THE American approach to “war on terror” and Washington’s intervention into Iraq and Afghanistan has served only as a recruiting sergeant for jihadists from all parts of Islam, according to a recently published book America And The Imperialism Of Ignorance: US Foreign Policy Since 1945 authored by Andrew Alexander, a veteran journalists and political commentator at London’s The Daily Mail.
According to the ardent Thatcherite, Washington assumed that peace and order would break out in Iraq once Saddam was ousted. It was an epic miscalculation.
In Afghanistan, Andrew Alexander believes, Americans still act on the assumption that installing democratic procedures is a solution for every country’s woes. But there is no logic in this. It should have learned it is dangerous to provoke the power of nationalism. It should have realised that when this force runs alongside religious fervour, the risk of conflicts spinning out of control is even greater. But again, efforts to understand the underlying grievances and motivation of an enemy and to ‘appease’ it are seen as displays of weakness and rejected as un-American, says the author in his book which has attracted critical reviews.
He says, “since 2001, we (Britain) have been dragged into the front line of a war on terror which has served only as a recruiting sergeant for jihadists from all parts of Islam. There are few countries more given to the glorification of violence”.
Andrew Alexander concludes. “The American folk hero is the swaggering gunman. Let loose in the wider world, he is a threat to peace. It is our duty to warn him off this course, not trail along in his wake”
A review of the book by Tony Rennell in The Daily Mail has described the book as provocative that rips part decades of US foreign policy.
Another review has described Andrew Alexander a crusty Tory of the old school who follows in the footsteps of his beloved guru, Enoch Powell, a man sometimes described as the greatest politician never to be prime minister and whose anti-Americanism was aroused by his experiences working with Americans during World War-II.
Andrew Alexander writes that at the heart of the US foreign policy problem was — and is — America’s deep-seated ignorance about the cultures of the countries it wants to change. The average American takes little real interest in the outside world. On the eve of invading Iraq, for example, George W Bush had to be briefed that its people were deeply divided. The words ‘Shia’ and ‘Sunni’ were new to him. And yet, though Americans don’t really understand the outside world, they think it’s Washington’s role to run it and police it. Imbued with an overweening sense of destiny, Americans believe they must impose their own type of government and economy on everyone else. When that doctrine is backed up with the bombing, say, of Cambodia, the spectacle of people being killed so they can be ‘saved’ would be laughable were it not so tragic.
Yet when such intervention produces hostility to Uncle Sam and demonstrators storm its embassies, Americans are baffled by this apparent lack of gratitude. They find it hard to believe they are not welcome as friends and liberators, bringing enlightenment to dark places. This is another manifestation, Alexander argues, of their inability to see themselves as others see them. A particular blind spot is nationalism and patriotism, which Americans value highly in themselves but fail to acknowledge is just as powerful a sentiment for others. They would fight to the last man for their own flag and their own freedom, but don’t understand when others want to do the same.
Washington reacts high-handedly when its pride is challenged, but it never seems to grasp that other countries have just as much pride, which is never more evident than when they are resisting an invader. This is doubly true, says Andrew Alexander, when an American invasion is accompanied by the message that the country in question is inferior in its culture, institutions and people. Some in high places have been honest enough to see the error of their ways.
The failure in Vietnam and the loss of 58,000 American lives there in a pointless war did not stop the more recent forays into Iraq and Afghanistan, where the same mistakes have, in large part, been repeated. Indeed, there are echoes of the gross over-simplifications of the Cold War in the modern attitude of the US to the war on terror. It should have learned it is dangerous to provoke the power of nationalism. It should have realised that when this force runs alongside religious fervour, the risk of conflicts spinning out of control is even greater.
For a popularly elected leader in a nation occupied by US forces will naturally set out to prove he is not a tool of the invaders. In its drive to impose democracy, America shows no sympathy for traditional values in the Arab world, where family loyalties built-up over centuries and the power of tribal elders count more than one man, one vote (and no vote at all for women).
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