War in Afghanistan
Following the unprecedented 9 / 11 terrorist attacks on American soil, an atmosphere of fear and hysteria swept through the world. U.S. reprisal came in the form of fully blown war against terrorism as they assured the world that America would use all resources at its disposal to wage war on terror. Even as the demise of Osama bin Laden marked an important milestone in the U.S.-led war on terror, it appears as though U.S. Middle East foreign policy is going to take yet another tactical turn. After scaling down operations in Iraq in the first term, the Obama administration is at least rhetorically signaling that they will remove combat troops in 2014. By just about every measure, Afghanistan is still smoldering causing speculation that it could possibly reignite. Will the U.S. finally withdraw the combat troops by 2014? Experts believe that withdraw is not in America’s best interests. Proponents of the conflict theories, realism, world systems theory and a section of Marxist scholars lay foundation for an integrated approach to this issue. Is there a room for compassion in international relations? Enduring tensions and persistent warfare seems to indicate the exact opposite. The war on terror has caused historic misunderstanding, which has paralyzed relations between Middle East and the West. They have entered a war from which they might never get out in this lifetime.
America has had its fair share of historical baggage. In the course of pursing its interest, the United States has made allies and enemies alike. With economic supremacy comes political power. As a superpower nation, America has since dedicated tremendous resources to spread democracy, which is one of the pillars of the U.S. political economy. Democracy involves market liberalization in form of the ‘free market enterprise.’ Middle East is a region endowed with tremendous resources and as such, resource conflict is always imminent. The mission to Afghanistan commenced in earnest immediately after 9 / 11 (Fawcett, 2009). Studies indicate the manner in which forces tied to western capitalists have waged a resource war using Afghanistan as a proxy in their phony agenda of controlling the oil in the Middle East. The rushed enactment of the U.S.A. PATRIOT helped the conflict along since it eased restriction on federal law enforcement to gather intelligence both domestically and abroad. The acts of the U.S. In Afghanistan and other perceived enemy states as well as the experiences of social injustices during the war undercut the self-professed American myth of ‘reverence, respect and integrity.’ In light of the research, there emerge concrete indicators that this resource conflict may last a lifetime. With the recent fallout in the Middle East and North Africa during the Arab Spring, oil prices escalated making way for tremendous profits for western oil multinationals.
Background of the Study
Since the fall of the United Soviet Socialist Republic in 1991, the United States rose to become the world’s sole superpower nation. Both nations were the hitherto world superpowers. With the fall of socialism in the West, capitalism became the novel world order. The U.S. had finally won the longstanding ideological contest that had lasted over the last half of the 20th century. Since then, the U.S. has continually amassed global supremacy in terms of political power, economic prowess, and social authority (Fawcett, 2009). American influence has been felt everywhere throughout the global spectrum. From waging war against perceived enemy nations, the introduction of free market enterprise, the spread of democracy, and spread of socio-cultural dictatorship, American influence has had far-reaching effects in the current global state of affairs in recent times.
With the rise of capitalism, the U.S. made ties with her western capitalist allies notably the United Kingdom and France with whom their interests are in line. As a superpower nation, America has since dedicated tremendous resources to spread democracy, which is one of the pillars of the U.S. political economy. Democracy involves market liberalization in form of the ‘free market enterprise.’ America has been very instrumental in economic lobbying urging foreign nations to adopt free market enterprise and political democracy in line with the western ideology. The goal is to open up their economies to foreign multinational corporations such as Coca Cola, Pepsi, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, and ExxonMobil among other companies (Fawcett, 2009). With their multinational companies strategically placed to capture emerging markets economies, the U.S. And her western allies consolidated economic power as they repatriated profits to their home countries.
With economic supremacy comes political power. Economic experts fault the U.S. For interfering with the domestic policy of host nations in bid to lobby for market monopolization for their companies at the expense of domestic companies (Nathan, 2011). Western multinationals notoriously hire professional lobbyists in their bid to influence the legislation of laws to allow them tax breaks, unfair market practices, and lax environmental regulations. Similarly, a report undertaken by Amnesty International indicates that western companies are involved in unfair trade practices designed to intimidate rival companies (Josef, 2009). While studying the political economy of capitalism, realist theorists of power politics proclaim that the dawn of global capitalism subsequently introduced a vast disparity in the balance of power between the western developed nations and the developing countries of the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia. With America as the de facto leader of the West, it continued to gain unprecedented global influence.
