While aggressive war, drone strikes, and a global network of military bases are the most visible aspects of American hegemonic power, what is often overlooked is the U.S. policy of training, assisting, and subsidizing foreign militaries. Although these actions are largely covert and discreet, they serve the same purpose of hegemonic control, diminish peace and national security, and help contribute to the subjugation of foreign citizens.
The training of foreign militaries to serve the interests of the American state goes all the way back to at least the Cold War. The U.S. used taxpayer money and weapons to subsidize foreign governments and militaries that were "anti-communist" even if the regimes were incredibly brutal and ruthless. All an authoritarian had to do was refer to his political opponents as "communists" and the Americans came rushing in.
In nearly every continent, the U.S. taught extremely fascistic, right-wing governments the art of cracking down on domestic dissent, jailing and torturing political opponents, centralizing power, making deals beneficial to American corporations, and employing death squads. Cheaper and less visible than directly invading and overthrowing governments the U.S. didn't like, sock puppet dictators were the preferred means of implementing policy.
The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 left very little justification for an American imperial position throughout the globe, yet those same Cold War policies were not only not discarded, but expanded upon. Back in 2010, President Obama and the Pentagon began implementing a strategy with a larger emphasis on "combat operations" and military-to-military coordination. U.S. Special Forces are now operating in (at least) 75 countries, teaching their governments more efficient means of subjugating their populations, creating chaos, and serving the interests of the American empire.
Syria is the most recent example of this policy. While publicly claiming that the U.S. is helping build schools and hospitals in Syria, the Associated Press and New York Times reports document that the U.S. is training and arming Syrian "rebels" opposing the Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad. With the help of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, most of the weapons are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, many of whom belonging to groups that just a few years ago were killing U.S. Marines in Iraq.
President Obama, secretly and without the consent of Congress, sent more than 150 Special Forces to Jordan to train the anti-Assad fighters on the use of sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons.
What is even more disturbing is that the Syrian "rebels" have most likely already used chemical weapons, have a reputation for beheading prisoners, and that U.S. support is prolonging the conflict in the region. The reasons for U.S. intervention are of course complicated and multifaceted, but it most likely has to do with attempts to destabilize Iran's strongest ally and what the Romans called divide et impera.
Syria may be the most dangerous example of the Obama administration's enhanced policy of covert military training and assistance, but unfortunately it is nowhere near the only one. In Mali, along with building a brand new drone base, U.S. AFRICOM chief General Carter Ham admitted that while training Mali's military, they "skipped ethics." Targeting dissidents based on ethnicity and executing them is a staple of the U.S.-trained Mali government.
In Indonesia, the Obama administration resumed training and assisting an elite Indonesian military unit whose members have been convicted of massive human rights abuses in East Timor. U.S.-trained forces in Guatemala have incredibly close ties to some of the region's most violent drug cartels and are notorious for their brutal treatment of civilians during the Guatemalan civil war.
A report from the Washington Office on Latin America details a U.S. policy called "the Merida Initiative" designed to "help the region's militaries take on internal security roles" and use American police to train local police. Although President Obama publicly denounced the 2009 military coup in Honduras, Wikileaks cables later revealed that the Obama administration had members of the State Department meet with the illegitimate new Honduran "president" to help coordinate the implementation of the Merida Initiative.
The policy of militarizing, arming, and subsidizing foreign governments, especially those with well-known and documented human rights abuses and commissions of war crimes, appears to be a staple of the Obama administration's foreign policy. But these policies help contribute to the spread of dictatorships, humanitarian crises, and instability while making the possibility of resentment and blowback much more likely.
It is becoming more and more clear that the bipartisan consensus policy of military interventionism is a threat to peace and security. Neutrality and non-intervention, as the Founders recommended, is a far more practical alternative and is still the best way to spread the American values our politicians are so fond of endorsing.