President Donald Trump’s announcement on Dec. 20 that his administration would quickly pull some 2,000 troops from Syria and 7,000 of the 14,000 in Afghanistan seemed to have caught many high-ranking U.S. as well and U.S. allies around the globe off guard.
It is unclear, however, to what extent the pullout will be able to be implemented. Trump is under a lot of pressure from even his supports to back off or slow down the plan.
This often happens throughout history, when the core beliefs of a country promulgated by elites are challenged — and in the case of the U.S., it is both Republican and Democratic elites. The dismay at the retirement of Secretary of Defense James Mattis indicates the many battles ahead for a rebalancing of U.S. foreign policy.
It is not surprising that the overreach of the U.S. geopolitical dominance since WWII has become more obvious to an average citizen. The evidence became obvious during the Vietnam War and glaringly evident in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Yemen.
Stephen Walt, a respected analyst of U.S. international relations, argues in his recent, “The Hell of Good Intentions: America’s Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of U.S Primacy,” that U.S. foreign-policy elites have implemented a strategy of “liberal hegemony” since the end of WWII to impose U.S. dominance.
“Liberal hegemony” is implementing of the ideology of democracy via democratic institutions, liberal values, diplomacy, military might, the establishment of some 750 military bases around the globe, and the removal of dictatorial regimes, such as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Somalia, etc.
It was also implemented through an “interlocking web of think tankers, corporate lobbyists, congressional allies and foreign policy officials who depend of preserving liberal hegemony’s — hegemony,” Walt wrote.
This policy included Sunday talk shows, newspapers — including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and their op-ed and editorial pages. In the decades after WWII, there was little criticism from these sources of the mounting defense and intelligence agencies’ budgets, which by the first two decades of the 2000s was reaching $1 trillion.
Until the powers of such advocates are diminished. it is likely that its principles will continue to be implemented. The brouhaha created by Trump’s announcement of the troop pull-out indicates liberal hegemonizers intend to dig in their heels.
While the U.S., along with its s allies, probably have some 100 bases of varying sizes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, that still leaves another 650, with plans to build another substantial number throughout Africa.
The current polarization, invective, bewilderment and hatred among the American population, and among U.S. political and economic elites, suggests liberal hegemony will continue for some time while being frequently assaulted and despite being detrimental to the long-term interests of the American people.
Robert Olson of Lexington has written 10 books on aspects of Middle East history and politics.