His presentation is marked by systematic lies about past wars and current military interventions. The speech’s glaring failure to acknowledge the millions of civilian killed by US military interventions stands out. He glosses over the growth of NSA, the global police state apparatus. He presents a grossly inflated account of the US role in the world economy. Worst of all he outlines an extremely dangerous policy of confrontation with rising military and economic powers, in particular Russia and China.
Distorting the Past: Defeats and Retreats Converted into Victories
One of the most disturbing aspects of President Obama’s speech is his delusional account of US military engagements over the past decade. Obama’s claim that, “by most measures America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world”, defies belief. After 13 years of war and occupation in Afghanistan, the US has failed to conquer the Taliban and is leaving behind a fragile puppet regime on the verge of collapse. The US was forced to withdraw from Iraq after causing the deaths of hundreds of thousand of civilians, the displacement and wounding of millions and the ignition of a sectarian war, which has propelled a pro-Iranian regime to power in Baghdad. In Libya, the Obama pushed NATO to destroy the entire country in order to overthrow the secular Gadhafi government, thus undermining any possibility of reconciliation among opponents. He has brought bands of Islamist terrorists to power who are profoundly hostile to the United States.
Washington’s effort to broker an accord between Palestine and Israel is a shabby failure, characterized by Obama’s spineless capitulation to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s goal of grabbing more Palestinian land for new “Jews only” settlements – paid with American tax money. Obama’s craven pandering to the Jewish power configuration in Washington does little to bolster his claim to lead the world’s “greatest power”…
You have heard lectures on the world economy at the Academy: Surely you know that China has displaced the US in major markets throughout Latin America, Asia and Africa. While China is a major economic challenge, it is not an expansionist military power. It does not possess thousands of overseas bases or Special Forces troops operating in seventy-five countries; it does not pursue military alliances and does not invade countries thousands of miles from its borders. Obama’s ‘Pivot to Asia’ is a provocative expansion of US military power off China’s coast contrary to his public claims of “winding down” overseas military operations.
Obama speaks of defending “our core interests” by military force yet he provokes China over a disputed pile of rocks in the South China Sea, undermining the “core interests” of the 500 biggest US corporations which have invested billions of dollars in the most dynamic economy in the world and of the biggest American exporters to our second largest trading partner.
Obama refers to fighting “terrorism” yet his policies have encouraged and promoted terrorism. Washington armed the Islamist terrorists who overthrew the secular Gadhafi government and plunged that country into chaos. Obama backs the Islamist terrorists invading and attempting to overthrow the secular regime Syria. He provides 1.5 billion dollars in military aid to an Egyptian military dictatorship terrorizing its democratic, civilian political opposition, assassinating and imprisoning thousands of dissidents. In February, the US backed the violent overthrow of the elected government in Ukraine and supports the Kiev regime’s bombing of pro-democracy, pro-federation civilian populations in the Southeast, a majority of whom are ethnic Russians. Obama’s “anti-terrorism” rhetoric in nothing but a cover for state terrorism, closing the door on any peaceful resolution of overseas conflicts and spawning scores of violent opposition groups in its wake.
Obama brags about “our success in promoting partnerships in Europe and in the world at large”, yet his bellicose policies toward Russia have created deep rifts between the US and the leading countries of the European Union. With its multi-billion dollar trade agreements with Russia, German opposes harsh sanctions and provocations against Moscow, as do Italy, Holland and Belgium. In Latin America, the US-controlled Organization of American States is a toothless relic amidst growing regional organizations which exclude the US. Where are Washington’s “partners” in its hostile campaign to overthrow the government in Venezuela and blockade Cuba? Washington’s efforts to forge an Asian economic bloc, excluding China, has run aground against the deep and comprehensive ties linking South Korea, Taiwan and Southeast Asia to China.
Wherever you look, Washington’s closest ‘allies’ are the least dynamic and most repressive: Israel, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states in the Middle East; Egypt, Morocco and Algeria in North Africa; Colombia in Latin America; the Philippines in Asia; and motley groups of sub-Sahara despots and Kleptocrats squirreling away billions of dollars into New York and London bank accounts while starving their countries’ budgets on health and education.
Obama’s diagnosis regarding the position of the US in the world is fundamentally flawed: He ignores the military losses from unwinnable overseas adventures and understates the decline in US economic power. The growing divisions among former regional allies have no place in his speech. Above all, he refuses to acknowledge the profound disenchantment among most Americans with Washington’s foreign military and trade policies. The flawed diagnosis, the deliberate distortions of current global realities and the deep misreading of domestic public opinion, cannot be overcome by new deceptions. Bigger lies and more extensive foreign military interventions mean that newly commissioned officers will serve as cannon fodder for policies deeply unpopular with our people.
Obama: Political Desperado in Search of an Imperial Legacy
Obama has marked a new phase in his escalation of a military-centered foreign policy. He is presently engaged in a major build-up of air and ground troops and provocative military exercises in the Baltic States and Poland…all of which are directed at Russia, raising the specter of a ‘First Strike’ strategy against a major nuclear power which poses no threat to our nation.
