These days, US foreign policy is often contradictory, as we can see in Syria, where troops trained by the Pentagon are fighting troops trained by the CIA. And yet it remains perfectly coherent on two points – to divide Europe between the European Union on one side and Russia on the other – and to divide the Far East between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on one side and China on the other. Why? And can this be predicted?
For more than a century, in an attempt to explain and therefore anticipate US foreign policy, we have been visualising a struggle between the isolationists and the interventionists. The former adopted the line of the «Pilgrim Fathers», who fled old Europe to build a new world based on their religious beliefs, and therefore distant from European cynicism. The latter, in the tradition of certain of the «Founding Fathers», intended not only to seize their independence, but also to pursue the project of the British Empire for their own benefit.
Today, this distinction has lost almost all validity, since it has become impossible to live in autarchy, even for a country as vast as the United States. Although it has become commonplace to accuse one’s political adversaries of isolationism, no US politician – with the exception of Ron Paul – now defends such an idea.
The debate has shifted to a confrontation between the partisans of perpetual war and the adepts of a more measured use of force. If we are to believe the work of professors Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, the present policy of the United States is decided by a collection of interest groups, independent of the desires of its citizens . In this debate, therefore, it is legitimate to note the influence, on the one hand, of the military-industrial complex, which dominates the US economy and whose interest is to pursue a state of «endless war» – and, on the other, the toll companies (software, high-tech, entertainment) who, although their production is more virtual than real, make their money wherever the world is at peace.
This analysis of the debate leaves aside the question of the access to raw materials and energy sources, which was dominant in the 19th and 20th centuries, but has lost its urgency, without having completely disappeared.
Since the «Carter Doctrine», which treats the access to hydrocarbons from the «Greater Middle East» as a question of «national security» , we have seen Washington create CentCom, move more than 500,000 men to the Gulf, and seek to impose control over the whole region. We remember that Dick Cheney, persuaded of the imminence of «peak oil», decided to prepare the «Arab Springs», and war against all the states in the region which it did not yet control. But this policy lost its meaning even while it was in application, because the United States, apart from their production of gas and shale oil, took control of the hydrocarbons in the Gulf of Mexico. Consequently, in the years to come, the United States will not only have abandoned the «Greater Middle East», but may engage in a major war against Venezuela, the only middle-range power which could compete with and threaten their exploitation in the Gulf of Mexico.
In a series of interviews with The Atlantic, President Obama tried to explain his doctrine . In order to do so, he replied lengthily and repetitively to those who accuse him of contradictions or weakness, particularly after the affair of the «red line» in Syria. He had indeed declared that the use of chemical weapons was a red line which should not be crossed, but when his administration alleged that the Syrian Arab Republic had used them against its own population, he refused to wage a new war. Leaving aside the question of whether the accusation was true or not, the President stressed that the United States had no interest in risking the lives of its soldiers in this conflict, and that he had chosen to economise their forces in order to face genuine threats against US national interests. This declaration of reserve is known as the «Obama Doctrine».
So what are these «genuine threats» ? The President didn’t say. At best we can look at the work of the US National Intelligence Council and the preceding remarks on the power of the interest groups. It appears that the United States has abandoned the post-9/11 «G.W. Bush Doctrine» of global domination to return to that of his father – commercial excellence. Once the Cold War ended for want of combatants, the era was dedicated only to economic competition within the deregulated capitalist system.
As a matter of fact, it was specifically to reassure himself that the era of ideological conflicts was really over that President Obama reached out to Cuba and Iran. It was indispensable to calm the opposition of these two revolutionary states, the only ones to contest not only US supremacy, but also international rules. The bad faith displayed by the United States in their application of the 5+1 agreement only goes to show that they do not care about Iranian nuclear technology, but are seeking only to restrain the Khomeinist revolution.
It’s in this context that we witness the return of the «Wolfowitz Doctrine», according to which everything must be done to prevent the emergence of a new competitor, and this begins with the bridling of the European Union . However, this strategy seems to have been modified, insofar as Washington considers the awakening of China with even greater apprehension. So there is talk of the «Far East Pivot» strategy, consisting of withdrawing troops present in Greater Middle East, and repositioning them in order to control this new region and contain China. While the Pentagon has abandoned the neoconservative lunacy concerning the destruction of China, it nonetheless intends to restrict Beijing to an entirely economic role, and prevent it from applying any political influence outside its frontiers.
