The United States of America, believed by many to be the sole superpower post-Cold War, has arguably the most staggering defence budget ever known to humanity. Post the cataclysmic attacks of 9/11 and the subsequent promulgation of the Bush Doctrine, the United States defence budget has witnessed a constant increase, hovering at or around 5-6% of its GDP. In real terms, the budget peaked in 2010, witnessing a jaw-dropping US$800 billion figure.
There is a direct correlation between this figure and the way the Bush Doctrine, later on finalised into the National Security Strategy, formed the core of the US foreign policy. For pragmatic appreciation of nuances around the doctrine, it is prudent to realise that it aspired to achieve preemption in attack as a means and mechanism of self-defence.
Contextually, as elucidated by the 43rd president himself, sovereign states perceived to be bastions or active supporters of “terrorists” were treated as such and the military-centric approach to counter terrorism was used to decimate and redefine their politics. In short, the sovereignty of these states did not matter for as long as they represented an omnipresent threat to the “national interests” of the USA.
Subsequently, President Barack Obama, religiously followed and enforced this doctrine to the letter despite campaign rhetoric. The enforcement of the doctrine peaked during the Arab Spring, when, under the auspices of “promoting democracy” within the Arab World, Obama allowed the region to descend into total chaos and anarchy despite the obvious warnings of the hawkish Israeli PM, Netanyahu.
The epitome of this doctrine occurred on May 2, 2011 when, before an appreciating global audience, Obama announced that the US Navy Seals Team 6 had carried a daring pre-dawn raid in the sprawling low-density suburb of Abbottabad in Pakistan that resulted in the liquidation of Osama bin Laden, then leader of Al-Qaida.
Trump happened. He campaigned on the troop withdrawal mantra. It is important to recognise that at its peak, the US had a troop contribution of around 98 000 in Afghanistan and Iraq. The war in Syria and the emergence of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi brought new policy headaches to the Pentagon.
Trumpism ushered in its own challenges as the twice-impeached president indicated that he was inspired to withdraw US troops from all spheres of warfare. Negotiations with the Taliban gathered pace in Qatar and before long, an agreement of some sort was reached. Meanwhile, Trump continued bombing Syria under the guise of the doctrine of responsibility to protect. The defence budget remained where it was whilst the rise of China and the repeated tension in the Persian Gulf meant the isolationist posture sought by Trumpism was going to fail the electoral test. It did.
What will Biden do?
Biden will definitely seek to “re-affirm” US hegemony and “international leadership”. The Iran Nuclear deal will be moderated and “seduced” probably getting a new lease of life whilst most of Trump’s failed signature foreign policy disasters will most likely get rescinded, most likely the gaffe in Venezuela and the North Korean comedy.
US national interests will not change but its foreign policy will retrace its footsteps from the disastrous Trumpian era. Hybrid warfare is the new weapon of choice of waging wars within the current set up. Interstate wars are gradually dwindling whilst irregular warfare is increasingly becoming more and more popular.
Fighting via proxy or through entirely new theatres of warfare such as cyberspace, the US and at large most states are capable of influencing decisions and actions of adversaries in numerous ways never before seen to humanity. The National Security Advisor to then-US President Trump, Robert Charles O’Brien Jr, quipped that Zimbabwe, alongside Iran, Russia and China, poses a threat to the national interests of the US and as such, the incoming Biden administration is not expected to tweak the national interests of the US as they practise their foreign policy in favour of such adversaries, Zimbabwe included. Cyberwarfare, itself a domain of war after land, sea, air and space, will escalate due to advantages it brings as regards attribution and lack of deterrence. Irregular wars inspired by a rekindled version of the Bush Doctrine will sprout across the globe while the US Defence budget might probably top US$1 trillion under the Biden Administration.
For Zimbabwe and similar ideological poles to American national interests, the reality is everything will remain the same!
Sapien Sapien is the pen name of Zimbabwean expert on war studies