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News > Analysis

This Is What US Intervention Looks Like in the 21st Century

  • U.S. involvement globally is said to have moved away from direct military action.

    U.S. involvement globally is said to have moved away from direct military action. | Photo: Reuters

Published 18 July 2017

Washington is said to have found other ways to achieve its objectives without using direct force. 

The United States has a long history of international military interventions.

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From Haiti and Cuba, to Nicaragua and Grenada, U.S. involvement has impacted on the lives of millions of people.

Its military is currently involved in conflicts in Yemen, Libya, Iraq, and Syria.

U.S. forces are using air power and drones rather than troops on the ground in these wars.

Washington has also found other ways to achieve its objectives without using direct force. 

The U.S. political scientist Gene Sharp, known for his writings on nonviolent struggle, has described these acts as destabilization and indirect intervention, also known as soft coups.

Sharp, who has influenced resistance movements around the world, has outlined several ways that the United States attempts to influence events in other countries.

First, promote false rumors

Photo: Reuters 

The first step, according to Sharp, would be to carry out actions which promote a climate of unease. The objective is to create the potential for unrest and includes spreading gossip about alleged crimes committed by politicians and state officials.

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A 2015 document, reported in various Russian news agencies, addressed the possibility of U.S. intelligence agency involvement in the parliamentary coup against Brazil's former leftist President Dilma Rousseff.

Rousseff was dogged by rumors of corruption despite the absence of any evidence.

The following year, she was impeached and removed from office.

Although Rousseff herself, in an interview with teleSUR, denied direct U.S. involvement in her country's political crisis, nevertheless the result worked in Washington's favor: a U.S. friendly president, Michel Temer, succeeded Rouseff, imposing austerity measures and working as an obstacle to Latin America's progressive movements.

Second, create an "authoritarian" leader

Photo: EFE

Communication is key to mobilize hearts and minds and is a major strategy in diplomacy and war.

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According to Sharp, there should be an intensive campaign to defend press freedom to create the concept of unfair repression.

Based on the initial step of rumor-mongering, it will present a progressive government as a conservative and restrictive nation, an authoritarian “regime” even if it promotes equal rights.

Then, it will accuse it of absuing human rights and “repressing social discomfort.”

In Ecuador, the leftist former President Rafael Correa came to power in 2007 and promoted a communications law to override the military-era government laws.

The legislation sought to redistribute television, radio, and newspapers to the large majority of communal broadcasters.

Several U.S.-funded organizations then published reports to try to prove that the government was attacking free thinkers and the independent media.

The western media still insists that Correa’s government thought the free press was its worst enemy.

Third, fund protests

Photo: Reuters 

The escalation of the soft coup now turns to supporting opposition marches, before funding them.

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This phase focuses on the active struggle, as political and social demands grow among key groups such as businesses or political leaders. The situation in Venezuela explains this step in a better way.

The opposition began a series of almost daily protests to demand the resignation of the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Armed with high technology cameras, shields, clothing, homemade explosives and food provisions, they've been blockading roads and attacking government institutions for the last three months.

The violence and constant clashes with police officers have left at least 95 people dead.

Several protesters and opposition leaders have repeatedly called for the U.S. to intervene and invade, so they can remove Maduro from power.

President Nicolas Maduro has denounced a plan by sectors of the right-wing opposition to activate and justify an intervention in the country.

Fourth, economic sanctions

Photo: Reuters 

If “diplomatic” pressure is not enough, says Sharp, the interventionist tactics would turn to economic and political sanctions. These would increase pressure on the government and try to turn the people against their leaders.

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For more than 50 years, the U.S. has maintained the largest blockade in history against Cuba.

Companies, from the United States as well as other countries, are forbidden from doing business with the island, facing fines and legal processes if they break the embargo. 

Havana has esimated that the blockade has cost it US$4.7 billion over the last year and US$753.7 billion over the last six decades.

Gene Sharp says at this point psychological warfare operations and destabilization of the government could be carried out, with the objective of creating a climate of "ungovernability".

This will seek to create the basis for a civil confrontation that would also lead to the international community isolating the country, before forcing the government to resign prior to an intervention.  

Fifth, kick out the government

Photo: EFE

The final phase would aim to force the resignation of the country's leader via mass street protests and the ensuing negative environment.

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Sharp says preparations for a military intervention would be underway, justified by the already oft repeated message of discontent.

Honduras' President Manuel Zelaya, one of the main supporters of the progressive alliance in the region, was forcefully removed from power in 2009.

Zelaya's plan to convene a national constituent assembly to amend the Constitution of 1981 didn’t appeal to the business elites and armed forces, backed by the U.S.

In 2010, Zelaya was allowed to return to Honduras, a country that was plunged into violence following the coup.

Since then, hundreds of social activists and dozens of journalists have been killed by suspected right-wing death squads.

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