Principles of non-aggression, non-intervention, and respect for state sovereignty are to be ideally and principally upheld for sustainable world peace to materialize. The establishment of the United Nations in October 1945 for example, was aimed at burying the hatchet of World War II which resulted in over 61000000 casualties, and moving forward with an international order based on humanitarianism, collaboration, and multilateralism. Yet revelations in 2023 point at yet another sober picture. The world’s foremost superpower and hegemon continue to wantonly sanction aggression against other states and cause millions of casualties in the process. The question of holding it accountable is hence, completely justifiable.
The latest revelations in 2023 are enshrined in a study from one of America’s top institutes of learning, research, and academics. The Brown University’s Watson Institute’s Costs of War project stated that almost one million people have directly died as a result of US-authorized wars in Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. If indirect deaths are accounted for then at least 4.5 million people had been killed while millions of others were displaced in these conflict zones. The inability of the United States state machinery and intelligence agencies to distinguish between legitimate targets of war such as terrorist groups wreaking havoc across the Middle East and globally, and innocent civilians over the years resulted in the latter being targeted as so-called ‘collateral damage’ which amounts to crimes against humanity. Beyond scholarly criticism within the US from prominent academics such as Noam Chomsky however, there has been no attempt to change America’s policy of historical crass interventionism which is where the problem lies.
Since assuming power, the Biden administration has endeavored to institutionalize and weaponize American foreign policy globally to target states that disagree with its ideological leanings as well as those in complete turmoil such as Afghanistan. The crisis in Yemen is a case in point where according to the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, the United States has not had any compelling interest in Yemen which could justify itself being implicated in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Similarly, the Biden administration continues to foment unrest with its bellicose rhetoric on Hong Kong and aggressive policy on the Taiwan question as the latter has witnessed arms supplies to the Democratic Progressive Party. The DPP is regarded as a secessionist organization by mainland China yet such strategies are being pursued in spite of Washington D.C.’s stated position of adhering to the One China Policy. Such duplicity is evident as is the United States historical policy of ‘divide and rule’ in the Middle East which prevented two major regional powers, Saudi Arabia and Iran from shelving their differences and mitigating the pernicious effects of proxy warfare.
Statistics on the effects of American intervention are also alarming. In Yemen, a staggering 21.6 million people require some sort of humanitarian assistance in 2023, while 80% of the country lacks access to clean drinking water, food or adequate health facilities. In Taiwan, the United States approved $1.1 bn in weaponry to the DPP in 2021 which angered China and damaged fractured diplomatic ties. Similarly, the US intervention in Syria has resulted in nearly 500,000 deaths taking place as per estimates. In South Asia, more than 70,000 Afghans and Pakistanis died in 2021 as a direct result of the US-led war on terror in Afghanistan which resulted in nothing but devastation, conflict, terrorism and domestic upheaval. Both neighboring states, Pakistan and Afghanistan also continue to suffer from the existential threat of terrorism within their borders from groups such as the Islamic State in the Khorasan Province and the Tehrik-I-Taliban Pakistan despite decades of US intervention in the region.
The same report also speaks of indirect deaths caused in countries such as Libya, Somalia, and Iraq. Alongside Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen, close to 3.6-3.7 million casualties constituted ‘indirect deaths’ from malnutrition, diseases, damages to critical infrastructure, declining GDP growth rates due to war and conflict and abject poverty. Many of these wars are continuing in 2023 with casualty tolls mounting by the day. The report from Brown University’s Watson Institute’s Cost of War project also singled out the United States as unequivocally responsible due to its participation in several post 9/11 wars. Its intervention contributed to the decline and demise of societies of countries being attacked. One such case study is Afghanistan where despite the 2021 US withdrawal from Kabul, average Afghans are witnessing a complete economic meltdown, with the banking system collapsing amid harrowing security quagmires from terrorist organizations. This is the legacy of American intervention as the Taliban cements its hold on Kabul.
The problem also lies in the American inability to change course. Stephanie Savell who is the author of the 2023 report and also co-director of the Consequences of War project confirmed that many Americans remain oblivious to the human costs of war waged against countries by their own government. Furthermore, lack of awareness is compounded by Washington D.C. continuing to enjoy unjustifiable and blanket immunity from criminal prosecutions. Growing calls from within the international community must be directed at the United States and its NATO allies to change course on military adventurism and address ongoing human catastrophes which includes alleviating the suffering of millions of people languishing in war zones.
The Brown University’s Cost of War Project’s report is a damning indictment of US foreign policy. The Biden administration’s inability to rectify the mistakes of its predecessors will only cement America’s image as a hegemon and an aggressor.