America’s wars – Newspaper – DAWN.COM

As a veteran senator, President Joe Biden is a rare witness to a whole new era of US foreign policy in which America has not won a single war it started, from Vietnam to the conflict in Afghanistan. He understood the futility of wars to settle issues that cannot be resolved by force, Especially in countries whose history and culture are not understood by America. No wonder as president he opposes “forever wars”.

But are these “forever wars” gone forever? Let’s examine the history and trends. Biden’s foreign policy is a complex mixture of an elitist desire for great power rivalry, a traditionalist’s commitment to alliances and a populist’s belief that foreign policy must serve the interests of America’s working and middle class. His policies therefore seek to rebuild strength at home and compete with China abroad, the latter shaped by America’s fear of losing its leading great power status to Beijing.

Biden has embarked on a maximum pressure campaign against China by threatening to cut off the economy, heighten tensions over Taiwan, and raise the geopolitical stakes by pitting allies against Beijing. But he was only partially successful. Understandably, both China and the US have climbed down. Imagine a war over Taiwan, a major semiconductor manufacturer, and its consequences for the global economy. In their recent summit, Biden and President Xi Jinping emphasized the need to engage and compete but manage their strategic competition responsibly. .

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But with Europe reeling from the Ukraine war and facing economic challenges that make engagement with China a critical necessity, Washington’s gains have been mixed. NATO grew stronger, but so did Europe’s push for a balanced China policy that was not an addition to America’s great power rivalry with China.

It’s almost as if American war is righteous by definition.

America is rebalancing itself between geopolitics and geoeconomics. Biden makes a special offer to reconnect with the Global South where the US is losing ground to China. This is partly the reason for reviving US-Pakistan ties.

But the problem with the American system is that you never know what the next election and today’s politics might bring to US foreign policy. The war itch could return. Since becoming a superpower, the US has entered and exited wars impulsively, creating consequences for itself and its partners. The wars were instigated by immense pride in its military power and stemmed from internal political interest groups, as explained in Jack Snyder’s book Myths of Empire: Domestic Politics and International Ambition.

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In light of the historical experience of the Americans themselves, going to war came naturally to them. They don’t look at the wisdom or morality of wars. It’s almost as if American war is just by definition. So, when they start losing, the argument is rarely about whether the war was a bad idea. It’s always about cutting losses and exiting. So in the end, the Americans never know why they really went to war and why they really went. This is a perfect recipe to keep going in and out of future wars.

For a nation whose founding principle was religious freedom, war was almost always defined as a divine mission, a struggle between good and evil, indeed a moral conflict. Although sometimes a force for good, it often concealed imperialist goals.

In recent history, America’s sense of “exceptionalism” has merged with post-Cold War geopolitics, exacerbating its traditional militarism. Driven by a supreme consciousness of power and the hubris of the unipolar moment, and then scarred by 9/11, America simplified and distorted emerging global challenges and turned to unilateralism. The result was failed wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

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What can prevent future American wars? Hopefully, the realization that US power is not absolute. America has gone it alone on many issues. Its wars have become entangled with bad partners, regional rivalries and bilateral conflicts, besides unleashing new forces of instability. They also damage America’s image and credibility.

Other guardrails against war also appeared at home and abroad. There is local opposition to wars. Besides, it is impossible to wage a war without European cooperation, which may not be self-evident in the future. Europe is engaged in strategic diversification, and allies such as Saudi Arabia and India have become polygamous in their relations with great powers. Look at the recent Sino-Arab summit. National priorities in the world are now geoeconomics, founded in geopolitics.

For Pakistan, friendly relations with the US are necessary, but partnership in war is optional. Pakistan will never again become America’s war partner. Washington’s war aims will always be different from Pakistan’s. As before, the cost will outweigh the benefit.

The writer, a former ambassador, is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and a visiting senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore.

Posted at Dawn, December 18, 2022


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