President Barack Obama, deeply unpopular at home, is propelled by a mania for global military escalation. He is expanding naval forces off China’s coast. He has dispatched hundreds of Special Forces to Jordan to train and arm Islamist and al Qaeda mercenaries invading Syria. He promotes Kiev’s brutal crackdown on civilian protesters in the Eastern Ukraine by increasing US military aid and training. He has dispatched hundreds of US forces throughout Africa. He has just allocated $1 billion for military expansion along the European frontiers with Russia and another $5 billion to boost the capacity of despotic regimes to repress popular insurgencies under the pretext of “fighting terrorism”.
Obama’s ‘vision’ of US foreign policy is clearly and unmistakably colored by his readiness to pursue highly dangerous military adventures. His tactic of launching Special Forces’ operations in all corners of the world, his increasing use of mercenaries and proxies is a throw-back to 19th century colonialism. Sending client regime troops from one oppressed country to conquer and pillage another marks a regression to brutal old-style empire building. No one is deceived when Obama declares that “American leadership is indispensable for world order”. His Washington-centered new world order is unraveling. Disorder and misery are the consequence of relying on naked military intervention to delay the inevitable – the decline of a uni-polar world is a fact.
The Obama Administration’s involvement in the violent coup in the Kiev is a case in point: As a consequence of placing an oligarch, the so-called ‘Chocolate Billionaire’ to head a junta infested with neo-fascists, Ukraine is falling apart, cities in the east are being bombed and the economy is in free-fall. A massive humanitarian disaster threatens the stability of Europe if hundreds of thousands of people are displaced by the brutality of civil war in Ukraine.
Obama’s unopposed air war against Libya utterly destroyed that nation and has created a Hobbesian world where bloody warlords fight brutal jihadists over shrinking oil sales. In Syria, US-sponsored ‘rebels’ have devastated the economy and the social fabric of a complex secular society. Al Qaeda-linked terrorists have recently kidnapped hundreds of secular high school students heading for their final exams in Aleppo in order to prevent any recovery and reconciliation in that brutalized nation.
No major country in South America follows US ‘leadership’ on Cuba and Venezuela. Even in the United States, outside of a few enclaves of fanatics in Florida, very few American citizens back Obama’s hostile policies to Cuba and Venezuela.
Obama’s duplicity, of talking peace while preparing wars, has been exposed. And now this same president is preparing to commit you, newly commissioned officers of the US Army, to overseas military adventures against the interests and wishes of the majority of your fellow Americans.
Obama will send you to war zones where you will face popular insurgencies, supported by masses of working people. While propping up corrupt oligarchs and defending foreign capital, you will be despised by the local populations. You will be ordered to ‘defend’ an Administration which has pillaged our national Treasury to bail out the 15 biggest banks in the world, banks which paid $78 billion dollars in fines, between 2012 – 2013, for fraud and swindles while their CEO’s received obscene bonuses, wealth and immunity . You will be told to sacrifice your lives and limbs fighting wars for the State of Israel in the Middle East – an Israel which bombed the USS Liberty (among other incidents) – killing and maiming hundreds of American service people with impunity. You will be sent to command bases in Poland and to direct missiles at Russia. You will be sent to the Ukraine to train neo-Nazis in the ‘National’ Guard to kill their own compatriots. You will be expected to subvert the loyalties of military officers in Latin American, hoping to provoke military coups and convert independent progressive governments into neo-liberal puppet states – ripe for pillage and mayhem.
Obama’s plans for you do not resonate with your ideals and hopes for a prosperous America dedicated to democracy, freedom and peaceful development at home. You face the choice of serving a political desperado, contemptuous of our Constitution and intent on launching unjust wars at the behest of billionaire swindlers and armchair militarists in Washington, or refusing to participate as muscle-men for bloody empire and joining the majority of the American people who believe that America’s ‘leadership’ should be directed at redistributing the wealth and power of an unelected oligarchy which currently runs this country. Who will you choose to serve?
James Petras is a Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York. He is the author of 64 books published in 29 languages, and over 560 articles in professional journals, including the American Sociological Review, British Journal of Sociology, Social Research, Journal of Contemporary Asia, and Journal of Peasant Studies. He has published over 2000 articles in nonprofessional journals such as the New York Times, the Guardian, the Nation, Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Policy, New Left Review, Partisan Review, Temps Moderne, Le Monde Diplomatique, and his commentary is widely carried on the internet. His most recent books are: The Arab Revolt and the Imperialist Counterattack (Clarity Press 2012) 2nd edition, The Power of Israel in the United States and Rulers and Ruled in the US Empire: Bankers, Zionists and Militants, (acquired for Japanese, German, Italian, Indonesian, Czech and Arabic editions), Zionism, Militarism and the Decline of US Power, Global Depression and Regional Wars: The United States, Latin America and the Middle East, and War Crimes in Gaza and the Zionist Fifth Column in America. He has a long history of commitment to social justice, working in particular with the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement for 11 years. In 1973-76 he was a member of the Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Repression in Latin America. He writes a monthly column for the Mexican newspaper, Le Jornada, and previously, for the Spanish daily, El Mundo. He received his B.A. from Boston University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.