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US Foreign Policy: Transactional or Value-Based

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The 2016 elections presents a divergence in US foreign policy between the two major candidates. On one hand is the continuance of the status-quo by Hilary Clinton, who is pushing for a value-based foreign policy, as all presidents have done for decades while Donald Trump is looking for a shift in US foreign policy that hearkens backs to a time when the US was less interventionist and more explicit about its interests rather than claiming to cultivate democratic governments.

While many critics harangue Trump’s plans as isolationist and destructive, in reality, his policies appear to be more in line with realism or power-politics, where foreign engagements are intended to be more transactional and in favor of the nation’s interest.

Whether one argues one way or another for either philosophies, it can be contended that a value-based foreign policy would be prudent for any major power but especially for a superpower to set a global agenda as long as they acted in such a manner. The United States foreign policy is enunciated via the State Department’s mission statement:

“The Department’s mission is to shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.”

Echoed throughout the statement are the ideals of peace, stability, and a just world. This value-focused statement projects to the world what the US stands for and how its actions are contextualized on a global scale. Yet, this continuous claim by US officials on how the importance of a systematized foreign policy based on a set of beliefs is essential to world peace has yet to manifest itself in reality. This false belief propagated by many US politicians on the need for such a policy and abhorrence towards Trump’s approach is perhaps one answer to the continuously asked question, “Why do they hate us?”

Despite America’s help in the progression and development of global societies, US foreign policy, in particular, has been largely a false narrative painted by politicians to the American people. Instead, it might be prudent to have a more power-centric foreign policy as proclaimed by Donald Trump rather than a false goal propagated for the last few decades that has had anything but positive returns.

US Foreign Policy

While the State Department explicitly states a mission to sustain democracy, stability, and peace for everyone, the actions of the US abroad largely contradicts its mission. In this context, the world sees a double standard that sometimes Americans become largely blind to. While Americans believe the government is intervening in their interests and benevolence of other nations to further the cause of democracy and peace, in reality, the opposite is happening. Instead, if the US explicitly claims to be more transactional like China, there would perhaps be less resentment of US actions around the globe and fewer Americans asking, “Why do they hate us?”

Instead unbeknownst to most Americans unfortunately, politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, have dragged the US into useless wars at the cost of American treasure and more importantly, American blood. While these wars are perceived by the public, thanks to the mainstream media, as wars of necessary to ensure the continuity of American values and way of life, in reality, these wars have created more instability, precarious and less democratic regions.

While the protagonists will argue that the world will be amiss without American leadership, which is true to an extent, the continual proclamation that American leadership and actions exhibit the necessary values for peace is farthest from the truth. This gap between values and actions is what is typically not impressed upon the overwhelming majority of Americans due to the ineptness of mainstream media. As a result, Americans are bewildered and sometimes even angered, justifiably, by what they perceive as ungratefulness by foreign nations and people in their vitriol hate for the US, but what they do not see is that the actions of their government does not align with the words necessarily.

A brief review of America’s action in recent decades will all but demonstrate that American intervention has been an impediment to peace and contradicts many of America’s values and moral standards. These wars have resulted in nothing but death, destruction, instability, and a great waste of money:

Restoration of the Shah in Iran – The US-led overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran was a direct contradiction of the State Department supposed policy goals. While the CIA led the overthrow, the State Department was not blind to what was going on. The US instigated an uprising that led to the downfall of a populist leader and ushered a dictatorial king back into power, which eventually led the way for Khomeini and his group of religious fanatics to take over. This led to the transformation of the US’s greatest ally in the Middle East after World War II to one of its most contentious enemies.

Vietnam – One of the most infamous wars the US has fought was purely based on a false premise, the North Vietnamese attack on US military ships or Gulf of Tonkin incident never took place. Yet under the guise of a false attack, almost 60,000 Americans died in a war that ended in defeat for the US and a loss of credibility amongst its allies and enemies. The war was supposedly fought in the name of safeguarding freedom and democracy instead more than 2 million Vietnamese died and Communism was further emboldened after the war. The war was concocted to be a necessary battle to stop the onslaught of Communism. A fear of sorts was fabricated that helped make everyone become sympathetic to the war initially only later when more information came out did the public rail against it.

Somali War – Under the auspices of President Clinton, the US engaged in a short-lived war with a faction of Somali forces in their internal conflict that ended badly. While Somalia still remains a failed state decades after that intervention, the root of the problem lies in the fact that different regional and global powers pawned different factions against each other instead of forcing them to a peace table.

