The New Crusade: Imperial U.S. vs Political Islam

I am as intolerant of imperialistic designs on the part of other nations as I was of such designs on the part of Germany. The choice is between two ideals; on the one hand, the ideal of democracy, which represents the rights of free peoples everywhere to govern themselves, and, the ideal of imperialism which seeks to dominate by force and unjust power, an ideal which is by no means dead and which is earnestly [sought] in many quarters still.
— U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, July 1919

Fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them, take them captive, harass them, lie in wait and ambush them using every stratagem of war.
— The Qur’an (9:5), Islam’s holy book

We are fighting them (the terrorists) over there so that we won’t have to fight them here at home.
— Former U.S. President George W. Bush’s political slogan

I, like any head of state, reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation.
— U.S. President Barack Obama, December 10, 2009

When the tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest…and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always stirring up some war.
— Plato, ancient Greek philosopher (428/427-348/347 B.C.)

In the political movie Charlie Wilson’s War about the Soviet-Afghanistan war, the hero states, “America does not fight religious wars.” Is this possibly wrong, dead wrong?

In fact, is it not possible that since September 11, 2001, a new type of “holy war” may have begun? This time, the new crusade with strong religious overtones pits fundamentalist Christian America and its allies, against political Islam and the Islamist al Qaeda terrorist organization. On September 16, 2001, then President George W. Bush set the tone when he said: “This crusade, this war on terrorism, is gonna take awhile.”

On December 1, 2009 Nobel “Peace” laureate Barack Obama, president of the United States since January 20, 2009, decided to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, President George W. Bush. He announced a policy of stepping up the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan-Pashtunistan. He announced an escalation in the military occupation of Afghanistan by sending extra American troops in that Muslim country, putting the number of American soldiers in Afghanistan at more than 100,000. Not satisfied in using the same vocabulary as George W. Bush, Barack Obama pushed the symbolism by adopting Bush’s practice of announcing policies surrounded by more than 4,000 students dressed as soldiers at the West Point Academy. This was all too reminiscent of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s fatal decision in 1965 to acquiesce to the request from U.S. commanders to enlarge the Vietnam war by sending scores of additional U.S. soldiers to that Asiatic country.

America seems to be in a constant need of a foreign enemy. First, it was the British. Then it was the Indigenous peoples. Then it was the Mexicans. Then it was the Spanish. Then it was the Filipinos. Then it was the Japanese. Then it was the Germans. Then it was the Italians. Then it was the Koreans. Then it was the Cubans. Then it was the Vietnamese. Then it was the Soviets. Then it was the Iraqis. Then it was the Islamists. Then it was the Taliban. And, once the current conflict in Pashtunistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan is over, it will possibly be the Iranians, the Chinese, the Russians…etc.!

The reason for such a permanent-war mentality is most likely related to the U.S. military-industrial complex, an enormous beast that must be fed regularly hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars, if not trillions of dollars, to sustain itself.

In the months following the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the high echelons at the Pentagon were busy designing a new post-cold-war strategy designed to keep the U.S. war machine humming. Paul Wolfowitz, then Undersecretary of Defense for Policy under Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney in the George H. Bush administration, wrote a memorandum titled “The Defense Policy Guidance 1992-1994”, which was dated February 18, 1992. The new so-called Wolfowitz Doctrine was a blueprint to “set the nation’s [military] direction for the next century.” This new neocon military doctrine called for the replacement of the policy of “containment” with one of military “preemption” and international “unilateralism”, in effect, discarding the United Nations Charter that forbids such international behavior.

The Pentagon’s overall goal was to establish, through military force, a “one-Superpower World”. The more immediate objectives of the new U.S. neocon doctrine was to “…preserve U.S. and Western access to the [Middle East and Southwest Asia] region’s oil”, and, as stated in an April 16, 1992 addendum, to contribute “to the security of Israel and to maintaining the qualitative edge that is critical to Israel’s security”.

Because of some opposition within the U.S. Government, the new policy did not become immediately effective. But the objective remained.

For instance, in September 2000, under the auspices of “The Project for the New American Century”, a new strategic document was issued and was entitled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses, Strategy: Forces and Resources For a New Century”. The same goals expressed in the 1992 document were reiterated.