9 / 11
September 11, 2001 — commonly referred to as 9 / 11 – was a sad day for America. “Our hearts are broken.” These were the words of the then President, George W. Bush upon finding out about the series of suicide attacks that had rocked the country that morning. Following investigations, forensics experts declared the attacks as ‘premeditated and coordinated terrorist attacks’ that targeted New York City and Washington D.C. Al Qaeda suicide terrorists had hijacked four airliners Tuesday subsequently flying the passenger jets into targeted buildings on American soil. Two airliners: United Airlines Flight 175 and American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Centre Complex in New York City. The attacks destabilized the Twin Towers, which ultimately collapsed within the hour. The impact compromised the stability of other buildings and structures within the vicinity. As the American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into Department of Defense headquarters at the Pentagon, American Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a field just outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania enroute U.S. Capitol in Washington. This series of coordinated attacks was a travesty that claimed over 3,000 lives (Herman, 2011).
Osama bin Laden, the leader of the Al Qaeda extremists claimed responsibility saying he had orchestrated the events. Bin Laden cited U.S. sanctions on Iraq, the pervasive presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia and America’s support for Israel as the reasons behind the attacks. The Al Qaeda leader said that his organization was trying to send a message. In the infamous memo dubbed ‘Letter to America,’ bin Laden conveyed his grievances accusing the United States of occupying the holiest of places in the Arabian Peninsula, humiliating its religion, undermining its culture, dictating to its leaders, terrorizing its neighbors, plundering its wealth, and imposing their imperialist political economy. To him, this was a calling to fulfill the destiny of the Prophet Mohamed — may he rest in peace. An incensed Osama warned that the United States was ‘too close to Mecca.’
US reprisal came in the form of fully blown war against terrorism. The Department of Defense airlifted troops to Afghanistan as part of their mission to depose the Taliban regime, which harbored the extremists. America was motivated to compromise any ties that the Islamist extremist group had in the Middle East and elsewhere. In a televised address to the nation, President Bush noted that 9 / 11 was an act of war. He assured the world that America would use all resources at its disposal to wage war against terrorism. The first important milestone towards this cause was the rushed enactment of the U.S.A. PATRIOT otherwise known as the Patriot Act
The Patriot Act
In the wake of the unfortunate September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, restrictions of U.S. law enforcement agencies to conduct domestic espionage dramatically reduced. Following the enactment of the Patriot Act, the federal government gained the mandate to spy on citizens whenever there was probable cause to believe that they were engaging in terrorist related activities. The Act eased the restriction on domestic wiretapping granting federal law enforcement agencies gained the mandate to intercept email conversations, phone logs, messaging and other forms of communicative interactions between citizens and aliens on American soil. The recourse to ease restriction on domestic surveillance was sanctioned by the rushed enactment of the U.S. Patriot Act, which provided a loophole in the Fourteenth Amendment privilege against undue searches and seizures as well. Under the auspices of the Patriot Act, the Unites States gradually transformed into a Police State; law enforcement agencies gained the mandate to ‘reasonably’ deprive individuals’ civil liberties such as privacy and due process in what was considered a national security protocol.
A section of commentators have taken issue with the manner in which the federal government denied suspected terrorist the due process of law as stipulated under the constitution. The government even commissioned the establishment of a torture chamber in Guantanamo Bay. This amounts to gross violation of human rights and civil liberties. There is another clause in the patriot act dubbed “enhanced surveillance procedures,” which allows federal authorities to gather foreign intelligence by breaching firewalls of ‘terrorist nations.’ This controversial foreign policy clause damaged the relationship between America and the Middle East.
A section of scholars argues that key players in the oil industry manipulated the United States to wage war against Afghanistan. According to an article published on the BBC World Service in December 2007, the execution of Saddam Hussein was unwarranted. Political scientists reckon that a cartel of multinational oil companies wanted to control the oil in the Middle East. Sympathetic to their cause, Bush’s regime waged the war against terrorism to cover up the real agenda. This in turn enabled the government to establish a permanent military presence in the Middle Eastern region causing international conflict. As the situation in the region remained volatile due the fallout that ensued, oil prices skyrocketed creating an economic boom and a subsequent recession (Herman, 2011).
The issue of terrorism has since become a partisan political issue in the U.S. political mainstream. The overzealousness of U.S. military official to maintain national security is just but a mirage; the real issue is to institute control both at the domestic level and in the international front. With the help of the Patriot Act and the fact that the U.S. has proved to be a nation that always gets her way, this proved to be very easy. The government can now spy on and foreign nations (in this case, the Middle East) masquerading as champions of national security.
Looking at the situation through the perspective of the realist approach to international relations, there is reasonable ground to believe that the war against terrorism spearheaded by George W. Bush was a means through which the U.S. could establish a permanent military presence in the Middle East. Establishing permanent military presence would then ensure systematic control of the oil in the region. This way, major U.S. companies would have unlimited access to the untapped oil reserves estimated to be over 150 million barrels in Iraq alone.
