President Obama’s West Point speech was hailed as a new foreign policy doctrine focused on soft power and diplomacy, while it appears indeed only to be “a new skin for the old ceremony” as the 1974 Leonard Cohen album put it.
Obama promises a new global leadership with less recourse to military might in future. This was the message which Western newspapers headlines passed on - with a ‘no more war’ stance ready for a global photo opportunity.
The reality is different. The US has only changed the model of projecting its force around the world, as explained several times by Nick Turse on TomDispatch:
“In 2013, elite US forces were deployed in 134 countries around the globe, according to Major Matthew Robert Bockholt of SOCOM Public Affairs. This 123 percent increase during the Obama years demonstrates how, in addition to conventional wars and a CIA drone campaign, public diplomacy and extensive electronic spying, the US has engaged in still another significant and growing form of overseas power projection.”
Then you cannot forget that the US military complex is under a huge spending review. As John Allen Williams, professor of political science at Loyola University, Chicago, wrote, “The silver lining of the economic crisis is that it is causing a thorough rethinking of military forces, missions, and strategy that is long overdue. Former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld famously remarked that you go into a war with the army you have.”
This is nothing new. The American Empire cannot present its policy in the raw terms of the law of the strongest. It needs an ideological cloak to show the pursuit of its material interests as the spreading of freedom in the world. When it is not possible that American interests might coincide with a televised image of democracy, as in the Egyptian case, who cares about democracy?
In ideologically-correct terms, “In Egypt,” Obama said, “we acknowledge that our relationship is anchored in security interests – from the peace treaty with Israel, to shared efforts against violent extremism. So we have not cut off cooperation with the new government. But we can and will persistently press for the reforms that the Egyptian people have demanded.” To be frank, at the elections the Egyptian people voted for the Muslim Brotherhood – and Sisi is the president with 90 percent of the ballots from only 46 percent to the voters.
What is more interesting is that you can read the West Point speech as a (Neo)Liberal manifesto. In effect, Obama says that the absence of conflicts is not enough, he wants a more special kind of peace.
“America does not simply stand for stability, or the absence of conflict, no matter what the price; we stand for the more lasting peace that can only come through opportunity and freedom for people everywhere,” he said.
Obama is saying that a more lasting peace is realized only through the global extension of the Liberal system, in which the free market magically distributes opportunity and freedom. The next step is that the world will never be free until it becomes completely liberal under the guidance of the country that, by divine decree, represents this set of values: the Reagan City upon the Hill, or American exceptionalism, the nation who in modern history took the place of Jews as the chosen people.
With this frame of mind the most likely outcome is not a Kantian Perpetual Peace, but a unending Pentagon War, in spite of all reassuring promises of a president who, ironically, won the Nobel Peace Prize.
This is a big paradox because historically the Liberalism was (between other things) a longing for peace after the horrible era of European religious war of the 16th and 17th centuries, as explained so clearly by Jean Claude Michea in his ‘Realm of Lesser Evil’. But although Liberalism was born with an ideal of a better world, its economic reductionism as well as its individualistic one lead to a completely inhuman way of life, as we can see in our free Western world in which there are only prices and no values.
It is stunning that Obama’s rhetoric maintains some traces of the very ancient and forgotten DNA of historical Liberalism: its promise of a world with no more religious wars. This is, after many centuries, a clear echo of that inclination.
“I believe we have a real stake – an abiding self-interest – in making sure our children grow up in a world where schoolgirls are not kidnapped; where individuals aren’t slaughtered. I believe that a world of greater freedom and tolerance is not only a moral imperative, it also helps keep us safe,” he said.
But everyone who resists, everyone who is different or has a different history is an enemy. The world must be an American province, and ‘freedom’ an imposition for your own good.
You can see this trend in all its tragedy in Europe, which is acting against its interest to appease Washington, in spite of its people’s rage, as we have seen in the recent European elections. Ukraine is only the most recent example.
Naturally Obama’s speech was not short of that major ideological Imperial tool, Human Rights. As many have noted, Human Rights ideology is such an abstraction as to completely lack any real compassion. It is an instrumentum regni, a means of ruling that covers precise material interests that have nothing to do with humanity.
Let’s have a last look at Obama in action.
“Which brings me to the fourth and final element of American leadership: our willingness to act on behalf of human dignity. America’s support for democracy and human rights goes beyond idealism – it’s a matter of national security. Democracies are our closest friends, and are far less likely to go to war. Free and open economies perform better, and become markets for our goods. Respect for human rights is an antidote to instability, and the grievances that fuel violence and terror,” the president said.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.