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Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq
Throughout the history of humanity, stronger tribes, nations, and states sought to conquer the weaker ones. To a large extent, the fight for power and political dominance resembles the process of natural evolution, which favors the strongest and does not accept weaknesses. In the past centuries, the United States continuously exemplified the source of power, hegemony, and political controversies. Since its inception, the American state constantly tried to extend its global reach. In his book Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, Stephen Kinzer traces the history of the American political and military domination. Kinzer goes back to the roots of U.S.’s fight for power and hegemony since the end of the 19th century until present. At all stages of its political and military evolution, the United States deposed other presidents, monarchs, and regimes to re-establish its leadership at national and global scales. The motives behind U.S.’s interventions were mostly the same – to impose its ideology on other nations, protect its business interests in the foreign territories, and increase its power. However, the means of power deposition varied, depending on the external environments and the international political situations, from open violence to diplomacy, government rewards, and coups d’état.
The past 110 years witnessed a number of serious political conflicts. Most of them were either organized by or involved the United States. Actually, the United States remains an ever present element of most political and military strikes in the 19th and 20th centuries. Over these 110 years, the U.S. overthrew fourteen governments. In its political and military interventions, the U.S. sought to achieve three main goals: first, to secure its business interests; second, to expand its power; and third, to impose its ideology on other nations.Changes that resulted caused profound alterations in the structure of political relations and the balance of power internationally and globally. The Imperial Era and the deposition of the Hawaiian monarchy taught a perfect political lesson: the U.S. learned that it could get rid of the governments and rulers that either did not satisfy U.S.’s political interests or posed a serious threat to the stability of the American political and economic regime. In 1893, the United States, for the first time in its history, openly interfered with the internal politics of the foreign state; Hawaii was deprived of its power and soon became part of the American territory and statehood.
Hawaii had a unique position in the Pacific Ocean, which resulted in a strong American interest in its affairs. By the middle of the 1800s, the U.S. realized the potential contribution Hawaii could make to American expansion in the Pacific region. At that time, the Hawaii was torn between modernity and tradition, controlled by a few European and American families; monarchs were nothing but figureheads. When Queen Liliuoalani decided to initiate changes to the national Constitution, the United States took immediate actions and, by 1898, Hawaii would have become inseparable from the U.S. state. Kinzer claims that the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy resembled a comic opera; it was equally awkward and direct. However, the state of international politics at the end of the 19th century favored open expansion and violence. Reasons behind U.S.’s annexation of Hawaii were numerous. Its strategic location favored and facilitated U.S.’s military expansion in the Pacific region.Politically, the U.S. wanted to eliminate Hawaii from the international political arena in order to avoid risks and unnecessary frictions in the Pacific. Simultaneously, the U.S. wanted to expand its commercial and business influences to the islands.However, as the international political atmosphere was changing, earlier methods of political expansion and military advancement were gradually becoming obsolete.
After the end of WWII, the United States entered the stage of the so-called “covert action”. Changes in international politics required greater caution and sophistication of the U.S. decision making methods. The Cold War made open interventions extremely risky; simultaneously, communism became a perfect cover of U.S.’s expansionary intentions. Coups d’état came to exemplify a new, more subtle way to depose foreign governments.In 1965-67, America was secretly involved in the bloody overthrow of the political regime in Indonesia: President Sukarno fell victim to U.S.’s political, business, and military interests. Indonesian Council of Generals, backed up by the CIA, planned and implemented a clandestine coup d’état, leading to the creation of the new regime in Jakarta. That was also when the United States secretly supported coups and overthrows in other countries, including Panama and Grenade. In this fight for power under the cover of the communist risks, America was the sole winner. Once the USSR collapsed, there U.S. no longer needed to hide its intentions.
At the beginning of the 1990s America entered the new stage of invasions. Although President Reagan promised that no further landings would be made, landings would become the distinguishing feature of the U.S.’s international expansion for decades that followed. From Afghanistan to Iraq, the United States used various motives to expand its influence to the foreign territories. The Middle East has been at the heart of the U.S.’s military strategies at the end of the 20th – the beginning of the 21st centuries. More often than not, the U.S. hid itself behind democratization and freedom values while, in reality, everything America did was to impose its alien ideology on other nations, suppress their regimes to obtain access to scarce natural resources, and expand its presence to new territories. Depending on the conditions of international politics, the methods America used to strengthen its position varied from open violence to clandestine coups and overthrows. At present, America is believed to be one of the major sources of the political and military threats. Behind its liberty values there is nothing but a shrewd desire to reaffirm its international dominance. Most probably, the U.S. will continue its military journey around the world, looking for new resources, people, and powers.
The United States always sought to establish and confirm its international dominance by all possible means. Over the past 110 years, the U.S. deposed fourteen foreign governments. The means of power deposition varied, depending on the external environments and the international political situations, from open violence to diplomacy, government rewards, and coups d’état. The history of the American expansion to the foreign territories is roughly divided into three different periods. From 1893 and the annexation of Hawaii to the military operation in Iraq in 2003, America wanted to preserve its power and hegemony in the international political arena. Most probably, the U.S. will continue its military journey around the world, looking for new resources, people, and powers.