Obama and Interventionism (Everywhere) - WhoWhatWhy

Obama and Interventionism (Everywhere)

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What in the world is wrong with Barack Obama? The man who as a candidate said he saw a limited role for intervention—essentially when America had an overriding “moral obligation” to intervene abroad— is now seeing moral obligations everywhere.

Here’s the latest, which you probably missed, since it came and went with no public uproar: He has ordered American troops into sub-Saharan Africa to help in the fight against a bloodthirsty group that nevertheless probably only numbers in the hundreds.

Before we get to the particulars, let’s consider how this man, who ran largely on opposition to George W. Bush’s reckless military adventurism, has turned out as president.

He started his tenure with a symbolically significant decision: to retain Bush’s defense secretary, Robert Gates. On Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, he fell almost totally in line with the military industrial complex. He failed to investigate wrongdoing on a host of military-national security fronts. He declared an end to torture but has apparently authorized the continued use of “secret prisons” abroad. He participated willingly in the so-called “humanitarian” intervention in Libya—which seems to have had very little to do with humanitarian objectives, and resulted in the massive destruction of that country’s infrastructure. He ordered that murky raid to take out Osama bin Laden, details of which have been deliberately obscured. He has stepped up drone strikes, with their heavy civilian casualties. Recently his administration announced the highly dubious claim that the Iranian government was behind an attempt to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States (with a Mexican drug cartel hit man), which looks to many like a Bushian-style pretext to further isolate Iran in preparation for military action against it.

Now—and you’re excused if you missed this development—he is sending American troops into sub-Saharan Africa. Specifics: Last week he announced the deployment of 100 armed military “advisers” to help in the battle against a rebel group called the Lord’s Resistance Army.

It’s certainly true that the LRA is a brutal, savage, vicious outfit, terrorizing villagers across international borders, raping, maiming and killing. The ostensible purpose of Obama’s intervention is commendable, and the action is backed by some human rights groups. But it’s unclear why US troops, in particular, need to be there. The LRA is believed to number no more than several hundred. It’s hard to see why, with tremendous amounts of materiel and other aid provided by the US to militaries throughout Central Africa, it is necessary for US boots to be on the ground.

Not that the media are asking the right questions. Here’s the New York Times:

[I]t…raises the risk of putting American military personnel in harm’s way in another region while the United States is winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That’s the only thing the “paper of record” can summon up as to why this foray might be troubling: that it exposes US military personnel to physical risk. Well, duh. All military adventures expose soldiers to potential harm. The reporter showed no interest in the why of the matter, nor of why the US seems to be in more and more conflicts—with multiple wars and a military presence, by some counts, in more than a hundred countries.


As we’ve sought to remind our readers, the US’s mandate abroad, both stated and internally understood, is to advance the American “national interest.” Humanitarianism should perhaps be a legitimate goal, yet in reality it almost never is. But wherever US troops go, valuable minerals and other resources, and the interests of large American corporations, aren’t far away.

Central Africa is one of the most valuable pieces of real estate anywhere. For more on this, let’s go to the CIA’s World Factbook.

Consider the Congo, just one of the countries where the LRA is said to operate:

cobalt, copper, niobium, tantalum, petroleum, industrial and gem diamonds, gold, silver

Or the Central African Republic, another LRA stomping ground:

zinc, manganese, tin, uranium, coal, hydropower, timber, diamonds, uranium, timber, gold, oil, hydropower

And a third LRA favorite, South Sudan:

hydropower, fertile agricultural land, gold, diamonds, petroleum, hardwoods, limestone, iron ore, copper, chromium ore, zinc, tungsten, mica, silver

Now flash back to Iraq (massive amounts of oil) and Libya (slightly lesser but still massive amounts of oil), and Afghanistan (as reported a while back in The Times:

The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government

Get the picture? Whenever you’re told that your government wants to use your money to secure humanitarian ends abroad, just check the old resource count. And then check out those places (like Syria) with mineral-poor soil, and ask yourself, “How’s that humanitarianism working out over there?”


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12 responses to “Obama and Interventionism (Everywhere)”

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  4. Avatar KONY 2012 says:

    Why target the LRA? This is why: https://vimeo.com/37119711

  5. Avatar Proslava says:

    Well, that’s the only thing that’s still functioning alright, thanks to taxpayers money: War Ministry.  As for Obamma,  he’s just a pawn, one of those “useful idiots”… being happy and proud when hired and paid by this Ministry.

