Global Radar Screen

Aftermath of Baghdadi killing exposes US foreign policy limitations

IS Chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Dissector

The recent killing by US special forces in Syria of IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who came to be seen as the world’s most wanted man, is being claimed by President Donald Trump as a singular triumph for him and his administration. ‘This is the biggest there is…Osama bin Laden was big, but Osama bin Laden became big with the World Trade Centre. Baghdadi is a man who built a whole, as he would like to call it, a country, Trump was quoted as exuberantly claiming.

Such over-reaction should be expected of the US President, considering his habitual talkativeness and seemingly indiscreet speech, but it is plain to see that he looks at the elimination of the IS strongman as an event that ought to be exploited to the fullest for personal glorification and for propping-up the fortunes of his controversial administration. As observers have pointed out, such celebratory outpourings come at a time when incipient impeachment proceedings against the President by the Democratic camp in the House of Representatives are making it to the headlines the world over. Thus, the Baghdadi killing is more than just a stitch in time for Trump and his Republican administration. It is the proverbial ‘god-send’.

For the Trump camp, the killing is a greater happening than the elimination of Osama bin-Laden, under Democratic President Barrack Obama in 2011.In other words, it is a momentous event for the US Right, including America’s white chauvinists who, under Trump, are no longer on the fringe but constitute the mainstream of US opinion.

Only time will tell whether the Baghdadi killing would serve the Trump administration well. Meanwhile, there are issues aplenty in this development for public discussion and debate in the US and the world over, considering the fallout from the killing for US domestic and foreign policy.

At the time of writing, a US troop pull-out has been ordered by the Trump administration from parts of Syria, which are among the traditional habitations of the Syrian Kurds, raising the possibility of a glaring power vacuum opening-up in Syria, which is expected to be filled by Turkish troops. Considering that some Syria-based Kurdish armed formations, such as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), were allied with the US at the height of the war against the IS and after, this amounts to the US badly letting down its allies in the crucial anti-IS crackdown. In fact, the SDF played a crucial role in tracking down and trapping the IS chief. As should be expected, Turkish troops would now come down hard on the militant Kurds, sections of whom are allied with Turkish Kurds engaged in a militant struggle for independence from the Turkish centre.

If these grim predictions come to pass in the Syrian theatre, the world would need to brace for a fresh round of blood-letting in Syria, featuring new actors. All in all, Syria would not be helped by the US move. Instead, the country’s suffering would be increasingly aggravated. The question could, therefore, be raised: What is the rationale, if there is one, for the new US move in Syria? The cynic is likely to conclude that the US is favouring leaving those trouble spots of the world where it militarily intervened to their own devices.

That the US is strongly for a withdrawal from the world’s war zones is further substantiated by some of the US President’s recent pronouncements to the effect that he is for disengaging from such ‘stupid wars’. Two such arenas are Afghanistan and the Middle East.

US President Donald Trump has indicated he wants to pull out from ‘stupid wars.’
US President Donald Trump has indicated he wants to pull out from ‘stupid wars.’

It is not being contented here that US military involvement in the global South in particular is something beneficial. Far from it. As post World War Two history amply demonstrates, a US military presence anywhere has proved to be more destructive than constructive. Accordingly, a US military disengagement from the world would not necessarily mean that there would necessarily be negative consequences for the latter.

However, a relatively quick withdrawal by the US could leave behind power vacuums that could be filled by regional and global powers who would not necessarily mean well by the global South. Syria is a contemporary case in point. Likewise, a glaring power vacuum in Afghanistan would only help in aggravating the current implosive violence in that country. Afghanistan could very well be opened up to indefinite intra-state conflict and war with outside powers falling over each other to fill the breach opened-up by the US. And it cannot be taken for granted that they would all mean well by Afghanistan or the Middle East.

What could compound the worries of the world against the backdrop of a purported military disengagement by the US is the fact that there has been no substantial promotion of democratic development in the world and multilateral cooperation worth speaking of over the past few years. There has been some stimulation for the latter processes under Democratic administrations in the US over the decades but the same cannot be said of Republican governments and the Trump administration is a case in point.

Under President Trump the US has been for a policy of downplaying multilateral cooperation. His administration has not shown extra keenness  to cooperate with and fund UN agencies, for instance, that focus on social, educational and economic advancement. Some proposed multilateral economic and trading compacts have received the administration’s ‘thumbs-down’.   This policy trend could eventually lead to a policy of international isolation by the US. Time will tell.

The euphoric exuberance with which President Trump greeted the news of the killing of the IS chief, however, points to the fact that national security would remain a top priority for his government. The nature of the reception of the news should be only expected from an administration that is on an ultra-nationalist and ‘America First’ policy course. That America is only for whites would be the administration’s theme song, coupled with the stance that all those who stand in the way of a super strong US would be wiped out.

However, it should be plain to see that this US policy trajectory would not help in seeing an end to terror the world over. For instance, the IS continues to be active. In fact, powerful states that do not believe in stimulating and prospering democratic development in particularly the South, could be accused of indirectly aiding abetting terrorism. No stable world could we expect.

 

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