former CIA analysts
Recently a journalist in Singapore asked for our help on an article about U.S. foreign policies for an English-language newspaper on that island-nation. The journalist asked for our thoughts, in writing, on four specific questions that caused us to think about U.S. foreign policies in ways a little different from our normal approach, which is probably too closely tied to our past as Washington bureaucrats. Here are the questions asked by the Singaporean journalist, and the answers we came up with.
ONE: Why is the global perception of U.S. foreign policies so negative? How have the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Iraqi prisoner abuses, and the fight against terrorism contributed to this perception?
In our view, most of the world’s ordinary people — as opposed to their governments — are convinced that present U.S. foreign policies are aimed at dominating the rest of the world, and most of them do not want to be dominated by the U.S.
Over the past several decades, the poor almost everywhere have seen the gap between rich and poor grow ever wider. Even though the urban middle class, generally only a small part of any nation’s population, has benefited in some countries from the privatized, minimally regulated globalization that is a major weapon used by the U.S. to extend its global power, the masses of people have not received any of the benefits. Instead, they see themselves as oppressed by the U.S., and they believe that the U.S., and often their own governments, neither respect them as human beings nor regard them as having any value other than as a reservoir of cheap labor.
While most of the world’s governments have supported George W. Bush’s so-called war against terror, most of the world’s people see this war as another weapon of the U.S. drive for global domination. Citizens of many nations are appalled at the U.S. hypocrisy in defining as terrorists only peoples or groups that Washington regards as enemies. Once Russia gave its support to Bush after September 11, only Chechens rebelling against Moscow could be roundly criticized as terrorists; no longer could Moscow itself be charged with terrorism. For a far longer period, it has been acceptable in U.S. government circles to charge Palestinians with terrorism, but never could any actions by Israeli settlers or the Israeli military be labeled as terrorism. In a more general sense, most people of the world believe that the United States’ longstanding one-sided support for Israel against the Palestinians — and particularly the Bush administration’s intensified support — is a major factor encouraging more terrorism against the U.S. and its allies, and that without a change in this policy, the threat of terrorism will never diminish. They see U.S. policy as not only wrong and unjust because it enables the oppression of weaker peoples, but as doomed to failure over the long run.
The U.S.-initiated wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the killings of thousands of innocent people in each case (far more than were killed in New York and Washington on September 11), and the abuses of prisoners taken by the U.S. and its allies, have simply intensified these perceptions among people around the world. And we should never forget that underlying all the specific issues in this cauldron of hatreds is the strong suspicion that racism is at the basis of U.S. policies that allow too many Americans to treat poorer peoples of the world as subhuman.
TWO: Why is it necessary for the U.S. to have such a wide-ranging foreign policy? How is it important for its interests?
There is no good reason for the U.S. to pursue such aggressive and arrogant foreign policies. The U.S. has only 5 percent of the world’s population and, no matter how wealthy and militarily powerful that 5 percent is, it cannot for long pursue a successful policy of global domination. If it tries to do so, the U.S. will inevitably fail and will impoverish its own people in the process. Even in the very short run — the next one or two years — these policies will not improve the living standards of the mass of average workers in the United States.
But in this same very short run, the massive military superiority of the United States gives great power to a particular set of political forces that dominates the country’s politics and wants to continue aggressive foreign policies. These political forces, which today pay massive amounts of money to elect presidents and members of Congress, are the leaders of the corporate and military power structure. This structure, of course, is far greater than just a small group of leaders. It includes many defense and high-tech workers, contractors, government employees, military personnel, investment firms and banks, many lawyers and judges, and foreign and domestic lobbyists — all of whom see their future livelihood as dependent on the continuation of this system.
This entire conglomerate, the military-industrial complex defined by Eisenhower over 40 years ago and now infinitely more powerful, has an agenda that includes a general, or global, aspect and another aspect that gives greater emphasis to the Middle East than to any other area. The global agenda includes constantly expanding U.S. military expenditures, a U.S. drive as described above for global domination, and increased control over the world’s fossil fuel supplies. The Middle East agenda includes the strengthening of Israeli/U.S. partnership and hegemony throughout the region and, in furtherance thereof, advocacy of war, first against Iraq and then if necessary against Syria, Iran, and possibly other Middle Eastern states.
We emphasize again that we do not believe these groups can continue to dominate U.S. foreign policies much longer. It is possible, however, with all the money they can command, that they can win the presidential election in November 2004. If they do, it will appear to be a major victory for them. Even if Bush loses the election this November, there will probably be few if any immediate changes in U.S. foreign policies. But we repeat, regardless of the election outcome later this year, we think it will prove impossible for any U.S. government to continue the present drive for global domination beyond the next two or three years. We admit that this is an optimistic judgment, but we feel strongly that it is correct.
THREE: How is this foreign policy important for other countries around the world?
U.S. foreign policies have a profound effect on other countries. It is very important that peoples and governments all over the world do everything they can to encourage the U.S. government to give up its drive for global domination as quickly as possible. The recent elections in Spain and India, which overturned governments seen to be overly compliant with U.S. goals and demands, are the most recent signs that the peoples of the world are protesting U.S. policies. We believe more such protests are vitally necessary
FOUR: What are the implications for the world if countries choose not to support U.S. foreign policy or if anti-American sentiment is allowed to fester? How will it prevent/inhibit the U.S. from carrying out its foreign policies effectively?
Present U.S. foreign policies already contain within themselves all the seeds that will bring about necessary changes in those policies. It is unfortunate, but probably a fact in this world that is still dominated by national governments, that U.S. voters will have the most influence on the timing of those changes. But citizens of all other nations of the world, who today are affected every bit as much as voters of the U.S. by everything that happens in America, should constantly shout out that they, too, are entitled to an equal voice in their own future. Spain and India are a good start.
Bill and Kathleen Christison are both former CIA political analysts. Bill worked in the CIA for 28 years. Before retiring in 1979, he was a National Intelligence Officer and the Director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis, a 250 person unit. Kathleen has been a freelance writer since resigning from the CIA in 1979, dealing primarily with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Her book Perceptions of Palestine: Their Influence on U.S. Middle East Policy was published in 2001. A second book, The Wound of Dispossession: Telling the Palestinian Story, was published in 2002. They can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org