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Making sense of US foreign policy – Part II: US Imperialism is a Bipartisan project

December 15, 2019

(In Part I we provided a framework for how to critically examine US Foreign Policy.)

Last week, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the 2020 US Defense Budget, at $738 Billion

The Senate had already adopted legislation to support the largest military budget on the planet, and in both instances there was large bipartisan support. Even though the Democrats control the House and are in the midst of attempting to impeach President Trump, they overwhelmingly supported passing a $738 Billion US Military Budget.

This most recent vote demonstrates a truism about funding for US foreign policy – it is and has always had bipartisan project. Since the US embarked on expanding their influence around the globe, with the interventions in Cuba, the Philippines and Puerto Rico near the end of the 19th Century, there has been pretty much a bipartisan support for funding what used to be called the US War Department.

Sure, there have been differences between the Republicans and the Democrats in regards to foreign policy, but those have been generally tactical differences. For instance, the Reagan administration wanted to aggressively intervene in Central American in the 1980s, primarily by sending US troops to squash the revolutionary movements in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. For the Democrats, which controlled the Congress at that time, they supported the larger strategy of not wanting revolution to spread, they just disagreed on the tactics. Democrats in Congress during the Reagan years supported military aid to El Salvador and Guatemala, they supported an economic blockade of Nicaragua and they supported turning Honduras into a US military outpost.

If we think about who sits in the White House and what that means for US foreign policy and US intervention, again, it is a bipartisan project. Here is a listing of US Presidents since Lyndon Johnson, showing where the US intervened directly, covertly, offered training and provided military funding to dictatorships:

Lyndon Johnson D (1963 – 1969)     Vietnam, Cuba, Dominican   Republic,  Indonesia, Guatemala, Israel, Egypt, Mexico

Richard Nixon R (1969 – 1974)     Vietnam, Cuba, Lao, Cambodia, Chile, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Haiti

Gerald Ford R (1974 – 76)          Vietnam, Cuba, Cambodia, Indonesia, East Timor, Angola, Egypt, Argentina

Jimmy Carter D (1976 – 1980)          Cuba, Angola, East Timor, Iran, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Afghanistan, Vietnam

Ronald Reagan R (1980 – 1988)         Vietnam, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, Angola, El Salvador, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Grenada, Libya, Honduras, Guatemala, South Africa

George Bush R (1988 – 1992)        Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Angola, Iran, Afghanistan, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Haiti

Bill Clinton D (1992 – 2000)         Cuba, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, Sudan, Yugoslavia, Indonesia

George W Bush R (2000 – 2008)       Cuba, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq Philippines, Venezuela, Colombia, Haiti, Pakistan

Barack Obama D (2009 – 2016)       Cuba, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Colombia, Honduras, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen

Donald Trump R (2016 – )         Cuba, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela,  Honduras, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran

If we then look at domestic opposition to US imperialism and militarism abroad, we can make some significant conclusions. For example, there was a substantial anti-war movement against the Bush administration’s occupation of Iraq between 2002 – 2008. However, there was no serious opposition to the US led sanctions against Iraq that the Clinton administration presided over, which led to at least the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children. In addition, the US military regularly bombed Iraq during the Clinton administration, yet the deaths of Iraqi children and regular bombing did not translate into any serious opposition in the US.

During the anti-Vietnam war movement, there was no fundamental difference between the opposition that occurred during the Johnson administration as opposed to the Nixon years. However, in more recent decades, liberals are less committed to challenging war and militarism when a Democrat occupies the White House, as opposed to a Republican. When the Obama administration escalated the US war in Afghanistan in 2009, there was little domestic opposition, nor was there any real critique of the increased use of drones for targeted assassination that grew exponentially during the Obama years.

Besides the issue of Capitalism, US imperialism is and has always been a bipartisan project, both in terms of funding and support for the various forms of US intervention that make up US foreign policy.

Supporting Resources:

US Imperialism: From the Spanish-American War to the Iranian Revolution, by Mansour Farhang

Empire and Revolution: The US and the Third World Since 1945, edited by Peter Hahn and Mary Ann Heiss

Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, by William Blum

America’s Deadliest Export, Democracy: The Truth about US Foreign Policy and Everything Else, by William Blum

Imperial Alibis: Rationalizing US Intervention After the Cold War, by Stephen Shalom

Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, by Stephen Kinzer

Lying for Empire: How to Commit War Crimes With a Straight Face, by David Model

Thank God They’re on Our Side: The United States and Right-Wing Dictatorships, 1921 – 1965, by David Schmitz

Lawless World: America and the Making and Breaking of Global Rules from FDR’s Atlantic Charter to George W. Bush’s Illegal War, by Philippe Sands

Deterring Democracy, by Noam Chomsky

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