America’s strategy in managing world affairs and international relations reflect a complex web of short-lived alliances, manipulation, calculated diplomacy and when circumstances permit, arrogant military aggression. However, these strategies are not played out simultaneously against one target, but rather measured out discriminately, each in the measure proportionate with the enormity of the issue at hand. As the world’s Super Power, the US is faced with a host of political, economical and military milestones that challenge its supremacy in world affairs. Most overwhelming is the fact that these challenges are manifested on the international scene, which limits the amount of influence it can exert on sovereign states to promote her agenda. Before the US involvement in Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter’s security adviser stated that “An arc of crisis stretches along the shores of the Indian Ocean, with fragile social and political structures in a region of vital importance to us threatened with fragmentation. The resulting political chaos could well be filled by elements hostile to our values and sympathetic to our adversaries” (Matt, 2009). Regardless, the US has repeatedly shown that nothing can stand on its way to maintain the status quo, where it stands at the center of things. The grand plan to continued dominance is the desire to defeat any group of individuals or nations that threaten its supremacy, and the universal recognition of that fact.
The plot is very simple, yet equally cleverly and cunningly outlined to get the mission accomplished. In warming up to a well planned and calculated foreign military intervention “the U.S. often portrays itself as a neutral peacekeeper, with nothing but the purest humanitarian motives. After deploying forces in a country, however, it quickly divides the country or region into “friends” and “foes,” and takes one side against another” (Grossman 2010). First rule: know thy enemies- which America really does. Then, if your enemy number one is the enemy of your enemy number two, then make friends with either. After helping one to eliminate the other, remember thy enemy and your enmity-which America did. Finally, you have got only one exhausted, weary enemy to easily thrash. It is the reluctance to swiftly carry out this last part, the thrashing of the last enemy when he is most exhausted and vulnerable, which reveals the ingenuity of the US- a grand design to keep the game going.
Now, that sounds like the very character of Batman and Joker, the hero and villain characters, respectively, in the film The Dark Knight (2008). Joker (read Osama bin Laden) is a member of an underground mafia gang (al Qaeda, Talban, Alshaabab etc) that for a long time had been terrorizing the town of Gotham. Talk of President Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ that threatens the whole of humanity. September 11 jolts into mind, with its blood chilling horrors. Presently, he (Joker) and his band of thugs have just robbed a bank, and helped themselves with bundles of dollars. However, Joker intends to pocket everything. The problem is, he cannot single handedly deal with all of his enemy-friends. But there is nothing that a cunning mind won’t fix: he deceives them to kill each other until he remained with only one, whom he killed himself. Then Batman gets into the job of nabbing the villain. He kills all the bad guys he encounters on the way, but when he gets on to the Joker, he spares his life and leaves him to the SWAT team.
The similarity between the plot in The Dark Knight and the US’s involvement in Afghanistan is not only striking, but also captures the Washington’s game plan in dealing with world affairs. If Batman spared the Joker so as to justify his continued Batman hero role, then Washington desperately needs an excuse good enough to justify their continued invasions and occupations in the Middle East. It is where the alleged terrorists hide. To recall President Bush’s words once again, both the terrorist and his friends are agents of the devil, and therefore none should be spared. Thus, when CIA deduced that Osama is hibernating somewhere in the rugged terrains of the Afghanistan desert after bringing down the World Trade Center and killing thousands of Americans, the US soldiers crushed into Kabul like tornadoes. This is despite the fact that since the late 1970s up to 9/11, Kabul was one of the US’s peephole into the intrigues of the Middle East. By highlighting the similarity between the US involvement in Afghanistan since 1980 and the actions of the characters of Joker and Batman in the film The Dark Knight, the paper aims to discuss America’s approach to international relations and world affairs.
If the world is a theater for the good versus bad boys’ face-off, then the US is the super-hero savior upon which the survival of the rest of the world rests. Indeed, no any other country in history, since the civilization of mankind into organized societies and nations, has ever fought for a cause with the fervency, fierceness and military aggression displayed by the US in the Bush pushed ‘War on Terror’ campaign. Its sprit of commitment and devotion- which has remained steadfast even in the face of horrifying casualties since Vietnam, The Gulf War and presently, the continuing mayhem in Iraqi, Afghanistan; and a brewing animosity with Tehran, is perhaps only rivaled by the Roman Church’s Holy Crusades of the 12th and 13th centuries. In both contexts, there is a common thread of a spirited and ‘armed’ determination, literally speaking, to completely thrash out an identified enemy. If Rome hated the Muslims with the wrath of God as to make the Holy See lead chariots of warriors to the East, then the US’s aggression on the Middle East underlies similar sentiments. It was former President Bush himself who labeled some of these ‘bad-guys’ nations the ‘axis of evil,’ with a vehement promise to wipe out the devil and his hosts. It could have easily been dismissed as an over-emphasized official, but nonetheless personal expression of a fanatical hatred of terrorism in particular, and the veiled abhorrence of the Arab world in general. However, that is hardly the case: when President Obama, widely thought of as a sympathizer of the Middle East dispatched another battalion to Kabul, it became very apparent that Bush was not speaking for himself- or dancing to the tune of Dad intent on winding up unfinished business he initiated while in office, as some might have speculated. On the other hand, it implies an institutionalized and romanticized political ideology that is generally antagonistic of the Arab world, and which now has been ingrained to the American public psych.
Nonetheless, what is striking is not the full-gear style of the US’s military intervention on international affairs- that has been a very common and habitual, typical American response to anything that calls for a gun muzzle; it doesn’t surprise anyone with a sketch of history. Rather, it is the ensuing tangle of subplots and secret schemes that emerge after the real business which raises suspicious eyebrows, and often cynical criticism. If not anything, the behind-the scenes dealings and shifting of alliances- which at casual glance can pass for ingenuous military tactics were it not for the involvement of political meddling and self contradictions- portray the US’s cunning and trickster antics in world affairs. For starters, and very specific to the theme of this discussion, America was the messianic hero that backed the anti-communist rebels rising against the pro-Soviet government of President Babrak Karmal. It is reported that by 1983, when the Soviet troops in Afghanistan had soared to about 100 000, “the CIA was purchasing assault rifles, grenade launchers, mines, and SA-7 light antiaircraft weapons, totaling 10,000 tons to support the anti-communist guerrilla forces, jointly called the ‘mujahidin’- Islamic warriors” (Huang, 2001). At the same time, it was the godfather figure that raised and nurtured the world’s number one terrorist, and by implication the US’s most sought after enemy, Osama bin Laden. In fact, political analysts have pointed out that “U.S. policy toward Afghanistan, Russia and the region during the 1980s helped, at least indirectly, nurture the growth of anti-American and fundamentalist forces now controlling Kabul, and indeed, even some of the terrorists now being sought by the United States for the Sept. 11 attacks against New York and Washington” (Huang, 2001). Eventually, after using Osama’s hand to hit at the Soviets, somebody at CIA must have realized that the guy was a terrorist! From then onwards, till today, he is the villain who Washington is so much chagrined about, so much so that a generous bounty was put on his head. Ironical, isn’t it? But then, as noted before, the irony part goes as far America’s self contradiction and shifting of alliances in international relations is concerned. Beyond that, history tells a different story: that of manipulation, scheming and trickery to promote US interests.
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