By Fawaz Turki
October 16, 2019
Were you to be given a penny each time commentators in the American media used the term “betrayal” or “abandon” to describe President Trump’s “morally egregious” decision last week to redeploy American forces in northeast Syria and disavow the US security relationship with Kurdish militias there, you would be a rich man by now.
“Pullback Breaks Trust between Partners”, The New York Times, whose worldwide influence is well-known, headlined its lead article on the front page last Monday.
What Are These People Talking About?
The United States is a Big Power, and abstractions like betrayal, morality and trust do not figure in the lexicon of realpolitik, the language used by Big Powers in history, all the way from imperial Rome to colonial Britain, whose Machiavellian idiom does not include such infantile whimsies.
Consider one case in point. Soon after counter-revolutionary Cuban exiles, armed, trained and funded by the US, who had dreams of overthrowing the government of Fidel Castro, invaded an isolated spot on Cuba’s southern shore, known as the Bay of Pigs, in April 1961, they discovered that then President Kennedy had decided, out of the blue, to pull the plug and deny them air cover. The ill-fated invading force was crushed.
Inasmuch as he did not want to “leave Cuba to the Communists”, President Kennedy declared at the time, he would not start a fight with the Soviet Union that might in in World War III. And that was the end of that.
Dark Arts Of Machiavellian Intrigue
The rationale that the American president gave in 1961 for his decision to “abandon” the Cuban exiles is different in kind but is the same in degree as the one that the current American president gave last week for “breaking trust” with the irredentist Kurdish militias, who happen to harbour separatist dreams: The national interests of the United States, as perceived by its commander-in-chef, trump ethical and moral considerations.
In effect, lofty sentiments have no role to play in how a Big Power conducts its foreign affairs. These sentiments are alien to the very ethos, the very intrinsic nature of such a polity.
The United States, since its emergence as a Big Power in the wake of World War II, has openly pursued at best an amoral — and at times, where suitable, an immoral — path when formulating its foreign policy. At no time has that policy had a moral core, simply because no Big Power will scale back its global ambitions because of moral constraints or, as ordinary folk call it, human decency.
In Washington’s corridors of power, men — mostly them — have perfected the dark arts of Machiavellian intrigue, wherein diplomacy is malleable, alliances are transactional and ethical conduct is for the little guys, in the little leagues, living in little countries around the world.
Meanwhile — here’s the rub — American leaders have not been lax in sounding unduly moralistic in their judgement of the actions of other governments and — here’s the contradiction — in promoting commendable social values such as liberalism, democracy, human rights, rule of law and individual freedom.
And, yes, a Big Power can be, as the US has increasingly become in recent years, tough, merciless and cold-blooded when it comes to recalcitrant lightweights around the world, lightweights who stand in its way.
When the wretched Palestinians, for example, were stripped of their national rights in their historical capital, Jerusalem, and their leaders dared stand up to Washington, well, both people and leaders found their hide nailed to the wall, with the former pauperised and the latter marginalised.
No idealistic American bleeding-heart wants to believe that any military, diplomatic or financial assistance their wealthy nation chooses to provide to — or withhold from — foreign countries, and that any alliance it chooses to form — or bust up on whim — with non-state players is exclusively tied to the tangible benefits the US receives in return.
They do not want to believe that their country is averse to forming sentimental bonds, with other countries and other peoples, based on compassion, empathy, brotherly love. They do not want to believe hat it’s all about looking out for number one.
Nor would have any of these American bleeding-hearts, including this not quite off-the-boat American commentator you’re reading now, have plausibly imagined that the United States would elect a president who so flagrantly flaunts and so openly exposes to the entire world their nation’s callous America First agenda. But there you have it.
Fawaz Turki is a writer and lecturer who lives in Washington and the author of several books, including the Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile.
Original Headline: America’s realpolitik shows its true face
Source: The Gulf News