I've been doing some reading and thinking about geopolitics,* and I think I can express America's foreign policy goals succinctly and clearly:
- The Eurasian continent consists of four "empires" and several smaller "kingdoms". The empires are China, Russia, South Asia, and Europe. The kingdoms include Japan, Indonesia, Persia, and Turkey. I don't mean these countries within their current political boundaries, but rather their cultural/strategic spheres. For example, for Russia that means the former Soviet Union. Turkey is the old Ottoman Empire, plus much of Central Asia and Xinjiang. Persia includes parts of Central Asia, Kurdistan, and half of Afghanistan. South Asia is the whole subcontinent, from Kabul to Dhaka to Columbo, and maybe also Tibet. Only for China do current borders roughly correspond to empire.
- None of these empires constitutes an essential threat to the United States in their current form. We can defend against any of them individually.
- The danger comes if one of these empires makes an alliance with the others (or conquers them). Our vital strategic interest is to prevent that from happening. Therefore, for example, we defended Stalin against Hitler, certainly not for moral reasons, but the combination of Europe and Russia potentially augured an entity that would be a vital threat to the United States. So we helped preserve the Soviet Union.
- The situation is more complicated because Russia is in terminal demographic decline and will cease to be an empire within a generation or two. Its geographic space will be fought over by Europe, Turkey, China, Japan, and Persia. The US vital interest is that none of these kingdoms should win too big a slice.
So this makes US foreign policy spectacularly clear. In the immediate term it has four major goals:
- Retain naval hegemony over the South China Sea. This prevents Chinese aggression/alliance with India, and vice versa. Plus it allows us to trade with SE Asia.
- Retain control over Afghanistan, which borders several of the above empires and kingdoms: Persia, South Asia, China, Turkey. Indeed, Afghanistan is probably the most strategic piece of ground on the planet. We don't really care what their internal government is, but we insist that none of its neighbors win control over the place. We're gonna have troops in Afghanistan for decades to come.
- Harass terrorist groups sufficiently to deny them control over any territory, and so they never acquire any substantial military capability.
- Prevent further nuclear proliferation, most immediately in North Korea.
This has some interesting implications for current conflict zones. Consider Syria.
- One goal in Syria and Iraq is to deny Iran control over the Fertile Crescent and the Levant. Toward this end Turkey, the Syrian/Sunni rebels, and Israel are our allies.
- Another goal is to prevent the rise of ISIS, al-Qaeda, or any other terrorist organization that potentially threatens the US. Our allies here are the Kurds and the Assad regime.
- A third goal is to prevent Turkey and Sunni rebels from destroying Kurdish and Alawite populations. Our allies here are Assad and Iran.
- A fourth goal is to prevent the mass slaughter and ethnic cleansing of Syria's Sunni population, many of whom have become refugees in Europe. Our enemies here are Assad and Russia. The latter is using this as a lever to destabilize NATO and the EU.
- The Kurds are a people with divided loyalties. On the one hand they speak a Persian language, unrelated to either Arabic or Turkish (apart from some loan words). On the other hand, they are Sunni and at odds with the Shi'a theocracy in Tehran. Should Iran ever have a secular government then likely the Kurds would become Iranian allies. This is why the Turks are so terribly afraid of them and try very hard to suppress their language.
So it's a very complex battlefield, contrary to what Jeff Mackler, writing in Socialist Action maintains. He posits a mythical creature called "American Imperialism" which for some bizarre and unexplained reason wants to occupy Syria. Thus Mr. Mackler supports the Assad regime, who supposedly represent the progressive future of the human race. For him it's a case of white hats vs. black hats, with Americans wearing black.
His support for Assad is shameful--sort of like supporting Pol Pot (which my Trotskyist friends also did). But no matter--it's just pseudo-revolutionary grandstanding. By taking a fake radical position, no matter how stupid and inconsequential, Socialist Action burnishes its credential on the American Left.
Nobody should take them seriously.
Robert Kaplan, The Return of Marco Polo's World