Rwanda and Bosnia – While the intervention of the US in the Bosnia genocide cannot be denigrated and more so applaud, the US was not solely being a gracious power, it had to do with regional geopolitics in the Balkans as well as a balance of power issue between Russia and Europe. While there was a massacre in Southeast Europe, a larger genocide was taking place in central Africa but was neglected because it did not matter. Such a large negligence on the part of a nation self-appointing itself as the guarantor of global security and democracy has left many to beg the question, what happened there?

Afghanistan – While the war in Afghanistan was perhaps the only war in the post-World War era that was justified in terms of national defense, it has evolved into a dismal failure based on how the US conducted the entire situation. Promising to rebuild the war-torn nation and helping create democratic institutions, the US turned a blind eye and allowed corrupt warlords to run the country with a blank check from the American taxpayers to fund their lavish and decadent lifestyle. As a result, many Afghans that use to abhor the Taliban now see them as the lesser of two evils.

Iraq – Arguably the biggest blunder in US history, Iraq epitomizes the failed US foreign policy narrative of being value-focused. The nation was to be a bastion of democracy in a corrupt region of the world. Instead, it went from being a stable poor country ruled by an impotent dictator, who wielded no power after his decimation in the first Gulf War, to a region that churns out fanatics and terrorists by the day. As a result of the false narrative that ushered America into war, the region has spiraled into chaos, masses of immigrants have flooded Europe from the afflicted nations, terrorists are emboldened, and the US’s regional enemy, Iran, is greatly empowered. No conflict can attest more to the failed value-centric goals of the State Department than the war in Iraq. It is this failure that Secretary Clinton thinks was a necessary war and potentially can get the US embroiled in more similar situations in the name of democracy and nation building.

Egypt – As the Arab spring swept the region, no nation was greatly affected by the events than Egypt. After decades of dictatorial rule by the Mubarak dynasty, Egypt finally had democracy. For whatever reason, the democratic rule led to the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood, who was shortly deposed by General Sissi and his military junta. Instead of the US condemning the overthrow of a democratically-elected government, it remained largely quiet. Despite contravening US laws of not providing financial aid to a coup sponsored government, the US continues to work with Sissi to this day. Once again, the Obama Administration claiming to be more value-focused contradicted what they claim to adhere to.

Syria and Libya – Two other nations, Libya and Syria, came out worse after the US intervention in their nations. Despite being promised liberation from tyranny, the nations are both now worse off than prior to the US intervention and totally decimated. Europe and the US failed to learn from the Iraq war. Instead, they repeated the mistakes of President Bush, which both President Obama and European leaders largely condemned. Today the immigrant afflictions that are endured mainly by Europe are largely a result of Europe and the Obama administration’s unnecessary actions in these nations. These events were largely led by then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

Ukraine – A democratically elected government was overthrown by a portion of the country who disagreed with certain actions of the government. But that is democracy, if you disagree with your government; you take to the ballot box to voice your grievance not initiate a civil war and kill people. Here was a situation the US could display its commitment to its stated values by supporting the existing democratic government but instead it supported the insurrection since it was more pro-West than the government at that time. Today, Ukraine is still mired in a civil war and much worse off than prior to its conflict, this is due to power politics between Russia and the US.

While the premise of world peace and stability are great notions, the reality of the world and human nature has demonstrated time over that perpetual peace can never be achieved. Instead, the world operates under a zero-sum game in which if you are not advancing your nation’s interest then you are losing out. Operating under such a notion, a nation can ensure their interests are not only safeguarded rightly so but advanced when needed. Despite what people think of Trump, his foreign policy approach of letting the world know that he is more focused on America’s interest rather than other nations is a better approach than doing the same thing but cloaked under a veil of values. Being focused on power politics and stating explicitly so would be more prudent for the US since the world and American public would know how each action pertains to its interests. Rather the US creates a false illusion of a value imperative integrated with its actions but in reality, almost all of America’s actions in the foreign policy realm have acted in the opposite manner.

Whether a Trump presidency is something to fear is another argument, but a shift in foreign policy towards a more explicitly stated realist-based approach to the international arena would help create a less unstable world as well as a government that is more transparent and accountable to the American people. The world would then understand the US’s intention in interventions rather the belief it is there for democracy and nation building, which has been anything but great. Perhaps then people would know the answer to the long asked question, “why do they hate us?”

