For those who believed that the precise and overwhelming
demonstration of U.S. military power in Afghanistan and Iraq would "shock
and awe" the rest of the world – and particularly Washington's foes
and aspiring rivals – into accepting its benevolent hegemony, 2006 was
not a good year.
Not only has Washington become ever more bogged down – at the current
rate of nearly three billion dollars and 20 soldiers' lives a week – in
an increasingly fragmented and violent Iraq whose de facto civil war threatens
to draw in its neighbors, but a resurgent Taliban has exposed the fragility
of what gains have been made in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led military campaign
ousted the group five years ago.
In neighboring Pakistan, the U.S.-backed government of President Pervez Musharraf
has withdrawn its forces from tribal areas along the Afghan border, effectively
handing control of the region to pro-Taliban forces believed to be sheltering
In Lebanon, a pro-Western government, the product of last year's U.S.-backed
"Cedar Revolution," finds itself under siege from a Syrian- and Iranian-backed
Hezbollah which appears to have emerged from last summer's war with Israel stronger
and more confident than ever.
Meanwhile, North Korea ended its longstanding moratorium on testing its ballistic
missiles on the Fourth of July, thus making its own rather defiant contribution
to the fireworks traditionally associated with Washington's Independence Day
celebrations. Apparently dissatisfied with Washington's appreciation, Pyongyang
conducted its first nuclear test four months later.
Similarly, Iran, the other surviving member of Bush's "Axis of Evil,"
announced last April that it successfully enriched uranium and subsequently
shrugged off U.S. and European demands that it freeze its program, even as it
hosted a succession of leaders from the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad and
offered Washington help in stabilizing Iraq provided that it dropped its "arrogant"
An increasingly assertive and energy-rich Russia has also become noticeably
more defiant over the past year, challenging with growing success Washington's
post-9/11 military encroachment in the Caucasus and Central Asia and effectively
reversing two of the three U.S.-backed "color revolutions" –
in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan – in its near abroad.
The looming succession battle in Turkmenistan, whose natural gas endowments
and strategic perch next to both Iran and Afghanistan make it a very desirable
piece of real estate, will likely intensify this latest version of "Great
By collaborating with China in both the U.N. Security Council and the Shanghai
Cooperation Organization (SCO), Moscow has also challenged the unipolarists'
notion that Washington's overwhelming global military dominance would not provoke
the creation of countervailing coalitions designed to contain its power.
Even in Africa, defying the U.S. came at little cost. Sudan, accused by Bush
himself for two years of committing genocide in Darfur, maneuvered Washington
into backing a clearly unworkable peace accord and then, when it fell apart,
not only rejected repeated U.S. demands to permit deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping
force to the region, but also helped spread the conflict into neighboring Chad
and Central African Republic.
In nearby Somalia, meanwhile, covert U.S. support for a coalition of warlords,
who had kept the country in a permanent state of insecurity for more than a
decade, backfired big-time last summer when an Islamic militia that Washington
accuses of being linked to al-Qaeda chased them out of the country. As the year
ends, the U.S. is effectively backing Ethiopia's deployment of thousands of
troops in support of the disintegrating interim government in Baidoa, permitting
the Islamists' to rally nationalist opinion for a war that analysts fear could
burst beyond Somalia's borders.
In Latin America, Washington averted the worst – the victory of leftwing
presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexican
elections last summer. Nonetheless, clumsy U.S. efforts to influence elections
over the past year in Bolivia and Nicaragua proved counter-productive, as candidates
backed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who appears to delight in
nothing more than provoking Bush, won in both countries, as well as in Ecuador.
Coupled with Chávez' own sweeping victory earlier this month, the year's
elections results in Latin America appear to have confirmed a left-wing populist
and anti-U.S. trend – the so-called "pink tide" – which,
along with the recent disclosures regarding ties between right-wing paramilitaries
and the government of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, poses serious
threats to Washington's multi-billion-dollar anti-drug effort in the Andes.
Elections elsewhere also proved disappointing to Washington's unipolar ambitions,
none more so than last January's victory, despite last-minute efforts by Washington
bolster Fatah, of Hamas in the Palestinian territories.
Not only did the election set back prospects for resuming a credible Israeli-Palestinian
peace process, but Bush's reaction – to isolate rather than engage the
winner, and, more recently, to actively seek its ouster – made clear that
Washington's "freedom agenda" for the Middle East was largely rhetorical,
except when aimed against hostile states like Syria or Iran.
Indeed, Hamas' victory and the growing strength and popularity of Islamist
parties throughout the Arab world brought to a screeching halt U.S. pressure
on friendly authoritarian governments, notably Sunni-led Saudi Arabia, Egypt,
and Jordan, to implement democratic reform. Meanwhile, the administration has
tried to rope them into an alliance with Israel against what Jordan's King Abdullah
has referred to as the ascendant "Shia Crescent" of Iran, Syria and
Of course, the most important revolt against the Bush administration's Washington's
globocop aspirations took place here at home last month when voters handed Democrats
control of both houses of Congress in mid-term elections in which Iraq and foreign
policy, by virtually all accounts, played the decisive role.
While the warhawks predictably claimed that the results reflected more the
public's lack of confidence in the way Bush had carried out policy than on the
policy itself, a battery of polls in both the run-up to the election and immediately
afterward found that that a large majority of citizens believe the administration's
belligerent unilateralism had made the United States – as well as the rest
of the world – less, rather than more, safe.
Nearly eight in 10 respondents in one survey sponsored by the influential Council
on Foreign Relations and designed by legendary pollster Daniel Yankelovich said
they thought the world saw the U.S. as "arrogant," and nearly 90 percent
said such negative perceptions threaten national security.
"It's not just a matter of (wanting to be) well-loved or nice," said
Whether the implications of these findings, as well as the elections results
– not to mention the foreign policy balance sheet of 2006 – will be absorbed
by Bush and his senior policy-makers in 2007, however, remains very much in
The post-election departure of two arch-unilateralists, former Pentagon chief
Donald Rumsfeld and U.N. Amb. John Bolton, notwithstanding, nothing fires up
the imperial impulse more than multiplying acts of defiance.
(Inter Press Service)