THERE’s a new American president in the Oval Office. And while hope for a new America, and perhaps a new world order, is understandable, the truth is that US foreign policy on militarism is long and entrenched.
That’s why despite the goodwill and rhetoric emanating from Washington, DC since President Barack Obama took office, American peace activists such as Joel Andreas will continue to be watchful. As will the rest of the world, especially with the continued Israeli aggression against Palestinians and the US’s overt role in backing Israel.
In order for all of us to better understand the history of US foreign policy and militarism, and why it could mean that very little might change even under Obama, The Nut Graph is serialising, beginning today, Andreas’ illustrated book Addicted To War (ATW).
ATW is a witty and informative comic book exposé of how American military adventurism has grown to dominate the world economy, and destroyed the lives of millions across the globe, including in America. There are over 300,000 copies of ATW in print worldwide, including Indonesian and Thai editions. It has also been used as a textbook by hundreds of US high schools and colleges. The book is published by Frank Dorrel/AK Press.
In a phone interview from his home in Baltimore, Maryland, Andreas, a 52-year-old sociology lecturer at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, tells The Nut Graph there’s still a lot more for Obama to do.
A passionate believer in the anti-war movement, Andreas cites the Vietnam War and also the civil rights movement in the 1960s as the catalyst behind writing ATW.
His indoctrination as a political activist started early. His parents were part of the strict religious Mennonite sect and were pacifists. His father served in the alternative service during World War II, set up for those who were conscientious objectors.
“My mom was very involved in the anti-war movement against the Vietnam War, and I myself started in elementary school in Detroit,” Andreas says.
(Courtesy of Joel Andreas) He regularly attended anti-war demonstrations, following his parents. His political activism stepped up when his mom moved him to Berkeley, which was the centre of the Vietnam War protests in the late 1960s.
“I never went to college until I was 35. I was too busy with anti-war activities, organising stuff and devoting all my spare time to the cause,” recalls Andreas.
Andreas says he is part of a growingly vocal majority in the US who are against American neo-colonialism. Here, he answers a few questions about US foreign policy, and whether or not it can ever kick its addiction to war.
TNG: What kind of changes do you think Obama will bring in terms of US foreign policy?
Andreas: I think what’s happening is that the US is going to go back to the pre-Bush policies. These policies are still based on the military industrial complex, which are still very ingrained in the whole US foreign policy. The US will still have its military bases around the world; it will continue to bomb countries.
In fact, President Obama is now pouring more troops into Afghanistan. But US policies in this regard won’t be aggressive in the same extreme way that Bush’s was. Bush, (Vice-President Dick) Cheney and (Secretary of Defence Donald) Rumsfeld — they are really an extreme version of Addicted To War. But with Obama, I think it might go back to its normal version which you could see during the (Bill) Clinton years.
What about US-Israeli relations?
I think US-Israel relations will go back to the Clinton policies, which were more even-handed, at least in comparison to the Bush policies. During the Bush era, anything Israel — basically the most militarist wing of Israel — wanted to do was fine with him. Anything they wanted to do, Bush would support.
(From left) George HW Bush, Barack Obama, George W Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office
(Pic by BL1961; source: Flickr)
I think Obama, like Clinton, will be a little more distant from the Israeli government. But I think his policies will remain very much pro-Israel. It will still basically back the Israeli programme.
There may be some movement like during the Clinton administration of trying to develop some type of two-state solution. But I think it will be based on Israeli violence — at least in attempting to control the situation or negotiate by means of Israeli violence. But it is still a big leap from the Bush era, where there was not even any attempt to negotiate but to simply pulverise the problem.
What will it take for US policies to change?
I think there will be pressure from multiple sides, but two will be most effective. One, losing the wars. That’s the main lesson. And the second: the people won’t stand for it. They do not like any kind of protracted war; the people won’t support them.
The backlash from the Vietnam War meant that for two decades, the US did not get involved in a major war. But then they forgot that lesson.
A pro-Gulf War rally held in January 1991 (Pic by Larry&Flo;
source: Flickr) In the first Gulf War, because it was over so quickly and successfully, it reinforced the kind of militarist view that they could achieve their political aims through force. But then the troubles in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan have been going on, and they are not going to be able to win. The people in the US no longer support the war. And that is going to increase pressure on the government.
We’ve all been disappointed in that we have not been able to sustain an aggressive, politically active anti-war movement. But the reality is the same. The vast majority of the American people are just really fundamentally sceptical and do not want to see more of these kind of wars.
Will the US ever be able be to kick its addiction to military intervention as a means to exert political influence on other countries?
The world changes, more quickly than ever before. I think the US military interventionist policies are unattainable in the long run. It is financially unsustainable — the era of neo-colonialism is over. And the US is, I think, slow to learn this.
Ever since World War II, every large war that the US has fought in and where it has faced resistance in the rest of the world, it lost. It lost in Korea — it certainly did not accomplish its objectives [there] — it lost in Vietnam, and it is on its way to losing in Afghanistan.
I think the era for these kinds of neo-colonial wars, where you think you can, by military means, impose your will on another country, is over. And the US is very slow to learn that. But I think we are close to the end.
Start reading Addicted to War