India must rethink

US’ Foreign Policy

By Dr D. K. Giri

(Prof. International Politics, JIMMC)

The American debacle in Afghanistan has made countries reassess its foreign policy in terms of their commitment to the values they seem to advocate, and their reliability as an ally. It is critically imperative for South Block in New Delhi to rethink its America policy in order to reinforce its perspectives and recalibrate its strategy. In the context of China, to explain New Delhi’s lack of correct assessment, I used to quote the 20th century muckraking journalist Upton Sinclair who once opined that “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on not understanding it”. This could apply to any country’s foreign policy if the outcome of any partnership with that country does not yield favourable results.

The US President Joe Biden has blundered in Afghanistan. There is no gainsaying this perception. He has not followed up any consistent approach to the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan. The shambolic exit that leaves a trail of blood and barbarism casts a long shadow on America’s intelligence, calculations, strategic planning and so forth. The question now debated is, whether the aftermath of American withdrawal was inevitable. Or was it not foreseen? The Americans had to quit ‘the forever-war in the Central Asian country’.

Biden is desperately trying to justify his action that support such a strategy.

The other question raised is, “Do the Americans care”? This needs to be probed, if countries like India pin their hopes on America defending their security, should an occasion arise as an autocratic, belligerent country like China, India’s immediate neighbour, threatens global security including of course that of India’s.

My take in assessing America’s foreign policy, we will find that Washington has displayed a dichotomy between what it professes and what it practices on the ground. The second variable is American leadership, the Presidents it has had. Biden has clearly shown that he is a weak and inconsistent leader; unlike his predecessor Donald Trump, who, despite many of his drawbacks, was consistent in his approach. In fact, he said the same things as he did years before he became the president, although we may not agree to these.

The first question to ask is, in its foreign policy and justification of military interventions, does America really address the issues that are quoted for the bases of those actions in the first place. Take for example, the 1991 Gulf war, perpetrated by George W. Bush’s administration on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The rationale was that Iraq invaded Kuwait. But US has supported before and after Iraq war, far more destructive aggressions than Iraq’s into Kuwait. US supported the 1975 Indonesian invasion of East Timor, and the same year, South Africa’s attack on Angola. In 1990, US backed Uganda’s proxy invasion of Rwanda.

The second question to pose is, does the US seek peace in place of conflicts and wars? It is presumed that the US does support peace to prevail. If that was indeed a priority in foreign policy, then America would have used all possible opportunities to avoid war. But American military history strongly refutes this notion. The United States has been, in its 245-year existence, at war in all but 11 years. The evaluation of Iraq war and even the intervention in Afghanistan, it has been revealed that both Saddam Hussein and Taliban had offered no-war deals.

The Third question to ask is, does America worry and careabout defending democracy. It is true that defence of democracy is the concept often brandished by Americans to pursue military action in another country. In quite a few South American countries including Venezuela, Panama, Grenada and Haiti, interventions have been justified in the name of democracy. Look at the facts, the United States provides arms to 73% of the World’s dictatorships. The supply of arms is often accompanied with training of the military and security forces of those undemocratic regimes. From 1970 to 2009, around 275 military-backed coups took place globally, of which 165 of them were carried out by US trained forces.

A close scan of US allies in the Middle East and North Africa should demonstrate America’s sham commitment to democracy abroad. In Egypt, the US has been an ally to many undemocratic governments including that of Hussein Mubarak until it was overthrown by a popular uprising in 2013. The royal families of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UAE have enjoyed immense patronage from the United States. Furthermore, the people of Guatemala, Brazil, Chile and Honduras and a host of other countries willtestify to the mismatch between America’s professed commitment to democracy and its practice in foreign policy.

That said, I have been arguing for a closer partnership between Washington and News Delhi. We must realise that international politics is based on pragmatism, the so-called realpolitik. And there are many instances to show that America has intervened and stood for peace, order, and democracy, certainly more the communist dictatorships like Russia and China. More important, America has not sought to grab other peoples’ lands.

It is the leadership of Joe Biden that is in question, mainly his inconsistency. In a speech in February 2002, he had said, “History is going to judge us very harshly we believe, if we allow the hope of a liberated Afghanistan to evaporate because we are fearful of the phrase, nation-building”. Now he says, “Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation-building. It was never supposed to be creating a unified centralised democracy.” Also, he forgot the diplomatic principle that negotiations are euphemisms for capitulation, if the shadow of power is not cast across the bargaining table.

The mess Biden leaves in Afghanistan puts him in a poor light as the leader of the super power. If he made a deal with Taliban and left Afghanistan and the arsenal to them, history will judge him harshly. At any rate, New Delhi should keep the realpolitik in mind in its foreign policy and get the US to do the course correction in Kabul as there is no turning back from Quad and India-America security partnership. — INFA