Luis Durani is currently employed in the oil and gas industry. He previously worked in the nuclear energy industry. He has a M.A. in international affairs with a focus on Chinese foreign policy and the South China Sea, MBA, M.S. in nuclear engineering, B.S. in mechanical engineering and B.A. in political science. He is also author of "Afghanistan: It’s No Nebraska – How to do Deal with a Tribal State" and "China and the South China Sea: The Emergence of the Huaqing Doctrine." Follow him for other articles on Instagram: @Luis_Durani

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The WW III that Biden and All Other Neocons Are Leading U.S. Toward

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Official White House Photo by Erin Scott

The intensely neoconservative U.S. President Joe Biden is leading the world into a World War III against both Russia and China, but despite the U.S. spending annually around half of the entire planet’s military expenditures (not only in its ‘Defense’ Department but in its Treasury Department and other Government agencies), America is actually inferior to both Russia and China regarding leading-edge geostrategically crucial technologies of both nuclear and laser weapons, and is getting farther behind each year, because for both Russia and China their own national sovereignty is what their enemy, the U.S. Government, aims to conquer, whereas no one poses a threat to the U.S. Government’s continuing rule over its own people (it becomes increasingly a police-state). The U.S. Government is the only and supreme champion of sanctions and coups and invasions for regime-change producing the creation of new vassal-nations throughout the globe, whereas both Russia and China must protect themselves from that or else become themselves new U.S. vassal-nations. So: they are laser-focused on NOT allowing America to grab their nation. Truly, for them, this is an existential issue, NOT a matter (such as is the case regarding the U.S. Government) of growing to become the world’s first and only all-encompassing global empire (a luxury that only America’s billionaires, who control the U.S. Government, require). This basic distinction is the reason why whereas the U.S. has over 800 military bases spread throughout the planet, Russia and China are concerned ONLY about not allowing U.S. forces to be based so near to their borders as to enable a U.S. missile to annihilate their capital’s command-and-control within less than ten minutes and so to enable the U.S. Government to grab control of them so fast that the targeted nation’s (Russia’s and China’s) retaliatory weapons won’t be launched in self-defense.

Consequently, for example, the geostrategically-focused CRUX youtube site headlined on May 23rd “Why The World Fears Putin’s ‘Flying Chernobyl’ Nuclear-Powered Cruise Missile”, and reported on Russia’s emerging “Buravestnik” nuclear-powered nuclear-warheaded missile that will be able to avoid all known types of anti-missile detection and tracking technologies and that will be able to fly for any distance because of its nuclear fuel. Though that pro-U.S.-Government, anti-Putin, CRUX-produced video says “Experts have underlined the threat that … this weapon may pose to the environment and human health” due to radioactive waste that’s released into the air during its flight, because there is no space inside the missile to store waste, even America’s National Defense magazine has admitted that “the amount of nuclear waste that this will produce is very tiny, … basically negligible,” which is hardly what CRUX headlines it as being — a “Flying Chernobyl.” CRUX went on to say, “Experts say that Putin’s Cold War mindset has normalised the development of such doomsday weapons.” It’s all regime-change-in-Russia propaganda.

In other words: the neocons’ aim to destroy Russia so fast that Russia won’t be able to destroy America in retaliation, is hogwash that’s probably funded, ultimately, by corporations such as Lockheed Martin, whose sales are exclusively or mainly to the U.S. Government and its allied governments (vassal-nations), which U.S.-and-allied weapons-making firms’ stock-values have soared ever since the end of the Cold War in 1991. It ended only on Russia’s side in 1991, but this supercharged it on America’s side.  This unleashed a solely military-industrial-complex-controlled U.S. Government, which demands an ever-increasing percentage of the U.S. Government’s expenses to go toward its military, which, nonetheless, is privately owned and controlled; and its profits have soared.

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The Secret U.S. & UK War Against Europe

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The secret U.S.-and-UK war against Europe is well documented but little known, and some conceptual and historical background is pre-requisite in order to understand that documentation.

Historically, nations which share the same currency don’t go to war against one-another unless one of them is a colony of the other and is (like America’s colonies were in 1776) in a revolution to establish its independence against the imperialist one of them. Having a common currency is therefore a strong factor — but not a decisive one — toward peace between nations.

