Strategic Studies

Amateur Superpower of World Politics

By Subhash Bhambhu

Image Courtesy: Foreign Policy Research Institute

The US presidency proposed September 11 as the withdrawal deadline for the US and NATO forces to leave Afghan soil. The date is carefully chosen in remembrance of the 9/11 attack. In an interview with Yahoo News, former White House adviser Richard Clarke indicated that there is a high probability of collapsing the Afghan government and Taliban takeover after the US forces withdrawal. His statement keeps weight considering his previous expertise when he served as a counterterrorism official in Clinton and Bush administrations before and during the US invasion of Afghanistan.[1]

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Afghan project was all started after 9/11 when the US was in desperate need to find some enemy who could be held responsible for the heinous act. Eventually, it was found out that the enemy was none other than Afghanistan. In a quick response, the US decided military means and initiated a ‘war on terror. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) had to pass Resolution 1368 based on the US’ intention to exterminate external threats and restore peace and security.[2] Later on, it came to the light that the resolution did not authorize any invasion or intervention. So, the US unilaterally decided to strike militarily relying upon allies. In the domestic arena, the 107th congress passed a joint resolution stating ‘Authorization for Use of Military Force’ legitimizing the president to give green light to end the terrorism.[3]

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Now, the US had to justify a ‘just’ war which did not seem so much just considering its procedural aspects and consequences. Al Qaida was the enemy and cause of 9/11 devastation. So, the Taliban could be accused of giving shelter to the Al Qaida and hiding Osama bin Laden (unlike in the script, eventually Osama was found out in Pakistan). The religious fanatism of Taliban ruling was another justification. Then, there was a long list of causes including women’s rights, democratisation, terrorism, liberate the oppressed, etc. Though, later on, most of the causes and justification proved hollow and scripted, and the true intention of the US intentions came into the limelight. What the most difficult criticism the US has been facing for two decades is to justify the traditional dilemmas- the ‘right to go to war’ and the ‘right conduct during the war’.

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Since the invasion, the US has been failing utterly to provide any genuine excuse. Now, after two decades with a loss of 2000 plus US personnel lives, thousands of civilian killings in collateral damage, million left displaced, it came into mind that it’s time to go. Frank Gardner writes his experience while reporting with soldiers in Afghanistan. He mentions that one soldier started to play the ‘Creep’ song of Radiohead band whose lyrics says “what the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here”. Frank himself was compelled to think “No, we are not perhaps.”

But unfortunately, it took two decades to five US presidencies to realise that they don’t belong in Afghanistan after much bloodshed and let a whole nation fail. The lesson of foreign intervention was very costly for Afghans. But for the US, it was even more costly, which embarrassed an amateur superpower to think on its various aspects. From Vietnam onwards, the US intervened in almost every major conflict in the world. The Americans intervened in South Asia, Northeast Africa, Middle East, etc. Recently, they intervened in Syria and Yemen.

Houthis were attacked by US drones and designated as terrorist groups. But Biden administration exempted Houthis from designating terrorists on various accounts. Earlier, the Taliban was a terrorist organization (still is!) in the US list. But eventually, the US had to sit at the table with a non-state actor (terrorist group) undermining the democratically elected government of Afghanistan. This same pattern can be seen on various occasions of nuclear non-proliferation negotiations.

After the collapse of the USSR, IR circles started to term the US as a unipolar superpower without any purpose. The suspicions were especially about the US’ capability and willingness to project its hegemony as a superpower.[4] And most of the scholars were in the mood that the US would not be able to react according to and expectedly. When we look at foreign intervention after the collapse of the USSR, none of them were proved profitable for the US in terms of economically, politically, diplomatically, and morally. The pattern of interventions is like making constant mistakes and amending them one by one. 

One of the traditional arguments about the US’ foreign venture is getting profit out of external interventions and oil politics. According to one of my friends, the US is like “give me oil, I will give you freedom.” But if carefully looked at, this argument has not much weight. In two decades, the US invested $1 trillion apart from the loss of lives and credibility. And what did it get back- a barrel of crude oil?

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According to the Power Transition theory propagated by A. F. K. Organski, there are certain patterns in world politics and global conflicts where a nation becomes hegemonic power and is challenged by a great power, which eventually leads to confrontation and shift in hegemon power.[5] If we look at the pattern in the last 500 years, the US will be the least durable hegemon of the world power hopefully. This can be explained through various prisms including amateur behavior of the US diplomatic and foreign affairs.

(The views & opinions expressed are those of the Author)

References

[1]High probability’ Biden’s decision to pull U.S. troops from Afghanistan will cause its government to fall, expert says

[1]the United Nations Security Council (2001) ‘Resolution 1368: Adopted by the Security Council at its 4370th Meeting

 http://www.un.org/Docs/scres/2001/sc2001.htm

[1]Congress (2001) ‘Public Law 107-40: 107th Congress Joint Resolution’ https://www.congress.gov/107/plaws/publ40/PLAW-107publ40.pdf

[1] C, Michael from the end of the cold war to a new global era? (chap) Baylis, J., Smith, S., & Owens, P. (2007). The globalization of world politics: An introduction to international relations. New York, N.Y: Oxford University Press

[1] A. F. K. Organski. (1959).  World Politics. By (New York: Alfred A. Knopf). American Political Science Review, 53(2), 587-587. doi:10.1017/S000305540023325X

Author’s Profile

Subhash Bhambhu is from Rajasthan, India. He pursued graduation from JNU, New Delhi in Persian Studies. Currently, he is doing his masters in South Asian Studies at UMISARC, Pondicherry University. His fields of interest are South Asia, Middle East and Post colonial Studies.

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