Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

U.S. Foreign Policy Is a Shambles


With al-Qaeda affiliates wreaking havoc in Iraq, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham seem to lament that no U.S. troops are on the scene to get in on the action.
“The Administration must recognize the failure of its policies in the Middle East and change course,” McCain and Graham said.
Change course? Do they want to send troops back to Iraq, so they can do more dying and killing?
McCain and Graham, who never saw an opportunity for U.S. military intervention they didn’t like, continue to operate under the absurd illusion that American politicians and bureaucrats can micromanage something as complex as a foreign society. Their hubris knows no bounds, but, then, they never pay the price for their foolishness. Who pays? The Americans they cheer off to war, but even more so, the people in foreign lands who are on the receiving end of American intervention.
How do those scoundrels in Washington sleep?
If you haven’t noticed, American foreign policy is a shambles. Iraq and Afghanistan are engulfed in violence, and their corrupt, authoritarian governments are objects of suspicion and hatred. The suggestion that U.S. forces could make things better only shows how out of touch people in Washington can be.
Anyone who was thinking clearly in 2001–2003 knew it would come to this. Afghanistan has a history of driving out invaders. Only someone blinded by the allure of empire could fool himself into thinking the U.S. government could arrange affairs such that they wouldn’t unravel the moment U.S. personnel prepared to leave the country.
The 2003 Iraq invasion raised even more questions about the ability of policymakers to engage in clear thinking. Under Saddam Hussein, the minority Sunni Muslims ruled the Shi’ite majority, many of whom were sympathetic to Shi’ite Iran, America’s supposed bête noir. Take out Saddam, and Iran’s friends would rule. Indeed, the man who became Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, was handpicked by Iranian authorities. (Ironically, the Shi’ite leader that the Bush administration chose to fight, Muqtada al-Sadr, was the most nationalist of Iraqi Shi’ites and least sympathetic to Iran.)
With Shi’ites in control, Iraqi Sunnis resisted. And then came the al-Qaeda fighters, who saw a chance to kill both Shi’ites and Americans. Hence the continued violence in Iraq, even though U.S. forces left at the end of 2011 — despite the Obama administration’s best effort to keep some there.
Iraq and Afghanistan are not the only places where U.S. foreign policy is in disarray. Take Egypt. The Obama administration — including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — stuck with hated military dictator and ally Hosni Mubarak until the bitter end and even then tried to have his second-in-command and torturer in chief, Omar Suleiman, take over when Mubarak was finished. That didn’t work, of course, and a fledgling democracy (whatever its imperfections) began to sprout wings.
The Obama administration praised Egyptian democratic aspirations, but when the military deposed President Muhammad Morsi last year, the administration sided with the coup makers — although it could not use the word coup, for that would require stopping the annual $1.5 billion payment to the Egyptian military. The U.S. government has no desire to end that appropriation, because it keeps Egypt in the American camp and blunts its support for the Palestinians, who are under occupation by U.S. partner Israel. With Egypt’s military government cracking down on the civil liberties of the members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, U.S. policy looks more monstrous every day.
Speaking of Israel, Secretary of State John Kerry seems to be going all out for a peace agreement between the government of Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinians, but Kerry’s effort has a fatal flaw at its core. Netanyahu & Co. don’t want the Palestinians to have a viable, autonomous state free of Israeli domination. We know this because the prime minister keeps announcing plans for more illegal Jewish-only residences on Palestinian land acquired through war. Kerry won’t condemn this flagrant undermining of “peace” talks because he, like so many American politicians, is beholden to Israel’s powerful American lobby.
Then there’s Libya and Syria — but you get the idea. U.S. foreign intervention aggravates conflicts and puts America on the side of oppressors. No wonder it’s falling to pieces.

Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (

Sheldon Richman, author of the forthcoming America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”