UK (Britain) has its pound, EU (the European Union) has its euro, and U.S. (America) has its dollar. U.S. (its dollar) and UK (its pound) are now in a war against EU (its euro), so as to help to extend into the future the dollar’s (America’s) existing dominance as the main global reserve currency — the future political and financial dominance by America, heading ultimately to control over all nations by America’s Government, practically obviating the United Nations and its (crippled) role till now as the authoritative source of international law: the laws that govern not within nations but instead between nations — replacing that existing body of international laws, by “the international rules based order,” in which America’s Government will be setting those “rules.” It’s an international struggle to replace the U.N. and all international laws, by a global dictatorship either by the U.S. and the UK, or else by the U.S. and the EU. All three of those currencies are, however, agreed together, to prevent there ever being control over international laws by the U.N. and its agencies, or by anything OTHER THAN the nations that are in America’s fundamental military alliance, which is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization: NATO. NATO is to be expanded in order to increase the U.S. Government’s (and the U.S. dollar’s) dominance, and thereby weaken the U.N.’s authority and its already-crippled and ever-weakening power. 

UK’s aristocracy took control of American foreign policies on 25 July 1945, when, at the Potsdam Conference, America’s Anglophile General Dwight Eisenhower seconded Winston Churchill’s hostility against Joseph Stalin by telling the naive new U.S. President Harry Truman (who practically worshipped Eisenhower) that either the U.S. would ultimately conquer the Soviet Union, or else the Soviet Union would conquer America; and, so, the Cold War was then born, on that date, in Truman’s head, by his decision to agree with Eisenhower’s viewpoint and commence what became called “the Cold War” so as ultimately to conquer Russia. Truman then backed General George Marshall’s plan, The Marshall Plan, in 1948, to provide billions of dollars in U.S. reconstruction aid to any European country that would side with America against the Soviet Union in order to establish the planned future all-encompassing U.S. global dictatorship (control of the world by America’s billionaires and their corporations, especially granting them access to all countries’ natural resources).

America’s NATO military alliance was then created in 1949 to assist in the intended ‘anti-communist’ (actually anti-U.S.S.R) ultimate conquest (which would be the crowning achievement of America’s conquest over the entire world). Subsequently, America’s CIA brought America’s European allies together into what ultimately became the European Union, so that European nations would be controlled from Washington both militarily and economically. However, whereas formerly, the European Union was controlled by the U.S. Government almost as much as America’s NATO anti-Russian military alliance is, that is no longer the case; and, therefore, UK’s aristocracy, during 2016-2020, led a secret campaign, to remove UK altogether from the EU, and to install at 10 Downing Street, Prime Minister Boris Johnson to do Brexit — British exit from the EU — in what Britain’s billionaires saw as being the right way, keeping “the Anglosphere” (U.S. and UK) in control over the world, as opposed to the way in which UK’s then Prime Minister Theresa May was negotiating with the EU, which would have weakened not only America’s control over Europe, but also UK’s control over Europe, which latter (control over Europe) the UK controls only indirectly by virtue of its “Special Relationship” with the U.S. Government, which controls Europe. (For UK to lose its voting privilege in the EU was puny in comparison to UK’s increased power over the EU through being uniquely allied with America’s Government, which controls the EU.) That constitutes the necessary conceptual and historical background, in order to understand the following:

On May 15th, Kit Klarenberg at The Gray Zone bannered “Operation Surprise: leaked emails expose secret intelligence coup to install Boris Johnson”, and demonstrated from leaked private documents, that an authentic conspiracy by a clique of supremely well-connected individuals within Britain — Britain’s Deep State, answerable only to Britain’s billionaires and hereditary aristocracy — had actually engineered Theresa May’s downfall as Prime Minister and her replacement by Boris Johnson, so that UK would no longer be allied with EU except as being EU’s superior, because of Britain’s unique bonding with its former colony, America.

Here is how the leader of that cabal or conspiracy explained, on 4 October 2019, his strategy to a small group of followers — students, perhaps — which fortunately still remains on youtube:

However, his jargon in that stunningly revealing video (which now must be understood in light of Klarenberg’s 15 May 2022 revelations) requires some additional important historical and terminological background. 

