The past week has seen the celebration of the anniversary from January 1945 of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by Soviet forces. The casual reader of the speech given by United States Vice President Mike Pence could be forgiven for not realising that the liberation was carried out by Soviet forces. Although a relatively trivial slur by the United States Vice President it was symptomatic of a wider tendency in the United States perception of world events.
The liberation of Auschwitz was followed four months later by the final defeat of Nazi Germany and the end of the European phase of the world war. Many thought and hoped that it marked the end of an old discredited era and the beginning of a brave new world. This optimism was manifested in the founding of the United Nations. Many saw that development as commencing a new era with the scourge of war that could be, if not abolished, at least severely limited.
That optimism was exemplified in the United Nations Charter, one of the most important provisions of which was a severe limitation on the circumstances in which a country could take military action against another country. Essentially, a country could take military action either in self-defence, or with the imprimatur of the United Nations Security Council.
The Security Council itself reflected the geopolitical realities of 1945, with its five permanent members being the five victorious powers of World War Two, namely, the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, France and China. Whatever justification there may have been for those five permanent members in 1945 has not stood the test of time.
China’s seat on the Security Council was held by the Chiang Kai Shek government. Although that government was defeated in the Chinese Civil War that ended in 1949 with the Nationalists fleeing to Formosa (modern day Taiwan) they continued to hold China’s seat on the Security Council for a further 26 years. This manifest absurdity was finally ended in 1971.
Today, France and the United Kingdom retain their seats on the Security Council although the logical basis for doing so has long since dissipated. Germany and Japan are both vastly greater economic powers than France and the United Kingdom and in their respective regions have more economic and political influence than that of the two nominal victors.
The greatest failure of the United Nations Security Council however, has been its inability to actually give effect to the provisions of Article 2 (3) and (4) of the United Nations Charter and prevent one of its members, the United States, from engaging in almost continuous warfare in the 75 years since the United Nations Charter was formulated and ratified by its founding members.
The history of that relentless warfare by the United States has been well documented and won’t be repeated here. In the early years of the United Nations, the United States’ overwhelming military strength meant that there was little the rest of the world could do to enforce constraint and adherence to the fundamental United Nations principle of the peaceful resolution of disputes.
Although the Soviet Union was the dominant power in its region of influence, relentless propaganda to the contrary by the West notwithstanding, the Soviet Union never exercised real power outside its geographical framework.
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, and with China still relatively weak, it seemed that the United States had achieved its ambition of global dominance. They certainly behaved as if they did. If a week is a long time in politics, the passage of two decades must seem like an eternity, but if there is one outstanding geopolitical feature of the past two decades, it is that all of the West’s assumptions in 2000 have by 2020 turned to ashes. This is not to say that those assumptions have been discarded, or that the western powers have adjusted their behaviour significantly to reflect the new realities.
On the contrary, at least in the case of the United States, the world has witnessed what may fairly be described as a doubling down on their view of the world and aggressive behaviour to match. Trump personifies that aggression and “America first” ideology, but he is far from alone.
The new century began with a United States lead Western invasion of Afghanistan. That history is well documented. Suffice to say here that the ostensible reason for the invasion, Afghanistan’s alleged responsibility for the attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001 remains one of the great lies and the result one of the great war crimes of the 21st-century.
Eighteen+ years later the United States and some of its allies are still there, still bombing civilians, and still lying about their true motives: a foothold on the border of China and the former Soviet “stans”; control of the immensely lucrative heroin trade; and access to several rare minerals. The United States may indeed leave Afghanistan, as Trump professes to believe, but it will not be voluntarily.
The exact same pattern was repeated in 2003 when again the United States and its allies attacked Iraq, this time for alleged possession of “weapons of mass destruction”. When that lie was rapidly exposed there was no apology, no withdrawal, and no compensation paid.
Again, more than 16 years later, those invading forces are still there. Earlier in January of this year the Iraqi parliament unanimously passed a resolution demanding the withdrawal of all foreign troops. The demand was simply ignored by occupying forces such as the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. Nothing speaks more clearly than the arrogant disregard for the Iraqi national sovereignty then this utter refusal to leave a country when demanded to do so by its sovereign government. It is reported that when the Iraqi Prime Minister raised the issue with United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the latter simply laughed.
The Americans similarly refused to leave Iraq’s neighbour Syria, that they invaded in complete defiance of international law and remain unwelcome and uninvited. It is no coincidence that the area of Iraq that the United States continues to occupy is the oil producing region. They not only occupy that region, they are processing the oil extracted, selling it, and keeping the proceeds. There could be fewer clearer examples of brazen theft and contempt for international law. Again, United States actions bear no resemblance either to the United Nations Charter or their own hypocritical professed belief in “the rules based international order”.
The Australian government has for the most part kept an embarrassed silence about the Iraqi demand to leave. Their professed reason for being there, to train Iraqi troops hardly survives the most elementary of tests: how can one stay to “help” someone who manifestly wishes you to be gone?
The American campaign against Iran, active since at least 1979 when the Islamic revolution overthrew their man in Teheran, the Shah, shows no sign of abating. There is now very good evidence that the Ukrainian plane that was shot down by Iranian air defence, was the victim of a deliberate jamming of the plane’s electronic system that identified it as a civilian aircraft.
The Iranians obviously had no motive to do so. The disaster occurred within hours of the successful Iranian retaliation on US targets in Iraq in response to the assassination of the Iranian’s military chief (and eight other victims) who was on a diplomatic mission at the time (and carrying a diplomatic passport). The full story of this tragedy is yet to be heard. Trump has backed away from his initial claim of no United States casualties from the Iranian attack to an acknowledgement of severe injuries including psychological effects on several dozen United States military personnel.
The furore over the shooting down of the Ukrainian plane (with most of the victims Iranian, also significant) has tended to obscure the significance of what was arguably the more significant geopolitical move, the joint Chinese, Iranian, Russian naval exercises in waters proximate to Iranian territory.
Iran is becoming an increasingly important component of several major geopolitical and trade related moves by China, India and Russia. The significance of these developments is consistently underreported in the western media, in particular in the United States and Australia, both of which countries have declined to participate in what is undoubtably the major geopolitical innovation of the 21st century to date.
Indeed, it is a measure of Australia’s adherence to the United States view of the world that it should refuse to participate in these great projects (unlike 160 other world countries) and which involve Australia’s major trading partners.
All of these 21st century developments signify at least one major fact. The western domination of the world, including trade, economic development and coming to an end. A failure to recognise that reality and taking steps to oppose, undermine, and in many cases actively sabotage that development, only delays the inevitable.
The terrible risk for the world is that the failing and flailing empires of the past will try to resist that inevitable development. In doing so they threaten the very future of the planet.
James O’Neill, an Australian-based Barrister at Law, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.