The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity
Subscribe to the Institute View Us on YouTube Follow Us On Twitter Join Us on Facebook Join Us at Google Plus

Search Results


Ted Galen Carpenter

Russia as the New, All-Purpose US Pretext for Military Intervention


Since the end of World War II, America’s political elite have cycled through a variety alleged foreign demons to justify a militarized, global interventionist policy. Vladimir Putin and the Great Russian Menace is the latest version. Not surprisingly, US officials cite it as the reason for providing extensive military and economic aid to Ukraine. The Biden administration contends that Ukraine is on the front lines of a global battle between autocracy and democracy. In a more substantive fashion, US leaders and their supporters portray Ukraine as a key barrier against Russian imperial expansion into the heart of Europe.

America’s foreign policy establishment has shamelessly exploited the “Russian threat” to justify stationing more US troops, planes, ships, and missiles in Europe – especially in NATO’s eastern members. They also generated a panic among the previously neutral countries Sweden and Finland to join the US-dominated alliance. The Ukraine conflict has served to perpetuate and consolidate Washington’s hegemonic status in Europe and to whip sometimes obstreperous NATO allies into relying more on US leadership for their defense.

Using the Russia threat as a pretext for a policy US leaders wanted to pursue in any case is not confined to the European theater. Nor is it the only case of threat inflation generally. During much of the Cold War, administrations repeatedly invoked the threat of international communism (both the Soviet and Chinese varieties) to explain Washington’s militarized meddling in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Africa. The so-called Truman Doctrine of aid to Greece and Turkey was an early manifestation. Dwight Eisenhower’s presentation of the Domino Theory, which argued that a communist victory in Indochina would lead to a sweeping totalitarian triumph from India to Japan, became a graphic expansion of that thesis. Not only did it become a pretext for Washington’s military intervention in Vietnam, it foster later initiatives in places as diverse as Nicaragua, Lebanon, and Afghanistan – with horribly destructive effects.
read on...

Washington’s Undemocratic Military Offspring


The military takeover in Niger is the latest example of US-trained officers overthrowing a democratic government. Brig. Gen. Moussa Salaou Barmou, the chief of Niger’s Special Operations Forces and one of the leaders of the coup, received training at both Fort Benning, Georgia, and the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. The events in Niger are not an isolated incident. Analysts at the Intercept confirm that US-trained officers have taken part in 11 coups just in West Africa since 2008.

Moreover, the Nigerian military was a prominent US client overall. Since 2012, Washington has spent more than $500 million in Niger – one of the largest U.S, security assistance programs in Africa. The New York Times notes that “Until this past week, Niger was the cornerstone of the Pentagon’s regional strategy. At least 1,100 American troops are stationed in the country, where the US military built multiple drone bases” to attack radical Islamist factions.

For decades, US leaders have contended that Washington’s training of and close ties with militaries in foreign countries have helped strengthen support for civilian rule and democratic values in those client states. In 2022, Maj. Gen. Andrew M. Rohling, the commander of US Army Southern European Task Force, Africa, insisted that the Pentagon’s objective always has been to “showcase a way, the American way, that we train and build leaders not only in their tactical tasks, but in the ethos of the United States Army.”

Even if strengthening democratic values among foreign officers has been the intent of the US military – and there are ample reasons to doubt that claim – the record indicates that the effort has failed. The latest cases of officers who had received US military training going on to stage an epidemic of coups in Africa is reminiscent of the long, odious history of the School of the Americas (SOA). The US Army established that training center in 1946 at Fort Benning, not only to provide instruction in state-of-the-art military tactics, but to educate officers from countries in Latin America about the importance of democratic values and civilian control of the military.
read on...

FBI Serves as a Conduit for Ukraine’s Censorship Campaign


The US government has long tolerated and excused Ukraine’s authoritarian behavior even as Washington and its NATO partners have lavished financial and military aid on Kyiv. Evidence has now emerged, though, that the US national security apparatus has actively assisted Volodymr Zelensky’s regime to undermine the Constitutional rights of Americans. CNN notes damning revelations in a new report from the House Judiciary Committee. "The committee says SBU [Ukraine’s top security agency] sent the FBI lists of social media accounts that allegedly ‘spread Russian disinformation,’ and that the FBI then ‘routinely relayed these lists to the relevant social media platforms, which distributed the information internally to their employees in charge of content moderation and enforcement.’"

Ukraine has an obvious interest in trying to suppress any criticism of its policies – especially news stories and analyses that undermine the narrative that the Russia-Ukraine war is a crucial front in an existential global struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. However, it is both shameful and alarming for the FBI to assist such efforts by a foreign government to chill debate. Yet that is what is happening. The FBI apparently is a collaborator with Ukraine, serving as a conduit and facilitator for Kyiv’s overseas censorship efforts.