“The five-eyes alliance,” that speaker said, “keeps the free world free,” but what does this mean? His “free” is actually a lie; really, it’s the opposite of free; it is the voting and taxpaying publics’ enslavement to the U.S. and British Military-Industrial Complexes (or “MICs”), after the 1991 termination of the U.S.S.R and of its communism and of its Warsaw Pact military alliance that mirrored America’s NATO, and it now means only the U.S. regime’s rule of the world by its aristocracy, who are psychopathic and who control and profit from their armaments-makers while their publics pay for it in taxes and destructions and corpses. It means precisely what the originator of this conspiracy, Cecil Rhodes, had first stated in 1877, and it does constitute the “Special Relationship” that UK and U.S. have had ever since this “Special Relationship” was finally and fully in place and fully functioning, starting on 25 July 1945, when Truman set America onto this fateful path, of conquering the entire world — Rhodes’s vision of the world’s future, and of how Rhodes would create the organization to bring it about. Here is from that historic 1877 statement, by Rhodes (which the speaker in that video was actually — and very skiilfully — representing: this is the original statement of that viewpoint):

I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. …

Why should we not form a secret society with but one object the furtherance of the British Empire and the bringing of the whole uncivilised world under British rule for the recovery of the United States for the making the Anglo-Saxon race but one Empire. …

What has been the main cause of the success of the Romish Church? The fact that every enthusiast, call it if you like every madman finds employment in it. Let us form the same kind of society a Church for the extension of the British Empire. …

To and for the establishment, promotion and development of a Secret Society, the true aim and object whereof shall be for the extension of British rule throughout the world, the perfecting of a system of emigration from the United Kingdom, and of colonisation by British subjects of all lands where the means of livelihood are attainable by energy, labour and enterprise, and especially the occupation by British settlers of the entire Continent of Africa, the Holy Land, the Valley of the Euphrates, the Islands of Cyprus and Candia, the whole of South America, the Islands of the Pacific not heretofore possessed by Great Britain, the whole of the Malay Archipelago, the seaboard of China and Japan, the ultimate recovery of the United States of America as an integral part of the British Empire, the inauguration of a system of Colonial representation in the Imperial Parliament which may tend to weld together the disjointed members of the Empire and, finally, the foundation of so great a Power as to render wars impossible and promote the best interests of humanity.

This was to be, and is, the foundation-stone of the renewed British Empire’s Deep State. (Here is its full document.)

Rhodses’s phrase “the best interests of humanity” expressed actually his racist-cultural viewpoint. It is, ultimately, an allegation that Her Majesty’s Government will be better to rule over international relations than any alternative, such as FDR’s intention for an armed United Nations, could ever be. Though Rhodes wanted international relations to be ruled by Britain’s aristocracy, FDR wanted it to be ruled by a U.N. which would be an armed democracy (federation) of nations. Hitler had his vision of a “Thousand-Year Reich,” but Churchill, who was an ardent Rhodesist, and who had been a protégé of Rhodes, favored, instead, Britain’s version of such an all-encompassing global empire, and this was/is to be achieved by harnessing Britain’s empire to the back of the far stronger American horse. Rhodes knew, even in 1877, that this would be the only way that the British Empire could successfully continue into future centuries.

Right now, the EU is sinking because by adhering to America’s demand to halt importation of gas and oil from the EU’s main supplier, which is Russia, energy-costs throughout the EU will soar and destroy their economy. And this is the strategy of Biden, and of Johnson. Biden, too, is a Rhodesist — just as Obama and Trump and Bush I & 2 and Clinton and Reagan were. The Governments of both U.S. and UK are Rhodesist. This doesn’t mean that in each and every matter, the two dictatorships agree, but that almost always they do; and, that when they don’t, UK’s Government doesn’t prod its American horse to buck and throw off its British rider, because those Brits know that this — riding on the American horse — is the ONLY way that they can continue the British empire to the extent that they have been allowed to do after WW II. The Rhodesists, and their “Five-Eyes Alliance” (Prins also refers to it as “the Anglosphere”, which is yet another phrase for what Rhodes was advocating for) are realists, who are trying to extend for as long as possible into the future their joint and collective aristocratic exploitation of the entire world. This means: keep Europe down, and all other countries out. It’s especially the case with regards to Germany, which is the EU’s industrial giant. As the New York Times reported on 5 April 2022:

Already Germany has reduced its dependence on gas from Russia [from 55%] by 15 percent, bringing it down to 40 percent in the first three months of the year, the energy ministry said.

But industry leaders have pushed back against imposing sanctions on Russian natural gas. Turning off the taps would cause “irreversible damage,” warned Martin Brudermüller, the chief executive of BASF, the chemical producer based in southwestern Germany. Making the transition from Russian natural gas to other suppliers or moving to alternative energy sources would require four to five years, not weeks, he said.