  6. Avatar Mooninjoon says:

    Russ, I hear you on the “hidden” motivation of natural resources in invasion scenarios.  But I would ask, has it ever been any different?  The 19th century, with various Euro powers ransacking Africa and Asia, was very much that way.  Earlier centuries with Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch, were much along the same lines.  And this is not just Imperialism at its rapacious best.  “Small” countries will attack each other for much the same geopolitical  and resource based goals.  Modern media and weaponry have shifted our perceptions, but the “Great Game” goes on with all the usual bullshit justifications.

    gordon phinn

  7. Would it be cynical to just explain the 100 military sent to Africa as just another “accomplishment” to check off on the way to reelection?

  8. Avatar Guest says:

    Per CIA Factbook, Syrian resources: petroleum, phosphates, chrome and manganese ores, asphalt, iron ore, rock salt, marble, gypsum, hydropower.  #33 in proven petroleum reserves, ahead of Congo, Uganda, etc.

  9. Avatar Matt Prather says:

    This is a good one too (as is yours Russ), from today:

    Africa is China’s success story. Where the Americans bring drones and destabilisation, the Chinese bring roads, bridges and dams. What they want is resources, especially fossil fuels. With Africa’s greatest oil reserves, Libya under Muammar Gaddafi was one of China’s most important sources of fuel. When the civil war broke out and NATO backed the “rebels” with a fabricated story about Gaddafi planning “genocide” in Benghazi, China evacuated its 30,000 workers in Libya.

    The main reason the US is invading Africa is no different from that which ignited the Vietnam war. It is China. In the world of self-serving, institutionalised paranoia that justifies what General David Petraeus, the former US commander and now CIA director, implies is a state of perpetual war, China is replacing al-Qaeda as the official American “threat”. When I interviewed Bryan Whitman, an assistant secretary of defence at the Pentagon last year, I asked him to describe the current danger to America. Struggling visibly, he repeated, “Asymmetric threats … asymmetric threats”. These justify the money-laundering state-sponsored arms conglomerates and the biggest military and war budget in history. With Osama bin Laden airbrushed, China takes the mantle.

    The de facto conquest of Libya by the US and its imperial partners heralds a modern version of the “scramble for Africa” at the end of the 19th century.

    Like the “victory” in Iraq, journalists have played a critical role in dividing Libyans into worthy and unworthy victims. A recent Guardian front page carried a photograph of a terrified “pro-Gaddafi” fighter and his wild-eyed captors who, says the caption, “celebrate”. According to General Petraeus, there is now a war “of perception… conducted continuously through the news media”.

    For more than a decade the US has tried to establish a command on the continent of Africa, AFRICOM, but has been rebuffed by governments, fearful of the regional tensions this would cause. Libya, and now Uganda, South Sudan and Congo,  provide the main chance. As WikiLeaks cables and the US National Strategy for Counter-terrorism reveal, American plans for Africa are part of a global design in which 60,000 special forces, including death squads, already operate in 75 countries, soon to be 120. As Dick Cheney pointed out in his 1990s “defence strategy” plan, America simply wishes to rule the world.

    That this is now the gift of Barack Obama, the “Son of Africa”, is supremely ironic. Or is it? As Frantz Fanon explained in ‘Black Skin, White Masks’, what matters is not so much the colour of your skin as the power you serve and the millions you betray.

  10. Avatar Matt Prather says:


    “Washington’s intervention is not motivated by concern over these atrocities, many of which are committed by US forces in US-occupied countries or US-backed forces across Africa. It is aimed primarily at asserting US imperialist interests in Africa, and counteracting the rising influence of other major powers in the region–particularly China.

    “Of particular concern to Washington are rising conflicts in the neighboring Sudan, after the partition of the country. South Sudan, which declared independence from Khartoum on July 9 after a referendum, has large oil reserves and enjoys US backing. Sudan is one of China’s top oil suppliers internationally (See: Partition of Sudan prepares way for further conflicts).

    “The US intervention is also dictated by rising concerns over the loyalties of the Ugandan government, as well. According to a US cable released by WikiLeaks, Washington closely follows China’s growing economic influence in Uganda. A cable, dated February 17, 2010, illustrates these concerns: ‘China’s economic ties to Uganda continue to accelerate on all fronts making it one of the country’s top foreign investors… Greater Chinese investment and assistance in Uganda has generated some resentment due to local perceptions that Chinese investments favor their own businesses.’

    “Uganda also has growing economic ties to Iran. Iran and Uganda have pursued closer relations, with the agreement by Iran to fund Uganda’s oil sector. At a Tehran meeting in May 2009, President Museveni and Iranian President Ahmadinejad met together with Iranian commerce officials to hammer out an agreement for increased bilateral economic cooperation. It included provisions for the construction of an oil refinery in Uganda and measures allowing Ugandan petroleum officials to train at the Petroleum University of Technology in Tehran.”