The belief was expressed that the kind of military transformation the (neocon) planners were considering required “some catastrophic and catalyzing event — like a new Pearl Harbor”, to make it possible to sell the plan to the American public.

They were either very prescient or very lucky, because exactly one year later, they were served with the “New Pearl Harbor” they had been openly hoping for. Indeed, the Islamist terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, turned out to have been a bonanza for the American military-industrial complex. The military planners’ wish for a “New Pearl Harbor”, was fulfilled at the right time. It is important to remember that from 2001 to 2005, Paul Wolfowitz served as U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush administration, reporting to U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. In this capacity, he was well positioned to implement his own Wolfowitz doctrine that later morphed into the George W. Bush Doctrine.

For the time being, this is the “doctrine” that newly-elected President Barack Obama continues to implement in the Pashtunistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan corridor. As a politician, Barack Obama may be new at the job, but the policy he is being asked to implement was crafted long before he even set foot in Washington D.C.

Another possible reason why the United States is so often involved in foreign wars, besides its obvious aim of imposing a New American Empire on the world, may be due to the strong influence of religion in the United States. Just as for some aggressive Islamic countries, the U.S. is also the most religious of all first world countries. Researchers have found strong positive correlations between a nation’s religious belief and high levels of domestic stress and anxiety, and other indicators of social dysfunction such as homicides, the proportion of people incarcerated, infant mortality, drug abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, teenage births and abortions, corruption, large income inequalities, economic and social insecurity…etc.

It is possible that wars serve as an emotional outlet that allows some Americans to forget about their nation’s domestic problems. I suppose more research would be necessary on this issue. Indeed, is it possible that foreign wars, including wars of aggression, are a way for the American elites to deflect attention from domestic social problems and, as such, are a convenient pretext to direct tax money to defense expenditures rather than to social programs? The issue deserves at least to be raised. This could explain why U.S. foreign policy is so devoid of fundamental morality.

U.S. politicians who become president understand this American proclivity for war. They know that the best way to popularity is to be seen as a “war president”. A president who does not start a war abroad or who does not enlarge one already in progress is open to criticism and is likely to suffer politically. He must be seen less as a president than as “commander-in-chief”, in effect, as an emperor. How could this be, when the framers of the U.S. Constitution attempted precisely to avoid that?

Indeed, Article One (the War Powers Clause) of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress, and not the President, the authority to declare war.

Since World War II, however, this central article of the U.S. Constitution has been circumvented by having Congress give the President a blanket authorization to deploy troops abroad for euphemistically called “police actions“, without an explicit or formal congressional declaration of war. The term was first used by President Harry S. Truman to describe the Korean War.

This artifice has done a lot to trivialize the act of war. It also contributed much in the transfer of the powers of war and peace from the legislative branch to the executive branch. In doing so, it has reinforced the role of the U.S. president as a commander-in-chief or as a de facto emperor. Only a formal constitutional amendment could restore, in practice, the framers’ initial intent.

All said, it is easy to understand why when political faces change in Washington D.C., policies do not necessarily change. This push toward empire on the part of the United States can also explain why there is resentment and an anti-Americanism movement abroad.

Rodrigue Tremblay is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Montreal and author of the book The New American Empire. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Rodrigue, or visit Rodrigue's website.

4 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. DavidG. said on December 22nd, 2009 at 3:20pm #

    This is an excellent article. It explains why ‘U.S. foreign policy is so devoid of fundamental morality.’

    America has taken over where the Nazis left off. The only difference is that the Nazis were more honest about their real intentions.

    America is the ‘rogue elephant in the room.’ It must be corralled, hobbled and have its tusks withdrawn.

  2. Rehmat said on December 22nd, 2009 at 5:39pm #

    The article is full of ignorance of text of holy qur’an and Islamic theology and history.

    The Qur’anic verse quoted by the author is out of context. Muslims are commanded: “There is no compulsion in religion”. They’re, not allowed to fight the unbelievers unless they’re provoked first by the unbelievers – and if they have to fight a war – they’re only allowed to kill the combatants. Muslim soldiers are not allowed to kill elderly men, women and children. They’re not allowed to demolish non-military buildings or the buildings used for worshipping. They’re allowed to take the defeated enemies as captives for ransom money, but if the captive choose to become Muslim, he/she must be set free.