“Do we want to blindly destroy our entire national economy? What we have built up over decades?” Mr. Brudermüller said in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung last week.

Already, due to pressure from the Biden Administration, and against German popular opinion and the pleas by German businesses of all sizes not to do it, Germany recently cancelled the recently completed Nord Stream II mammoth gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, which would have reduced gas prices in Europe. Instead, those prices are expected soon to double. And almost all of the EU will be taking a big hit from such decisions by Germany and other EU nations. It is a U.S./UK war against not only Russia but also Europe.

That is what Gwythian Prins, the leader of their cabal or conspiracy, who speaks in that youtube video, was actually talking about. (Klarenberg’s article says nothing about Rhodes, but what Prins says in this yotube video of him is likewise totally in keeping with Rhodes’s plan, about which the article by Klarenberg reveals lots of private evidence.) And America’s European stooges are doing everything they can to impose American rule, despite the fact that in certain details, UK’s aristocracy are profoundly dissatisfied with the extent to which the EU is not doing everything that UK’s aristocrats want them to do. UK’s aristocrats know that bucking the American horse would cause them to be thrown off of it. So, they choose, instead, to stay on it, and to merely nudge it whenever they want a minor change in its direction. And that is what Prins is advocating for, against the EU, upon his colleagues and students.

And that explains the documentation linked-to here regarding the U.S.-and-UK war against Europe. It is their war to keep Europe down, and all the rest of the world out, and only Britain still in the saddle riding the American horse to permanent victory, against the publics everywhere. It is for continuation of “the Washington Consensus.”

Klarenberg’s article includes lots of fascinating documentation, such as this photo of Prins’s email dated “September 22, 2018 at 4:53 AM” to a certain “Julian Blackwell, addressing his chum as ‘Trooper,’ a reference to the publisher’s SAS special forces background, and thanking him for his ‘hugely welcome and generous willingness to cover my foregone income for effectively the first half of this FY [financial year] [so that Prins would be able to engineer Boris Johnson’s replacing Theresa May].’” It would all be highly incriminating, if UK weren’t a dictatorship and Prins himself weren’t one of that dictatorship’s key agents. Interestingly, the organization at which Prins was speaking, “Veterans for Britain” (of which Prins is a board-member) was revealed on 5 December 2017 to be a “Dark Money” group fronting for Conservative Party UK and for Republican Party U.S. financial backers; and the group which revealed that was “Open Democracy,” which itself is funded by mainly Labour Party UK, and Democratic Party U.S., financial backers, but also by some middle-of-the-road (i.e., anti-Trump) U.S. Republican Party financial backers — in other words: “Open Democracy” is funded by billionaires in both America and Britain. In both countries, membership in the dictatorship class (the nation’s aristocracy) requires being a billionaire, or else close to that. The public are merely their suckers, to be manipulated (via propaganda from their media) however at least some of the billionaires want them to be suckered. There is consequently a constant contest between conservative and liberal billionaires, in order to s‘elect’ into national office only politicians who are backed by at least SOME of the billionaires. And one of the things that all of the billionaires are funding is propaganda in favor of keeping U.S. and UK on top, ruling the rest of “The Anglosphere,” and keeping Europe down, and all other countries out.

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A U.S.-ASEAN summit—a face or a farce

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Photo credit: The White House

Inherited from the classic diplomacy of Europe, summit is a globally recognized instrument of highest-level meeting for common interests among nations. It has been practiced from time to time until now. Ad hoc summit principally aims to promote symbolic purpose rather than specific negotiations, therefore, it is reasonable to suggest that though controversial over its essential functions, summit is better suited to the promotion of friendly relations with an emphasis on ceremonial functions. Due to this, the U.S.-ASEAN summit held on May 12-13 is no exception.

At the end of the summit, the United States and ASEAN member states reiterated in the joint vision statement the importance of adhering to key principles, shared values and norms enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, the ASEAN Charter, the Declaration on Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN), the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ). In addition, they committed to strengthen and build more comprehensive ASEAN-U.S. Dialogue Relations, which have been seen indispensable to bilateral ties as well as the broader region and the international community.