US officials have not made even a minimal effort to vet Kyiv’s allegations before pressuring social media companies to shut down the accounts of targeted individuals and organizations. Indeed, the effort was so sloppy that authorities attempted to suppress a US State Department Russian-language Instagram website. According to the House Judiciary Committee report, it "was flagged for removal after the SBU and FBI provided a list of Instagram accounts they claimed engaged in "distribut[ing] content that promotes war, inaccurately reflects events in Ukraine, justifies Russian war crimes in Ukraine in violation of international law."
read on...

Can Washington Be Saved from Itself at the NATO Summit?


Several crucial decisions likely will be made at this week’s NATO summit meeting. The most important of all involves Ukraine’s application to join the Alliance. Zealotry for Ukraine in some NATO capitals is so strong that that a path to membership for that country is being considered even in the midst of an ongoing war and unresolved territorial disputes. The most likely move would be to approve a Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Kyiv, which normally is the final substantive measure that an applicant country must fulfill before being admitted to the Alliance. The usual pro-NATO, pro-Ukraine lobbyists in the West are pushing very hard for that step.

It is a sad comment on the judgment and prudence of NATO leaders that they are even considering such a move. The Kremlin has made it clear on multiple occasions since President George W. Bush first proposed NATO membership for Ukraine in 2008 that such a step would cross a bright red line as far as Russia’s vital security interests are concerned. Yet policymakers in the Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations remained stunningly tone-deaf to Moscow’s repeated, ever-more-emphatic, warnings.

Bush’s initial diplomatic foray, which was supported by most East European members of the Alliance, was blunted by opposition from some of NATO’s older members, especially France and Germany. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was especially reluctant to add Kyiv, citing both Ukraine’s endemic corruption and the danger of antagonizing Russia. Unfortunately, French-German resistance could only produce a compromise that delayed Ukraine’s ambitions to join NATO. No explicit membership invitation was extended in the final declaration from the 2008 Bucharest summit, but a commitment was made that Ukraine could join at some point in the future.
read on...

Washington’s Resurgent Military Presence in the Philippines Provokes China


When the last US troops left the Philippines in the early 1990s, the prevailing assumption was that an extremely close military relationship between Washington and Manila would be just another relic of the Cold War. The decision by the Philippines Senate not to renew the US leases on Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base was quite emphatic. A thick layer of ash from the eruption of Mount Pinatubo made Clark unusable in any case, and public opinion in the country tended to both installations as a lingering, painful reminder of Washington’s colonial rule.

The mutual defense treaty remained intact, however, and US military and political officials soon sought to exploit Manila’s worries about the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to orchestrate a return of US forces. In particular, the Philippines’ government was deeply concerned about Beijing’s expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea – a stance that directly challenged Manila’s own claims. There were no longer any official US bases in the Philippines, but following the 9-11 terrorist attacks, George W. Bush’s administration responded favorably to Manila’s request to send a small contingent of troops – ostensibly to aid efforts to suppress militant Islamic rebels in the country’s southern islands. During Barack Obama’s administration, additional US military personnel began to return as part of Washington’s policy pivot to East Asia. They were given expanded access to bases that Manila controlled.
read on...

The Big Lie That Won’t Die: Trump as Putin’s Puppet


Some foreign policy myths are so entrenched and tenacious that no amount of evidence seems able to dislodge them. An especially prominent one in recent years is that Donald Trump was Vladimir Putin’s puppet and adopted shameful policies that appeased Moscow. The latest example of that pervasive smear was an article by Peggy Noonan in the May 18, 2023, edition of the Wall Street Journal.

In that piece, Noonan manages to regurgitate nearly every stale myth about Trump being too cozy with Putin, even though she endorsed the findings of John Durham’s investigation that there was woefully insufficient evidence to justify either the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane Investigation or the subsequent Mueller Commission probe. "I have no reason to doubt the Durham report," she stated, "but it’s still curious that Trump treated Putin so gently."

Her principal (almost sole) piece of evidence about such gentle treatment was Trump’s indiscreet comments during the press conference following the May 2018 summit meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. When asked a classic "gotcha" question by Associated Press correspondent Jonathan Lemire about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, Trump clumsily tried to finesse the query. Noonan observes that "Mr. Trump took that moment to denounce the FBI, implying the bureau was incompetent or corrupt. He then said he had been told by the director of national intelligence Dan Coats, that Russia had interfered. But Mr. Putin denied it: "He just said it’s not Russia." Trump added that "President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today." Noonan favorably quotes ultra-war hawk Sen. John McCain that Helsinki was "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory."

Trump obviously did not deserve high marks for his management of the press conference. A smarter, more experienced political leader would simply have fended off Lemire’s question by stating that he "obviously" was not going to discuss such a sensitive diplomatic and security issue in a public setting. Instead, Trump blundered ahead and gave his political adversaries valuable ammunition.
read on...

