The loose supercannon: The Age of War: The United States Confronts the World, by Gabriel Kolko (Allen Quicke, 5/04/06, Asia Times)

Since World War II the United States has been increasingly willing to use its military might to impose its will on the world. But it is not sure exactly what its will is, and it has never evolved a workable doctrine that specifies its global role and how and when force should be used to achieve its ends. The result is haphazard foreign-policy decisions and ill-conceived military adventures embarked on without an understanding of local conditions and in utter disregard of possible consequences. Besides, Kolko argues, military means seldom if ever achieve the desired political ends. Still, the US goes in, with massive firepower, its smart bombs thinking overtime and its superweapons primed, only to find more often than not that its awesome arsenal is utterly unsuited for the job at hand. Thus it gets sucked in to prolonged, escalating conflicts such as Vietnam and Iraq, and its original intentions are forgotten as it fights on simply to avoid defeat and humiliation – in other words, to protect its credibility as a superpower. The massive human, social and economic damage that it inflicts in the process serves to destabilize regions and create enemies that the US did not have before.

Add to this “shock and awe” the increasing economic inequalities abetted by the US-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and you have the ingredients for anti-American terrorism: desperate people with no other recourse, economically on the brink and having been on the receiving end of US firepower.

If some of this sounds familiar, it’s because it is standard anti-American fare. Yet the iteration of the facts behind such assertions is instructive. Let’s look at some of them, starting with a very abbreviated list of better-known US military interventions since 1950 (a similar list would have served Kolko’s argument well, yet it is missing from the book).

1. Korea, 1950-53
2. Egypt, 1956
3. Vietnam, 1962-73
4. Cambodia, 1969-75
5. Laos, 1971-73
6. Dominican Republic, 1965-66
7. Iran (hostage rescue attempt), 1980
8. Lebanon, 1982-84
9. Grenada, 1983
10. Libya, 1986
11. Panama, 1989-90
12. Kuwait, 1991
13. Iraq (no-fly zone), 1991-2003
14. Somalia, 1992-93
15. Haiti, 1994
16. Bosnia (with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization), 1995
17. Sudan, 1998
18. Serbia (with NATO), 1999
19. Afghanistan, 2001-present
20. Iraq, 2003-present

A fuller list, such as one provided byZNet, numbers at least 60 US military and/or covert interventions since 1950, excluding shows of naval/air strength, covert action and/or the use of proxy forces where the United States did not have command, and US pilots flying foreign warplanes. Instances in which the US has used proxy forces and/or covert action for regime change, for propping up “friendly” rulers, or to fight communism include scores of countries around the globe: Angola, Cuba, Venezuela, Indonesia, the Philippines, Namibia, Iran in 1953, Afghanistan in the 1980s, Iran again in 2006, to name just a very few.

And all this for what?

For this: “Just 25 years ago, there were only 45 democracies. Today, Freedom House reports there are 122 democracies, and more people live in liberty than ever before.”

As to the alleged ideological inconsistency over the years that we’ve been forcing that evolution, one need only compare this statement, this statement and this one to this one and this one in order to see that the assertion is nonsensical.

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