner of the world as framed by U.S. hegemony where the US is entangled in a war without end in Afghanistan against an army of Afghan insurgents supported by foreign jihadist volunteers. Though the Bush administration launches strikes into Pakistan, thereby destabilizing a crucial ally, Afghanistan does highlight the limits of Pax Americana.

The US is committed to an escalation of the war in Afghanistan through a reliance upon air power and sending 8,000 more US troops to Afghanistan next year. soaring civilian deaths. NATO increasingly looks to be an unpopular occupation force faced by a insurgent Taliban that has established a shadow government across much of the south. The Taliban are too deeply rooted to be defeated militarily (the Taliban represent the interests of a segment of Afghanistan’s largest ethnic minority group, the Pashtun) and many peasants in southeastern Afghanistan prefer the neo-Talibans to the Karzai Government. So the solution is a political one.

There was a Salon on Terrorism at Steve Clemon's Washington Note which explores the "'war on terror" in Afghanistan. In it Greg Djerejian observes:

scratch a mid-level European NATO planner, I suspect, and they probably can't help wondering how an alliance meant to defend Western Europe from the predatory inclinations of the Soviet Union has transmogrified into an alliance requesting that young Germans and Danes and Spaniards engage in nation-building efforts half-a-world away from the post-historical pleasures of a good meal in Brussels.

Well, the British want an exit strategy as they can see the flaws in NATO winning hearts and minds in remote hamlets bordering Pakistan. They can see--as can Hugh White --that the West will most probably fail in Afghanistan.

Like Djerejian I don't understand the long terms objectives of NATO--plus Australia remember --in Afghanistan. I know the words used ---counterinsurgency and nation-building----but what is the purpose or objective of these strategies? Is it defeating al-Qaeda? Fighting a civil war to defend the Karzai Government against the Taliban? Nation building to transform Afghanistan into a free market democracy? Winning hearts and minds? Securing the population from terrorists? If the latter, then who are the terrorists. The insurgent Taliban? They don't threaten the US. Ensuring the Afghan Government is capable of providing stability on its own. Why?

And Australia? Why are we fighting in Afghanistan as part of NATO since a new Taliban regime in Kabul would not impact Australia's national interests. I concur with Hugh White when he says to please the Americans by investing in political capital to placate the Americans for Labor's withdrawing troops from Iraq.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:18 AM | | Comments (4)


In the Australian media the Taliban are conflated with al-Qaeda--no difference. For them the the war in Afghanistan has to do with destroying the remnants of al-Qaeda. Afghanistan is seen through the 9/11 frame.

With continued reports of American drones bombing in Pakistan and yesterday's effort in Syria (assuming it's true) "our enemies" are being seriously provoked regardless of what they call themselves. Bush's parting gift to the world?

pakistan is a dark corner. It looks as if a growing balance of payments crisis will destabilise security in Pakistan whose people are angry about the rising cost of food and energy.

Pakistan needs $4bn-$5bn for the financial year to June 2009 to meet debt payments and other liabilities.

The country’s foreign currency reserves stood at $4bn and were likely to run out by the end of November.

Will the IMF come to the rescue?

Peter, the IMF is being asked to do a lot of things these days. Given the choice between Iceland and Pakistan, who do you reckon they'd rescue first?