Because imperialism as a US goal is hardly the domain of Trump and Republicans who are openly authoritarian and embrace the beneath-the-surface totalitarian nature of the neoliberal institutional structure, ill-fated US foreign policy in an increasingly multi-polar world will continue no matter the occupant of the White House. Considering that the US economy is so heavily parasitic, relying on “financialization” (the dominant role of market speculation at the expense of the economy), the political, financial and media/intellectual elites operate under the same set of assumptions about what accounts for ‘the national interest’. Therefore, they fall into the same trap of illusions regarding US foreign policy as an instrument of expanding the declining American empire, namely, the use of the world’s largest military arsenal as leverage to keep Pax Americana hegemonic in the 21st century, while pursuing neoliberal policies that keep widening the rich-poor gap at home.
Numerous contradictions backfire with domestic and foreign policy consequences and account for the ill-fated US foreign policy. For example, Iran is not economically integrated with the US, relying much more on China, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, with EU playing a secondary role – mostly Germany and France. Only when the sanctions were lifted did the larger European countries accelerate trade with Iran in the domain of everything from energy to aircraft and automobiles. Unless the US places effective sanctions – not circumvented via third parties - on the EU doing business with Iran, a very real prospect with some exemptions, its foreign policy goals of trying to determine the balance of power in the Middle East by weakening Iran and strengthening Israel and Saudi Arabia are a dead end policy. Threatening to crush Iran is empty rhetoric that we have heard many times before from Reagan to the present. Yet, Iran has become stronger no matter how hurtful the sanctions, and they have been hurtful for economic development.
One possible method by which Washington can force its EU/NATO partners to choose between national economic interests and loyalty to Pax Americana is to engage Iran directly or indirectly through Israel/Saudi Arabia into a regional war, as both Tel Aviv and Riyadh would love. EU and Middle East leaders are well aware of such an inevitability, largely because the unlikely allies Saudi Arabia and Israel are promoting regional war against Iran. Saudi Arabia in fact paid $110 billion in US defense contracts in exchange for securing an openly hostile US policy toward Iran with the possibility of war down the road or at least continuing the disastrous war in Yemen. The contradiction here is that the US is indirectly on the same side as the jihadist terrorists it publicly claims it is fighting globally, thus exposing the vacuous rhetoric about the war on terror.
Unlike France and UK that joined the US in bombing Syrian targets in April 2018, all of Europe could adopt the German position of non-participation, if the US decides to hit Iran directly or indirectly. More than likely, the Europeans would call for a UN Security Council meeting to resolve the conflict diplomatically, just as they did in May 2018 amid the Israeli killings of Palestinians protesting the US embassy opening in Jerusalem. The military solution scenario targeting Iran would be a major illustration of an ill-fated US foreign policy not just regionally, but globally as it would force nuclear-club members China and Russia on Iran’s side. This situation would be further complicated if there is nothing that arises from US-North Korean negotiations in June 2018, or if such negotiations are perfunctory and simply keep the status quo with some perfunctory agreement about avoiding provocative military exercises on both sides in exchange for improved economic relations. The idea that North Korea would strip itself of the nuclear deterrent is simply another of many illusions on the part of naïve politicians, analysts and policymakers.
In both Iran and North Korea, US foreign policy will result into a two-front ill-fated solutions that would further erode America’s global status. China and Russia would inadvertently be seen as the powers seeking stability; Europe would be further alienated seeking closer ties to Russia and China; and die-hard apologists of Pax Americana would still not have learned the lesson that the world power structure of 2018 is not the same as it was in 1950. As the undisputed economic global hegemonic power that more and more countries are following, China is leaving behind the US which is relying more heavily on its military might as the only leverage to assert imperial power. While US military power cannot be underestimated as leverage in the pursuit of global hegemony, history has taught us that no power in history has ever been able to maintain hegemony for very long on the basis of bankrupting its civilian economy just to maintain a strong defense. This is especially true of the US today with an economy in decline relative to other powers and domestic income distribution resembling that of non-Western developing nations.
The political elites – both Republicans and Democrats – and the business elites that control the media, think tanks and enjoy enormous influence over academic institutions through their funding are pursuing an ill-fated foreign policy in part to retain global market share but also to keep the social order at home and abroad frozen under the neoliberal model of political economy, whether that model is pluralistic (under the Democrat Party) or rightwing populist (Trump’s Republican Party). Although mired in contradictions in terms of achieving its own state goals, the militarist-expansionist US foreign policy solution has many dimensions and implications domestically and globally. This should not come as a surprise to anyone if they simply examine that only erosion of power has been achieved by US intervention since the Vietnam War but especially in the last two decades in Afghanistan, Iraq, across North Africa and the Middle East.
Even by Trump’s own populist isolationist rhetoric, the result of militarism as a means of achieving regime change and integration of the country into the US orbit of influence has cost the US an estimated $7 trillion which has been added to the public debt. However, the combination of ideological, political, and economic impetus for “Empire As A Way of Life”, to borrow William Appleman Williams famous book title, has become “perpetual militarism and regime change as a way of life” under any administration. This is because Manifest Destiny indoctrination as a means of keeping capitalism viable remains deeply ingrained in the perceived short-term interests of the political and social elites that they see no alternative.