One Flow Chart Perfectly Sums Up the Truth About U.S. Foreign Policy

The news: Quick! You've just been elected president of the United States, and senior military officers and gray-suited men with clipper cuts stand around your desk, requesting immediate direction on a number of foreign crises. What do you decide? Luckily, this handy flow chart from from cartoonist Andy Singer can make those decisions for you.


This looks ... strangely accurate. It's just a joke, but it's surprisingly correct. Just follow the arrows for our test case in Iraq: dictatorship > mineral and oil wealth > no nuclear weapons > invasion > puppet government > uprising > rinse and repeat.

While the past decade of American unilateralism has demonstrated the U.S.'s commitment to screwing around with sovereign governments, America's track record of destabilizing or overthrowing foreign regimes goes back well before World War II.

But it's been worse since then. Between the U.S. march on Berlin and the end of the Cold War, covert U.S. intelligence assets have been implicated in attempted or actual regime changes in Syria, Iran, Guatemala, Tibet, Indonesia, Cuba, the DR Congo, Iraq, the Dominican Republic, South Vietnam, Brazil, Ghana, Chile, Argentina, Afghanistan, Turkey, Poland, Nicaragua, Cambodia and Angola.

Since the end of the Cold War, American assets were involved in overthrows of governments in Iraq, Afghanistan, Venezula, Haiti, the Gaza Strip, Somalia, Iran, Libya and Syria. And that doesn't even count the U.S.-engineered military invasions in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, Bosnia/Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention places where U.S. air power has been deployed to attack military and insurgent targets across the globe. (By the way, if you haven't been counting, that's 36 countries.)

It's not all cloaks and daggers. To be clear, U.S. power has ousted horrible dictators. The Dominican Republic's dictator Rafael Trujillo murdered as many as 50,000 of his own people before being assassinated with weapons provided by the CIA in 1961. Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega was in bed with drug cartels and murder gangs and had one of his most prominent opponents decapitated and stuffed into a United States Postal Service bag. And Saddam Hussein was certainly not the jolly character his rotund belly, mustache and friendly handshakes with Donald Rumsfeld might imply.

But humanitarian concerns have almost universally been secondary to the U.S.'s strategic logic dealing with real or imagined foreign threats, from the containment of communism to today's brutal drone campaigns against jihadi terrorists across the Middle East and North Africa. At best, they've usually been secondary justifications for things hawkish elements of various U.S. administrations wanted to do anyways.

Finally, as shown in the graph above, America has always been willing to back authoritarian regimes that toe the Western party line. The U.S. has supportive relationships with Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Equatorial Guinea and Turkmenistan, demonstrating American hostility has always been selective and capricious. Regimes willing to support friendly commercial relationships with the U.S. always seem to have a suspicious advantage. New York Times journalist Stephen Kinser refers to successful actions the U.S. has engaged in as "catastrophic victories," where American meddling has often caused serious problems down the line.

So, what's the big deal? The U.S. is still considering the degree of support it's willing to lend to the nascent Iraqi government, beleaguered by a raging insurgency by the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant in the northern half of the country. So far President Obama has accepted sending some 300 military advisers (high-ranking officers and special forces veterans) to help stabilize Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government. While there's nothing to suggest that the U.S. wouldn't be picking sides in Iraq if we hadn't overthrown Hussein in 2003, there's also extraordinarily little evidence behind the idea that the U.S. invasion has improved either regional stability or the day-to-day lives of everyday Iraqis.

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

MORE FROM

Hillary Clinton says Republicans will be the "death party" if they pass health care bill

Hillary Clinton spoke out against the Republican's proposed bill on Twitter.

It's time to redefine the clitoris, according to sex education experts

"Words matter. They shape and mold our ideas and beliefs about our purpose, our bodies, our self-worth and our place in the world around us."

Al-Jazeera becomes a target amid Qatar diplomatic crisis

Gulf states are demanding the broadcaster be shut down.

5 blocks of London apartments to be evacuated over potentially flammable cladding

800 North London apartments will be evacuated following a fire inspection that turned up evidence that the buildings could be unsafe.

Tomi Lahren wants to rally women to her side after criticizing feminists and "pro-choicers"

"My view on abortion is not black-and-white," Lahren said.

These 5 states are drafting laws to limit protests on college campuses

The legislation is intended to protect free speech on campus.

Hillary Clinton says Republicans will be the "death party" if they pass health care bill

Hillary Clinton spoke out against the Republican's proposed bill on Twitter.

It's time to redefine the clitoris, according to sex education experts

"Words matter. They shape and mold our ideas and beliefs about our purpose, our bodies, our self-worth and our place in the world around us."

Al-Jazeera becomes a target amid Qatar diplomatic crisis

Gulf states are demanding the broadcaster be shut down.

5 blocks of London apartments to be evacuated over potentially flammable cladding

800 North London apartments will be evacuated following a fire inspection that turned up evidence that the buildings could be unsafe.

Tomi Lahren wants to rally women to her side after criticizing feminists and "pro-choicers"

"My view on abortion is not black-and-white," Lahren said.

These 5 states are drafting laws to limit protests on college campuses

The legislation is intended to protect free speech on campus.