The Biden Administration’s Latest Tone-Deaf Foreign Policy Positions


U.S. leaders rarely have been noted for being able to gauge changing sentiment in the international arena and adjusting their foreign policy accordingly. The Biden administration, however, may be setting new records for the tone-deaf quality of its policies. Three incidents in the past few weeks illustrate the problem.

There has been obvious movement in recent months on the part of leading Arab powers to temper their feud with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Only a few years ago, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other countries were in a partnership with Turkey and the United States to unseat Assad – largely because of his close alliance with Iran. Now, those same powers have changed course dramatically, seeking a rapprochement with both Damascus and Tehran. Important signals of the new political environment were Saudi Arabia’s restoration of diplomatic relations with Iran and Syria’s re-entry to the Arab League.

Instead of going along with the new diplomatic and geopolitical realities in the region, the Biden administration chose this moment to escalate its increasingly futile attempts to isolate Assad. On May 30, Washington imposed new economic sanctions on Syria. As Dave DeCamp noted, the businesses were targeted using the Caesar Act, a law the US has used to impose sanctions on Syria that are specifically designed to prevent the country’s reconstruction." One could scarcely imagine a more ill-timed move, given the powerful, contrary diplomatic trends in the region.

read on...

Libertarian Apologists for Ukraine’s Authoritarianism


It should not come as a surprise that US officials and members of the foreign policy establishment have falsely portrayed Ukraine as a noble democracy. Such deceptions in pursuit of assorted US foreign policy objectives around the globe are nothing new. Throughout the Cold War, Washington routinely contended that "friendly" dictatorships were members of the "free world." More recently, officials in George W. Bush’s administration conducted a concerted propaganda effort that Iraqi exile leader Ahmed Chalabi was the George Washington of Iraq. Obama administration officials and their allies in the news media even sought to make the case that the Islamic jihadists trying to unseat Syria’s Bashar al-Assad were really democratic freedom fighters.

A similar effort is taking place to portray Ukraine as a vibrant democracy and the country’s leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, as a courageous champion of freedom. Biden administration officials and most members of the news media have dutifully promoted those images. The fawning reception given to Zelensky as he addressed a joint session of Congress in December 2022 was an especially graphic example.

There is extensive evidence, however, that Ukraine is in fact run by a corrupt, repressive oligarchy. That situation was true even before Russia’s February 2022 invasion gave Zelensky and his associates a rationale for intensifying their authoritarian practices. Matters have grown steadily worse since then.

The alarming trend is evident in Freedom House’s 2023 report on global liberty. Ukraine received an anemic score of 50 out of 100 points in the overall freedom assessment, putting the country squarely in the middle of the "partly free" category. Kyiv’s score in the "democracy" subcategory was even worse—a 39, which meant that Ukraine was considered a "hybrid" system, embodying both democratic and outright dictatorial features.
read on...

Bogus Foreign Policy Narratives Go Unchallenged


One maddening feature of foreign policy debates in the United States is how frequently journalists and policy experts fail to challenge dominant narratives even when those narratives have glaring defects. Such malfeasance has facilitated a growing list of Washington’s policy blunders and outright debacles. Yet the tendency to accept the US government’s version of the issues at stake in any new crisis appears to be getting worse rather than better.

An examination of developments just during the post-Cold War era reveals a disturbing number of surprising and worrisome examples. In the prelude to the Persian Gulf War in 1991, George H. W. Bush’s administration insisted that Iraq’s military was an extremely capable, powerful force that posed a threat to the entire Middle East and perhaps beyond. Even modestly skeptical analysts should have raised questions about that assertion. After all, Iraq had waged a draining, 8-year-long war against Iran in the 1980s that ended in a stalemate.

That surprising outcome occurred even though Iraq had multiple, significant advantages going into that conflict. Iran was in turmoil following the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The military’s corps of officers had been devastated, caused by a wave of defections to the West and a purge of officers and even some senior enlisted personnel who were deemed insufficiently loyal to the new government. The seizure of US diplomats in Tehran also led to the imposition of sanctions, which not only damaged Iran’s economy, but prevented the military from getting spare parts for critical weapons systems or handling important maintenance functions.

In addition, the United States and several Arab powers covertly provided weapons and other assistance to Iraq even during the earliest stages of the war. That assistance gradually increased as the conflict continued, and it went far beyond the transfer of weaponry. The "reflagging" of Iraqi oil tankers under the flag of Kuwait to prevent Iranian attacks was one of many examples of such expanded assistance.
read on...

The Zombie Domino Theory Returns


An especially damaging development in the history of US foreign policy was President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s promulgation of the domino theory. Adoption of its assumptions led directly to America’s disastrous military intervention in Vietnam. Although the simplistic doctrine was widely ridiculed after the Vietnam debacle, it has continued to have its adherents. Worse, the domino theory has seemed to make a full comeback with respect to Washington’s current attitudes toward both Russia and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
read on...