Ending the forever: On American interference

The U.S might not find it easy to resist the impulse to remake other nations

Updated - September 04, 2021 12:47 am IST

Published - September 04, 2021 12:02 am IST

President Joe Biden has mounted a stiff defence of his position on pulling American troops and civilians out of Kabul, an operation widely regarded as botched and disastrous, vowing that the era of meddling in the politics of other nations had ended. His comments came in the context of sharp criticism of an evidently poorly planned exit, coterminous with deadly terror attacks near Kabul airport . Since the withdrawal, U.S. polls suggest that nearly twice as many people disapproved of his management of the end of the long war as those who approved, that 56% of surveyed individuals disapproved of his performance on foreign policy, and his overall job approval rating had hit a new low of 44%. When the poll statistic of 71% of Americans believing that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan was a failure is taken together with Mr. Biden’s promise to eschew the regime change paradigm in foreign policy, it begs the question of whether such a new era of U.S. non-interventionism is possible or likely. The answer depends on the extent to which the U.S. believes it can manage the forces of international terrorism from afar, sans boots on the ground. That also partly depends on the strategic role of Pakistan, China, and Russia in the South Asia region. Neither sets of factors inspires hope that the messy troop pull-out was anything other than one step in another round of the classic historical cycles in Afghanistan, of foreign occupation, ‘regime change,’ abandonment and lapse into lawlessness, orthodoxy, and flirtations with terror outfits in the neighbourhood.

The U.S. has a rich history of shaping or toppling foreign governments and seeking to influence forces made abroad that had an impact on American shores. In the early 20th century, the centre of gravity of such clandestine operations was in the North American hemisphere, and it included the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama. In the post-Second World War and post-Cold War periods, it included the likes of Iran, Indonesia, and Venezuela, including alleged interference in the elections of Italy, the Philippines and Japan. With a foreign policy elite and intelligence community deeply inured to habitually meddling in the politics of other nations for at least a century, the odds that Mr. Biden will be the leader to turn their heads from this preoccupation are low. It is true that ever since the advent of his predecessor, Donald Trump, the U.S. has been on an inexorable path towards a more inward-focused paradigm of policymaking, putting “America First” and reconsidering if not rejecting certain elements of the rules-based international order. But in America, historically, the clarion call for nativist populism has always coexisted to an extent with the temptation to meddle abroad. The impulses of the Biden administration may, therefore, only lead to a temporary lull in this disturbing trend.

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