    In Islam there is no seperation between state and church, as is the case in Judaism and Christianity. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) assumed the function of Allah’s messanger, head of Islamic state of Medinah (in Hebrew Medina itself means “State”) and C-in-C of the faithful.

    The West on the other hand, has never shown itself to be bounded by any moral restrains. It’s doctrine has always been: “In war every action, no matter how immoral, is justified”.

    “Islam never had to go through a prolonged period of critically examining the validity of its spiritual vision, as the West did during the 18th century. Islamic culture has, of course, known its own crisis… yet it was never forced to question its traditional worldview,” – writes the historian Louis Dupre.

    Islam doesn’t need Enlightenment

  3. Shabnam said on December 22nd, 2009 at 7:39pm #


    I have seen nothing about Houthi massacre at your site. This is not fair for you to be silent against a destructive force in the region, Saudi Arabia, where along with other Arab States, Egypt and Jordan, are called ‘Arab moderate states’ due to their collaboration with Israel against Palestinians and other non Arab states. Our problem is not limited to Palestine and Israel and those who support Palestinians must go after the most destructive force among Arab states, Saudi Arabia.

    The Arab intellectuals who support Palestinian struggle are totally silent against war criminal activities of Saudi Arabia where has bought majority of Arab and non Arab journalists with $$$$ to bring them to its media mogul, Al Arabiya and other outlet to write propaganda articles against other country on behalf of US and Israel geopolitical interest to divert attention from destructive activities of Saudi’s leaders against the Shiites in Iraq and elsewhere including Yemen. Remember that the Houthi fighters are ARABS. It is shameful that Arabs are totally silent against Saudi Arabia’s WAR CRIME activity all the time.

    Houthi fighters have managed to repulse Saudi Arabian forces trying to infiltrate into the province of Sa’ada in northern Yemen, killing an unspecified number of Saudi soldiers in a battle in the border region.

    In a statement issued on Tuesday, Yemen’s Shia Houthis said they pushed back Saudi troops from Al-Muannaq village in northern Yemen on the border with Saudi Arabia and also destroyed eight Saudi tanks.

    The Houthi fighters say Saudi forces had fired 256 missiles and carried out air strikes against the Sa’ada region.

    The statement also said that Saudi Apache helicopter gunships launched two air strikes on the city of Dahyan on Tuesday as Riyadh continues its air raids against the mountainous regions of northern Yemen. It added that Saudi ground forces used heavy machine guns during the operation.

    The Saudi army also shelled Al-Malaheet and the villages adjacent to it, which caused many civilian deaths.

    Seventy-three Saudis have been killed and 26 have gone missing since fighting broke out between Saudi forces and the Houthi fighters on November 3.

    The number of wounded Saudi troops has reached 470, with 60 still hospitalized.

    The conflict between the central government in Sana’a and the Houthis of northern Yemen began in 2004. The conflict intensified in August 2009 when the Yemeni army launched Operation Scorched Earth in an attempt to crush the Houthi movement.
    The Houthis say their civil rights have been violated and they are suffering political, economic, and religious marginalization due to the policy of the Yemeni government, which they have also accused of widespread corruption.

    The Saudi air force has further complicated the conflict by launching its own operations against Shia resistance fighters.

    Houthi fighters say that Riyadh pounds their positions, and Saudi forces strike Yemeni villages and indiscriminately target civilians. According to the fighters, the Saudis are using prohibited weapons, including white phosphorous bombs, against civilians in northern Yemen.

    The US military is also continuing its air raids on Yemen’s regions of Amran, Hajjah, and Sa’ada, which have suffered much due to the joint Saudi-Yemeni government offensive against the Houthi fighters.

    The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that since 2004, up to 175,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in Sa’ada and take refuge in overcrowded camps set up by the United Nations.

  4. Rehmat said on December 23rd, 2009 at 4:23am #

    Dear Shabnam

    As a Muslim, I could not ignore the plight of Muslim brothers in Yemen – while Washington under Jewish lobby boots – is paying for the rescue of Hemeni Jews to escape from their ancient co-religionists – the “Saudi royals”. I posted my understanding of the USrael war in Yemen on November 1, 2009 under the title:

    ‘Save Yemen’ – Muslims Vs Jews