Why is the US so enamored of regime change? From coups (too many to count) in Latin America, to destroying democracy in 1950s Iran, to now and the present chaos in the Middle East. For anyone with basic knowledge of this history, the shameless hypocrisy accompanying the familiar trope of bringing ‘freedom and democracy’ appears callous and outrageous in light of all the human suffering and lives lost.
The US public is constantly being told their country has brought freedom to women in Afghanistan. Truth be told the women already had freedom under a progressive regime in the 1970s; unfortunately for it, it happened to lean towards the Soviet Union. That was unacceptable to Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s staunchly anti-Soviet adviser. So they stoked up the religious extremists and formed the Mujaheddin. Then after the Soviets left came the fighting warlords, and eventually the Taliban — of course followed by the US in the longest war in its history.
The US still has not ended its involvement completely, and neither has the Taliban; in fact the civil war continues. Afghanistan has been destroyed. It was once famous for fruits and nuts, but those trees take years to mature; the opium poppy does not. Afghanistan now is the world’s largest supplier of heroin.
There is a postscript to this story involving Pakistan. Told ‘you’re either with us or against us’ by the Bush administration, and, according to President Pervez Musharraf, adding a threat to bomb Pakistan ‘back to the stone age’ by the US State Department representative, Richard Armitage, Pakistan complied with assistance in the Afghan War. Terrorist attacks on the civilian population were a rare occurrence in Pakistan at the time. Look at it now.
Women in Iraq participated actively in the country’s economic life — Zaha Hadid the famous architect, who passed away recently, is an example of those times — until regime change. Ditto in Libya which boasted the highest Human Development Index on the African continent until another regime change pitting Islamic extremists against a secular government — as in Afghanistan in the late 1970s and 1980s — but supported heavily by airpower in an open terrain so the fight was brief.
Then to Syria where proxies of proxies have been used. The US facilitated arms transfers from Saudi Arabia to the so-called moderate rebels some allied with al-Qaeda. The only difference this time … the army staunchly stood by the regime and Russia said enough’s enough.
These countries have been devastated. Millions of refugees pouring into Europe are destabilizing the fragile European Union, which is therefore tightening its immigration rules while toddlers’ bodies wash up on beaches and little children die of cold in refugee camps.
Much used to be made in the West of Assad Sr.’s brutal put down of a rebellion by Islamic fundamentalists in Homs. The death toll widely circulated (possibly inflated) was 10,000. Now that hundreds of thousands are dead, the Homs episode on this new scale of death and destruction is barely a blip, and no longer trotted out by the media.
Meanwhile, the abject failure of this policy is evidenced by the deaths of a half million plus — 300,000 in Syria alone — and the displacement and ruined lives of many millions more. Refugees are at an all time high since the end of the Second World War according to the UN. An unintended consequence has been the burden imposed on Europe, fracturing its open borders policy, and imposing untenable hardships on front-line states like Greece without adequate support from the economically advantaged North.