In this essay I’m to explain about foreign policy of two American presidents; the similarities and differences .For some reasons I’ve chosen John F. Kennedy and George W. Bush, although every president has his own foreign policy, but I think in one spot the foreign policy of John F Kennedy and George W Bush becomes similar, this spot is war. Also both of them are idealist, their idealism in their speech, before the beginning of the wars is definite.
Therefore in this essay I try to clarify how American presidents claim something as good and peaceful for both the occupied country and the rest of the world, but ideologically think and practically act contrary to their claims. In fact how they do other than they say about their foreign policy; how these presidents claim that they are idealist but they began the wars and how similar they propagandize public opinions in order to their goal which is imperialism and accordingly capitalism.
George W Bush & Iraq War
Remember President Bush’ speeches and declaration of Iraq war. According to his speeches, what was the main reason of war?
” … for more than a decade the United States and other nations have pursued patient and honorable efforts to disarm the Iraqi regime without war […] peaceful efforts to disarm Iraqi regime have failed again and again .[…]this regime has already used weapons of mass destruction against Iraq ‘s neighbors and against Iraq` s people.
[…] it (Iraq) has a deep hatred of America and our friends. And it (Iraq) has aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of Al Qaeda. The danger is clear ; using chemical ,biological or, one day, nuclear weapons ,the terrorists […] could kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country ,or any other.[…] before the day of horror can come, before it is too late to act ,this danger will be removed.[…] if we must begin a military campaign , it will be against the lawless men who rule your country and not against you. We will deliver the food and medicine you need. […] we will help you to build a new Iraq that is prosperous and free […] the day of your liberation is near. […] we are a peaceful people […] if our enemies dare to strike us, they and all who have aided them ,will face fearful consequences […] when the dictator has departed they can set an example to all the Middle East of a vital and peaceful and self-governing nation. […] America and our allies accept that responsibility.”(4)
If we want to examine the “rhetoric of Iraq conquest” (Callinicos, 2003:9) in speeches of Bush and his administration to compare his foreign policy in word and in practice, we can divide his claims to several categories as Callinicos divides:
1-“Fight against terrorism “
As Chomsky has pointed out ,”the problem is the selectivity with which the terrorism is applied”.(Barsamian ,2004:22 cited in Bellamy Foster&W.Mcchesney) Who are terrorists ? Those who are n` t with US and her allies .So the main narration is struggling between good and evil .This strategy of Bush and his administration is the thing that Eleanor Stein calls it the ” construction of an enemy”. (Stein ,2004:151 cited in Bellamy Foster & W. Mcchesney) He admonishes to remember Nazi propaganda technique :
“Pit race against race, religion against religion, prejudice against prejudice .Divide and conquer!”
2-“Destroying weapons of mass destruction”
What does it mean when some countries like Israel has weapons of mass destruction but it is n ‘t dangerous ?It ‘s clear ,Israel is the close alliance of the US.
“This will not be a campaign of half measures, and we will accept no outcome except victory”, Bush said(4) .But what is really victory? Is it democracy?
Bush and his administration justify their military operation to make Iraqi people free and to survive the world from danger. But does ‘externally imposed democratic revolution’ and ‘killing half million people’ justify ‘external intervention to other regimes’?
That’ s right ,Iraqis are free but after war .As Robert Cooper expressed: “Among ourselves we operate on the basis of laws […] but when dealing with old-fashioned kinds of states outside the post-modern continent of Europe, we need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era […] when we are operating in the jungle , we must also use the laws of the jungle”. (Foster, 2004:161 cited in Bellamy Foster & W. Mcchesney)
After all ,As Noam Chomsky (Barsamian,2004:22 cited in Bellamy Foster & W. Machesney )said if Iraq was somewhere in central Africa it would n` t be chosen for this test case. But as Middle East and the Gulf region has a huge source of material wealth and oil, it ‘s chosen .All these show that reality is the other side of the coin. The foreign policy of George W Bush differs from word to practice.