Social Contract Theory
Social contract arguments characteristically postulate that citizens within any given state have consented, either tacitly or explicitly, to surrender various rights and freedoms to the authority of the state (Rousseau, 1973). In return, the state guarantees protection of citizen’s rights and freedoms. The state also guarantees citizen’s protection from external aggression and preservation of national security in return for citizens’ sacrifice of certain rights. The most prominent social contract theorists are John Locke (1689), Thomas Hobbes (1651), and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1762).
Realist Theory of Power Politics
In his political discourses, Thomas Hobbes envisages a conflict dominated international system where powerful players are in a perpetual bid to dominate and control world affairs. Hobbes runaway success dubbed Leviathan clearly articulates how selfish interests of power politics dominate international relations. He bases his notion on the fact that human beings are inherently flawed. Hobbes further likens the international system with life in the state of nature as envisioned by social contract theorists. He believes that the nation-state, international organizations and multinational corporations are merely instruments for furthering conflict in the quest for domination and control so that any pursuit for peace, understanding and coexistence are just but a mirage.
Echoing the same sentiments, Machiavelli argues that any effort to forge peace in international relations is virtually implausible since the actors involved value their selfish interests more than they value peace. Machiavelli dismissed liberal quest for world order as naive and misguided since parties often lack the enthusiasm to compromise their interests for the greater good. Machiavelli and Hobbes’ viewpoint formed the basis of the Realist Theory of International Relations, which posits that politics of power, domination and control overcomes efforts for peace and coexistence as nation states and international organizations remain compromised by pervasive interests of the economic class, political elite and powerful dynasties in the international system.
World Systems Theory
In an attempt to tackle the query at hand, it is important to understand the roots of the economic power plays of the international system. In his discourses, Immanuel Wallenstein discusses political economy of global capitalism. In an attempt to articulate his major argument, Wallenstein develops a theoretical framework, which he calls the World Systems Theory. According to this theory, there is a characteristic structural disparity brought about by capitalism. He espouses that in the political economy of capitalism, the developed economies of the West emerge as the holders of capital since they control the market. Subsequently, the impoverished countries of the third world provide cheap labor and raw materials required to facilitate production. Echoing the same thoughts, Karl Marx had earlier noted that elite nations of the West could not continue to enjoy this prestigious condition without exploiting the poor countries (Wallenstein, 1983).
In his sociological discourses, Karl Marx observes that chaos and social discord is imminent in any given society. Marx describes the society as fragmented into various groups, which are in persistent conflict in their struggle for power and economic resources. Echoing the same, Marxist scholars liken the society to the state of nature as envisioned in Thomas Hobbes’ political theory, according to the Leviathan. As a sociological theory, the conflict theory draws from Marx and Hobbes’ line of thought. Since conflict is imminent in the society, chaos and social discord become inevitable (Herman, 2011). The restoration of social order and harmony, as Marx and Hobbes explain, is only possible through power and coercion. Marx believed that in a society full of chaos, domination is the most plausible means of restoring order (Lenski 345). Hobbes reinforces Marx’s thought by arguing that those with the greatest economic and social resources as well as dominant political authority use force to restore order.
Leader of the Free World
As the world’s sole superpower nation, America has proclaimed itself the ‘leader of the free world’ conferring on itself the mandate to ‘care for and protect’ the world. In the opening statement of his inaugural address to the nation following his entry into the Oval Office, his first State of the Union message, Ronald Reagan spoke very highly of the United States. He described America as “this last and greatest bastion of freedom” and, towards the end of his speech, Reagan acclaimed that America was “the last best hope of man on earth.” Reagan’s sensational remarks aired around the world as the western media sensationally over publicized the issue. It is quite challenging to decide whether these remarks were subtly crafted to elicit certain sentiments about the United States, or they were just innocent patriotic remarks. Either way, Ronald Reagan was perpetuating what has turned out to be one of America’s major myths. A 1987 cover story in TIME magazine’s July issue titled Rediscovering America tackled this issue (Josef, 2009). The cover story discussed the American myth of ‘exceptionalism’ as it has come to be called, where Americans believe they are “a new order of man” “a Chosen People,” (Josef, 2009). This exceptionalism myth is entrenched in the hackneyed national ethos dubbed ‘the American dream,’ which highlights a set of ideals such as equal opportunities for success, prosperity, and upward social mobility (Cox, 2005).
