According to four-star General Wesley Clark, in a 1991 meeting with Paul Wolfowitz, then-under-secretary of defense for policy at the Department of Defense, Wolfowitz seemed a little dismayed because he believed the U.S. should have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein in Operation Desert Storm but failed to do so. Clark summarized what he says Wolfowitz said:
“‘But one thing we did learn. We learned that we can use our military in the region, in the Middle East, and the Soviets won’t stop us. We’ve got about five or ten years to clean up those old Soviet client regimes, Syria, Iran, Iraq, before the next great superpower comes on to challenge us.’” [emphasis added]
This was certainly the case in the years that followed, as the United States used the pretext of 9/11 to attack both Afghanistan and Iraq with little to no substantive resistance from the international community. This trend continued as the Obama administration heavily expanded its operations into Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and even the Philippines, to name a few, right up until the U.S. led a cohort of NATO countries to impose regime change in Libya in 2011.
At the time, Russia withheld its veto power at the U.N. Security Council because it had received assurances that the coalition would not pursue regime change. After NATO forces began bombing Muammar Gaddafi’s palaces directly, a furious Vladimir Putin questioned: “Who gave NATO the right to kill Gaddafi?”
Following Gaddafi’s public execution on the streets of Sirte, Putin’s criticism of NATO’s betrayal went even further. He stated:
“The whole world saw him being killed; all bloodied. Is that democracy? And who did it? Drones, including American ones, delivered a strike on his motorcade. Then commandos – who were not supposed to be there – brought in so-called opposition and militants and killed him without trial. I’m not saying that Gaddafi didn’t have to quit, but that should have been left up to the people of Libya to decide through the democratic process.”
No one appreciated it at the time, but America’s unchallenged ability to intervene anywhere and everywhere it chooses ended on that day. Fast forward to Barack Obama’s plans to implement an extensive strike plan against the Syrian government in 2013, which never transpired due strong Russian opposition and widespread protests in the U.S. A few years later, Russia directly intervened in Syria at the request of the Syrian government and effectively implemented its own no-fly zone in significant portions of the country. Donald Trump’s April 2017 strike on the Syrian government was only conducted after his administration first notified the Russians through a deconfliction hotline set up to manage the Syrian conflict.
However, Russia isn’t the only country that is tired of America’s foreign policy, and the recent “emergency U.N. Security Council meeting” to discuss the current situation in Iran is a testament to that. Even Washington’s traditional allies cannot withhold their criticism of America’s desire to police the world.
“However worrying the events of the last few days in Iran may be they do not constitute per se a threat to international peace and security,” French Ambassador to the U.N. Francois Delattre said. “We must be wary of any attempts to exploit this crisis for personal ends, which would have the diametrically opposed outcome to that which is wished.”
Russia went even further, bringing up America’s own behavior and treatment of protesters as a counter-argument to the notion that Washington is motivated by human rights concerns in Iran.
“By your logic, we should have initiated a Security Council meeting after the well-known events in Ferguson,” said Russian U.N. Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya, addressing the U.S. delegation.
Iran also insisted the matter was an internal affair and not something for the U.N. to weigh in on, and China agreed, with their ambassador calling it a purely “domestic issue.”
French President Emmanuel Macron even went so far as to accuse the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia of instigating a war with Iran.
“The official line pursued by the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia, who are our allies in many ways, is almost one that would lead us to war,” Macron told reporters, according to Reuters. Instead, Macron called for dialogue with Tehran as he warned against the approach adopted by the aforementioned three countries.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also came to Iran’s aid during the protests with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, openly stating:
“Iran’s stability is important for us…We are against foreign interventions in Iran.”
At the end of last year, Erdogan stated that U.S. sanctions on Iran were not binding on Turkey as it sought to outmaneuver them. At the time, Hurriyet news quoted Erdogan as saying “[t]he world does not consist of the U.S. alone.”
America’s influential decline was most evident in Donald Trump’s recent Jerusalem debacle, which saw the Trump administration issue stern threats to the entire world, warning they needed to vote in favor of Washington’s interests at the U.N. Most of the world chose to ignore those threats and gave the United States a giant “middle finger,” so to speak, voting overwhelmingly against the Trump administration.
While Washington is more than capable of unilaterally attacking other countries both covertly and overtly with an ever depleting list of allies, what is becoming increasingly clear is that it may not be able to do so without active opposition from the rest of the world, including nuclear powers Russia and China, which refuse to stay silent as the U.S. tries to shape the world in accordance with its geopolitical desires.