It is clear that the U.S. officials had entertained the design to make the case that Russia’s invasion demonstrated the fragility of the international system while China’s tacit support for the invasion equally made a contrast with the United States’ principled stance. Yet, ASEAN members in general kept their heads down and avoided the issue rather than getting in the middle of a dispute between major powers. Rather than clearly denouncing the Russian invasion of Ukraine as the U.S. has acted globally, the joint vision statement called on an immediate cessation of hostilities and creating an enabling environment for peaceful resolution, and genuine respect for sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity in line with the U.N. Charter and international law. As a result, it is inevitable that the geostrategic hawks in Washington were disappointed their unsuccessful persuasion of ten Asian countries to take side with the United States and its allies and partners. Because of this, the U.S. aid package to the ASEAN was seen as a joke because it agreed to offer $150,000,000 for peace in a sharp contrast to the multiple-billions dollars for supporting a long war to weaken its geopolitical rival Russia, as U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said.

ASEAN is a regional economic community founded in 1967, yet it has been seen as the most dynamic economic powerhouse in the 21st century. With its hugely rich natural resources and technological innovation capacities, ASEAN has committed to preserve the Southeast Asian region as a Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone and free of all other weapons of mass destruction, as enshrined in the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ Treaty). Therefore, ASEAN vow to fully comply with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, taking into account the international community’s call for diplomacy as the instrument to maintain peace and security in the region.

It is understandable that amid the Ukraine war, Washington was highly motivated to hold this special summit to demonstrate its leading role in the world affairs including Asia. As the Biden administration has said that it was the high time to show its enduring commitment to ASEAN and that the Indo-Pacific region is a U.S. national security priority. Yet, although China’s power projection in Southeast Asia figures prominently into the summit, the two-day meeting did not touch the question openly and collectively. Instead, the summit primarily discussed a host of other critical issues — from COVID to climate change to the uncertain scenario in Myanmar. Actually, as Brian Harding explained prior to the summit that considering the Biden administration’s geostrategic design, Washington as the host was sure to address how ASEAN factors into Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific Strategy and how the nations showed their supports to Ukraine during the ongoing war with Russia. Essentially, while competition with China is at the heart of the United States’ regional strategy, support for a cohesive and resilient ASEAN is one of the critical means for success in advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific alongside modernized alliances like the Quad (i.e., the U.S., Australia, India and Japan). However, it is not easy to achieve since ASEAN is an extremely diverse group of 10 countries that operates by consensus, meaning it is rarely nimble nor bold, even on its best day.

It is self-evident that ASEAN countries are highly alert to the fact that relations between the United States and China have important implications for themselves. Accordingly, they all want an engaged and present multiple players including United States, China, Japan, India, Australia and the EU member states to be involved into the regional equilibrium. As former Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has called it more positively, a dynamic equilibrium. Yet, what they do not want is to be forced to choose between the United States and China.

China and ASEAN approved the comprehensive strategic partnership in 2021, and now it stands ready to strengthen coordination and collaboration with ASEAN countries to update the action plan and to deepen cooperation in fields such as digital connectivity, green economy, public health, and industrial and supply chains. More sensible is that China hopes that the consultations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea will maintain the positive momentum and reach a consensus since Beijing has openly declared that the South China Sea is common asset of all the countries in the region.

From a geostrategic perspective, China opines that the ASEAN-centered regional cooperation architecture has formed in East Asia, which is the key to maintaining peace and stability in the region. Consider that the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy moves toward against the common and long-term interests of regional countries, China has to react against the U.S. to advocate the Cold War mentality and the relevant approaches such as establishing QUAD, a typical of bloc confrontation in the region, and promoting AUKUS which is essentially provoking an arms race in the region. Although China welcomes any countries outside the region to play a constructive role in the peace and development in the region, but it does not accept any actions that undermine peace, stability, solidarity and cooperation in the region. In brief, no matter what regional strategy is proposed by one country, the purpose should be mutual benefit and win-win results rather than a zero-sum game.

Despite all these arguments, there is no reasons for the world to underestimate the close and comprehensive cooperation between the United States and ASEAN. This summit agenda were primarily focused on apolitical areas cooperation, such as clean energy, health security, the digital economy and the deteriorating situation in Myanmar. President Biden was aware of the wisdom of not making his ASEAN guests to be as frustrated with the situation as himself since there was deep divisions among ASEAN member states on the issues and challenges they have to face. Accordingly, it is fair to say that the U.S.-ASEAN summit recently held in Washington was good enough in public relations but insufficient in tackling the real global issues from poverty, climate change and illegal change of regime by “color revolution”.

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