Cold, Calculating Power Machine
As America assumes the responsibility to mandate to ‘care for and protect’ the world, the nation has made it its forte to fight terrorism. A section of commentators, however, do not share this thought; realist scholars have defined America as a cold, calculating power machine whose mantra is ‘the end justifies the means.’ Their ends are free market enterprise, democracy, and social conformity. To achieve these ends, the U.S. uses any means necessary. Their power keeps increasing every time. Observers have dismissed America’s dedication towards global peace as disingenuous. Given a nation with such a dogmatically resplendent image, there are historical inconsistencies in which America has been at odds with their virtuous myth. For instance, what were the founding fathers as well as author of the Declaration of Independence doing with a house full of slaves? In his almost spookily prescient 1955 novel, The Quiet American, Graham Greene remarked that their innocence makes Americans the most dangerous people in the world. The war against terror became a fully blown military confrontation that bore all the evils imaginable to humanity. The acts of the U.S. In Afghanistan and other perceived enemy states as well as the experiences of social injustices during the war undercut the self-professed American myth of ‘reverence, respect and integrity (Herman, 2011)..
Realist theorists of power politics believe that, over the years, America has amassed global influence through force, threats of sanctions and intimidation. The U.S. has managed to be the de facto world leader in the political, economic, and social realms. In the political front, they have coerced nations to adopt governance via democracy, in the economic scene, they have perpetuated a capitalist global economy while maintain social influence through both the mainstream media and social media. Political, social, and economic dictatorship remains America’s source of power. America notoriously manipulates foreign policy in bid to wage war against perceived enemy states — case in point Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. They use NATO to achieve this end masquerading as champions of democracy and liberation of totalitarian regimes while their real agenda is to control the oil in the Middle East for their multinational companies (Harrison, 2004).
In the event of war, America has made it its forte to use euphoric political catchphrases to generate hysteria. For instance, in a televised address to the nation following the dreaded 9/11 attacks, George Bush urged the nation to unite in the war against terrorism stating, “If you are not with us, you are against us.” This was systematic manipulation of citizens The media kept replaying this statement, which one would perceive as a means of intimidating any activism against the war (Herman, 2011).
The goal of capitalism is to make more money and wealth and use it to gain political and economic power, influence, and control. With the recent fallout in the Middle East and North Africa during the Arab Spring, oil prices escalated making way for tremendous profits for western oil multinationals. Likewise, the U.S. uses the political fallout in these regions to establish a permanent military presence. As such, winning the war against terrorism would be a major blow to American interests in the Middle East since their continued presence there is in line with their interests. This further complicates America’s intention to pull out from Afghanistan.
Since the fall of the United Soviet Socialist Republic in 1991, the U.S. has continually amassed global supremacy in terms of political power, economic prowess, and social authority. American influence has been felt everywhere throughout the global spectrum. With economic supremacy comes political power. As a superpower nation, America has since dedicated tremendous resources to spread democracy, which is one of the pillars of the U.S. political economy. Proponents of the conflict theories, realism, world systems theory and a section of Marxist scholars lay foundation for an integrated approach to this issue. Is there a room for compassion in international relations? Enduring tensions and persistent warfare seems to indicate the exact opposite. The war on terror has caused historic misunderstanding, which has paralyzed relations between Middle East and the West. Even as the demise of Osama bin Laden marked an important milestone in the U.S.-led war on terror, it appears as though U.S. Middle East foreign policy is going to take yet another tactical turn.
Cox, M (2005) ‘Empire by Denial: The Strange Case of the United States,’ International Affairs, Vol. 81 1, pp. 15-30.
Williams, H (2007) ‘The Empire Writes Back (to Michael Cox)’, International Affairs, Vol. 85
Harrison, E (2004) ‘Engagement or Empire? American Power and the International Order, International Affairs, Volume 80 Issue 4.
Zakaria, F (2008) ‘The Future of American Power: How America Can Survive the Rise of the Rest,’ Foreign Affairs
Josef J, (2009) ‘The Default Power: The False Prophecy of America’s Decline’, Foreign Affairs
Brasch, W (2005) America’s Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government’s Violation of Constitutional and Civil Rights. London: Peter Lang Publishing,
Herman, S.N. (2011)Taking Liberties: The War on Terror and the Erosion of American Democracy. Oxford University Press
Van Bergen, J. (2003) “In the Absence of Democracy: The Designation and Material Support Provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Laws.” Cardozo Pub. [?] Law Policy & Ethics Journal 2 (2003): 107.
Luca, B (2004). American foreign policy and global governance, in A. Gobbicchi (ed.), Globalization, armed conflicts and security (Rubbettino/CEMISS, Roma) 112-127
Fawcett, L. (2009) International Relations of the Middle East (2nd ed.) Oxford University Press
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