To: Mark Mardell
CC: BBC News on-line. world desk
I enjoyed reading your recent article which asked “Why is it that the United States .. has so often found itself backing the bad guys?” The answer seems fairly simple. They “back the bad guys” because that benefits their foreign policy objectives which are economic and strategic in nature. As they are in any rational foreign policy.
You then skip fairly lightly over some US bad guys, John Adams, responsible for the brutal conquest of Florida and the formulation of the Monroe doctrine. Also the later expansion of the US empire to include the entire continental land-mass and beyond.
You state that “the USA often found itself in bed with a promiscuous parade of the dodgiest of characters – dictators, torturers and thieves – whose only virtue was not being ‘Commies.'” I assume this includes the people responsible for the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the rapists and murderers of four church workers, six Jesuit priests and their housekeeper and her daughter, the US trained military death squads who “wiped-out entire villages.” Are you actually suggesting that these murders happened because the victims were “commies” and not because they represented a genuine, indigenous, liberal democratic political movement in favour of banalities such as feeding, clothing and housing the poor of El Salvador?
You then state that “the US never successfully pulled off the trick of encouraging genuine liberal democracies.” Can you give one example [from] history where the US attempted this anywhere NOT within an enemy domain? In other words, has the US ever promoted this in it’s own “sphere of influence” – for example El Salvador?
You correctly state that “Bush and Clinton did not urge people living in dictatorships in the Middle East and Central Asia to seize the freedoms newly enjoyed in the European east.” Can you imagine why this is? Do you not think that it might lead to the disastrous reversal of over 50 years of policy directed at acquiring control over the regions energy resources?
You then state that the neo-cons “targeted old enemies, never old friends” such as Saddam Hussein. Are you seriously suggesting Saddam Hussein was not an old friend? What was the US policy towards Iraq during the Iran/Iraq war then in your view?
Your conclusion begins by stating that “Mr Obama seems to genuinely believe that it is not the place of the leader of the world’s only superpower to pick and choose the leaders of other countries.” How does this explain US policy in Afghanistan where the Taliban would enjoy significant if not majority political support were free elections to be held?
You then state that “It will be interesting to see if he follows up with tough conversations with Saudi King Abdullah, Uzbek President Islam Karimov, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and other allies …” I won’t be holding my breath, will you?
You conclude that the “dilemma” remains because “any new Egyptian government that encompasses them would be less friendly to Israel, the peace process and the West in general.” We both know that US intervention in Egypt began with joint US/USSR backing for the Generals coup which ultimately removed British/French control over the Suez canal – a vital strategic asset. A US/Israeli war was fought to negotiate a treaty under Sadat for peace with Israel. The peace treaty effectively permits Israeli forces freedom of action in occupied Palestinian territory and in some 5 invasions of Lebanon since then. None of which would be possible if Egypt, the major Arab military force, had not been neutralised. This is reflected by Egypts status as the 2nd largest recipient of US military and economic aid (after Israel.) These are very significant elements of US foreign policy and surely weigh more heavily than anything on the other side of the “dilemma” pertaining to “democracy.” Can you seriously, hand on heart, believe that such strategic considerations are secondary?
You final statement is that “the danger of backing revolution and democracy is that the moral arc of the universe does not always bend towards American foreign policy interests.” – Perhaps that is why it is best not to directly support revolutions until after they have succeeded and there is something to gain from influencing their leaders. In this case, only time will tell.
Passive consumer of the news product.