John F Kennedy& Vietnam War
In late 1961, President John F. Kennedy requested more help for the South Vietnamese government in its war against the Vietcong guerrillas. (6)
Although there are multiple starting dates for the war, I choose president’s message to congress, august 5, 1964, to show how president Kennedy in this war used words to show that he is idealist but in fact he wasn’t: ” […]I further announced a decision to ask the Congress for a resolution expressing the unity and determination of the United States in supporting freedom and in protecting peace in southeast Asia.[…]these latest actions of the North Vietnamese regime have given a new and grave turn to the already serious situation in southeast Asia […] Our policy in southeast Asia has been consistent and unchanged since 1954. I summarized it on June 2 in four simple propositions:
1. America keeps her word. Here as elsewhere, we must and shall honor our commitments.
2. The issue is the future of Southeast Asia as a whole. A threat to any nation in that region is a threat to all, and a threat to us.
3. Our purpose is peace.. We have no military, political, or territorial ambitions in the area.
4. This is not just a jungle war, but a struggle for freedom on every front of human activity. Our military and economic assistance to South Vietnam and Laos in particular has the purpose of helping these countries to repel aggression and strengthen. The United States will continue in its basic policy of assisting the free nations of the area to defend their freedom […] we must make it clear to all that the United States is united in its determination to bring about the end of Communist subversion and aggression in the area . “(7)
At that time, Kennedy and his administration believed in a modernization model; all nations followed the same general road of economic and social development ,so this model is a way to protect south Vietnam while help it throughout the stages of economic growth.
But the reality was another thing, fearing the spread of communism President Kennedy believed that America could and should shape the destiny of the world’s developing countries .Following this way ,President Lyndon Johnson sustained missions in North Vietnam , Nixon followed the way of previous presidents too.
According to “the propaganda tools” term (Amin ,2004:104. cited in Bellamy Foster & W. Mcchesney) ,the term that Gobbels gave, America manipulated the intelligence of people before entrancing to the war .This manipulation of intelligence was such a strong propaganda that the Vietnam war was explained as the result of “poor political intelligence”. It was the consequence of this manipulation that most Americans believed that America were intervening to help a country that has been a victim of foreign aggression and also believed that if they lose Indochina and specially Vietnam they world will end up communism.
But this war was the consequence of American interest to extend US capitalism and control over the world.
This propaganda even continues after the war ,after all this times ,US Defence Secretary ,William Cohen said that “he didn `t intend to apologize for the attitude of the us forces during the Vietnam war.”(5)
Does America really have right to intervene to internal problems of other countries?
According to the definition of right by Mill that “to have a right is to have a justifiable claim against others that some interests be protected or promoted.” (Knowles,2002:165), it had .
But isn`t it right that ‘ this right ‘is contrary to freedom?
As Rousseau tells us “our freedom derives from our free will ,or capacity to resist the desires which press us together with our status as independent creatures, neither subject to the demands of others nor dependent on them to get what we want.” (Knowles,2002:105)
If we compare two presidents’s foreign policy and strategy in these two wars ,with this definition ,we can conclude that these presidents can’t bestow freedom to other countries. As Samir Amin expressed ,the US program is imperialist but it’ s not exactly the same imperialist that Antonio Negri explained that, since it does n ‘t “aim to change the societies into a capitalist system but to loot their sources.” (Amin,2004:105 cited in Bellamy Foster & W. Mcchesney )
These two presidents are idealist when they talk about their foreign policy .But there is a gap between their words and reality. Behind such words lay “dreams of absolute global domination, of imposing a planetary Pox Americana by force of arms”.(8)
We should be aware how an idealist language can be used to shape foreign policy of American presidents to reach imperialism and capitalism; their real goal.
1-Bellamy Foster,John &W.Mcchesney ,Robert:editors,2004,Pox Americana, London :Pluto press.
2-Calliniocos,Alex,2003,The New Mandarins of American Power,UK:polity press
3- Knowles,Dudley,2002,Political Philosophy,London:routledge
MA student of North American Studies-Tehran University