The US hawks have been released from their tethers. The likes of John McCain are pushing hard for a much deeper US military commitment to the riff-raff and terrorists opposing Assad in Syria — including the dispatch of military advisors and heavier arms. The US president is considering the request. Was one Iraq not enough? I guess not. The hawks want a whole team of people over there directing the effort to unseat an elected government. They insist that a government elected in the midst of civil strife, as Assad will be in June, cannot be a truly legitimate government. The US has a moral imperative to intervene to impose a government there (and depose one, as well) to balance out the scales of justice .
This contrasts to our position in Ukraine, where we backed a putsch-installed regime that forced an elected president to flee and then declared the putsch-installed regime legitimate. When pro-Russians in eastern Ukraine began resisting the Kiev authorities the US immediately condemned Russia for alleged military aid to those fighting . Now the West asserts the legitimacy of the new president who was elected in the midst of civil strife and without participation of the eastern part of the country. The US has a moral imperative to help Kiev, so they say. These two cases alone highlight how utterly flexible US policy is and how the rationale used in one case to US advantage can be flipped somewhere else, also to answer US interests.
We are currently in a pissing match with China over what the US says is bullying behavior in the South China Sea. China recently got into a row with Vietnam over fishing rights (and Chinese oil rigs) and China sank a Vietnamese fishing boat. Japan and China are now poised for a fight, backs arched and hissing, over who owns a handful of rocky islands. Japan’s legal claim is said to be stronger than that of China. But many Chinese think that doesn’t matter, what matters is who plants the flag. A participant at the Davos economic forum wrote that many in China believe that China can accomplish its goals — smacking down Japan, demonstrating its military superiority in the region, and establishing full control over the symbolic islands — with a surgical invasion. That sounds an awfully lot like what Russia just did, and in fact we have now moved from the stage where NATO overturned existing international law and set new precedents, to Russia and now China using those precedents to their own advantage and fine-tuning the precedents by adding new wrinkles.
The hard-liners pushing US policy demand a full-scale re-militarization of the former Warsaw Pact states (excluding Russia) that would involve deploying missile defenses and heavy equipment, and men, too. They want NATO to push ahead for the final NATO expansion that would put it belly-to-belly with the Bear. Russia is responding by re-militarizing itself, and moving to latest-generation weaponry as well as upgrading its nuclear arsenal.
A US troop carrier sits off the coast of Libya, waiting for what we do not know. Is it filled with the thousand Marines it can carry? They claim they are there to evacuate Americans if things go awry. What things? Do we know something is going to go wrong? Then why not evacuate now, before anybody dies? In any event, why do we have so many Americans there after what happened previously — is it the same illegal weapons dealing that was going on then? One thing is for sure, there is something afoot by one party or the other. I wonder if we are planning to help the inept and floundering government in Tripoli by going into and occupying Benghazi (in support of Libyan forces, of course). It’s practically a US moral imperative to do so. And, coincidentally I’m sure, if the current US regime could only calm things down in Libya, even if only briefly, an image-spinner could maybe make it look like not such a disaster by the time Mrs. Clinton strides to accept the nomination of her stupidly adoring party. I’d guess that would be the rationale. If they don’t do anything in Libya, by the elections for the next president Mrs. Clinton will be pounded to dust over the massive failure of her chief foreign policy accomplishment (the murder of Qaddafi and the installation of a puppet regime).
We are currently using US resources to track down a large number of schoolgirls kidnapped by fanatics in Nigeria. Now we’re deploying to do the absolute duty of other governments, which is to protect their own people. It seems it’s a moral imperative. There and everywhere else.
When people talk about the “US hegemon,” this is what they have in mind. The US has put out so many tentacles into the world and is involved up to its neck in so many mutual defense agreements and intervenes in so many quarrels large and small that it is hard to escape the impression that what America wants is to control the globe and all its actors. What the US wants is one global sphere of influence, its own, which it calls no spheres of influence. It is an utterly futile fancy, of course. The move away from the “single superpower” model is already well underway. All we do by injecting ourselves into every argument is to make more enemies and stiffen the spines of those who will never let the US dictate to them. Russia and China have their own serious problems, but they can form a tactical or even strategic alliance that serves the purpose of bringing the US down to size.
The global power calculus is shifting. As the US loses its grip on things here and there, the perception spreads that the hegemon is not what it once was. It has been made vulnerable and weakened by its spread of commitments around the globe. The US is so weighed down and imperiled, it dare not trigger a major confrontation. So it talks tough to Russia and China, but stays its hand. The US can be challenged, and it can be challenged successfully as was already proven in Crimea. The US is not in a comfortable position these days. It’s the defending champion, but there are a lot of Mohammed Ali’s around.