And yet what we are now seeing is the contrary of the «Far East Pivot». The United States have certainly increased their presence in the Pacific slightly, but have above all set up a strong military presence in Central Europe. While war is still raging in Palestine and Yemen, in Syria and Iraq, and threatens to inflame Libya, a new conflict has begun in Ukraine. There are, however, two ways of interpreting this evolution.
On one hand, we may consider that the military deployment at the Russian border, and Moscow’s intended military reponse, are absolutely no threat to peace. Indeed, it seems both very dangerous and absolutely unnecessary to engage in such a conflict. The war in Ukraine will not be directed against Russia, but will constitute the artificial fabrication of a Russian pseudo-threat to Europe, with its sanctions and counter-sanctions, which will allow the United States to «protect» their credulous allies.
On the other hand, we may consider that the economic future of the United States is founded on their control of international exchange, and thus on the maintenance of maritime transport . On the contrary, the development of Russia and China supposes their freedom from US trusteeship, and therefore the construction of continental commercial routes. This is President Xi’s project, with the construction of two «Silk Roads», one building on the antique traces of the route through Central Asia, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean, the other through Russia to Germany. Two routes which today are interdicted by Daesh in the Levant, and by Ukraine in Europe.
The question of maritime transport was the central point of US strategy at the beginning of the 21st century, with the support of pirates from the Horn of Africa  – a strategy that ended when Moscow and Beijing sent their warships into the area. However, even though China had the Suez Canal doubled in size by Egypt, the access via the Bal el-Mandeb Straits remains officially under the control of Djibouti, and unofficially under the control of Al-Qaïda via the Islamic Emirate of Mukalla.
To the control of the commercial routes must be added the control of financial exchanges. This is the reason why the US Justice Department has promulgated rules which it is attempting to impose progressively on all the banks in the world. But here too, Russia has set up its own SWIFT system, while China has refused the convertibility of its money into dollars in order to avoid being shackled by US rules.
If this analysis is correct, the wars in Syria, Iraq and Ukraine will not end until Russia and China have secured another commercial route to Western Europe. On this subject, we can observe the current efforts by the United States to topple Belarus into their camp after having opposed it for so long – a way of consolidating the Ukrainian firewall and ensuring hermetic compartmentalisation between Western and Eastern Europe.
From this perspective, the commercial negotiations that the United States have undertaken with the European Union (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP), and with the ASEAN (Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP) are not aimed at reinforcing their exchanges, but on the contrary, at excluding Russia and China from the market. Stupidly, the Europeans and Asians are concentrating on the choice of production standards instead of demanding the entry of Russia and China into the negotiations.
A final fact to be learned from Obama’s interviews with The Atlantic is that the United States intend to update their alliances and adapt them to their new strategic doctrine. So the support for the Saudi régime, which guaranteed a supply of Middle East oil, is no longer of any interest, and even becomes a burden. Or, the «special relation» with the United Kingdom which once had its importance in terms of control of the oceans (the Atlantic Charter), and the attempt to fashion a unipolar world (the Iraq war), no longer offers any particular interest and must be re-thought – without mentioning the costly support for Israël, which no longer serves a purpose in the Middle East, and which will not continue unless Tel-Aviv proves itself useful in other parts of the world.
The preceding remarks do not reflect the current Presidential campaign in the United States, which opposes the military-industrial complex and WASP ideology, represented by Hillary Clinton, and the toll industry and social pact of the «American dream», represented by Donald Trump . The violence of this campaign attests to the necessity of re-balancing these forces after a period of the exclusive supremacy of war-mongering since 1995.
When the camp represented today by Trump finally wins, we should see the settlement of wars, but the outbreak of an oppressive coercion for the payment of patents and authors’ royalties. In the case that a win by this group should tarry, the United States will have to deal with the uprising of an angry population and riots. It will then become especially difficult to predict US foreign policy.