From Rome to Britain, every empire has assimilated the conquered with language, institutions, and ideas, often through coercion, to make the vanquished easier to dominate and to maximize the power and interests of the empire.
The history of the United States of America is similar. When the US discovered in 1902 that European gunboats were blockading the port of Venezuela, they could no longer stand idly by, so they decided to exercise “international policing power” in the western hemisphere and intervene in the internal affairs of other countries (Roosevelt Corollary 1904).
Hegemony is not easy to handle. For those too stubborn to accept its rule – Cuba, Iran, Syria, the DPRK, Venezuela and most recently Russia – the US has resorted to harsh coercion, including economic sanctions, diplomatic isolation or direct , missiles, drones and marines . The tools of coercion may have varied, but Washington’s goal was consistent — to effect a major shift in the target’s political system to obliterate its strategic, diplomatic, and economic ambitions. This is how problems are solved once and for all and the “American Empire” is cemented. In the past seven decades, the United States has fought major wars
Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Dissatisfied with the price and outcome of military options, sanctions have become Washington’s preferred means of coercion. During former US President Barack Obama’s first term in office, the US sanctioned an average of 500 companies each year. That number doubled during the administration of former President Donald Trump.
Incumbent President Joe Biden has faithfully inherited this coercive diplomacy, sanctioning Myanmar, Nicaragua and Russia in his first few months in office. Two months after the Russia-Ukraine conflict began, the US has imposed more than 800 sanctions on Russia. Military action aside, sanctions have officially become Washington’s first choice, and Americans seem confident they can force a large country to submit to US hegemonic power in the global economy and financial system.
Even more remarkable is that Americans use coercion to increase coercion. The US has made it clear that those who comply with its sanctions are loyal friends and those who try to judge the situation on its merits are not “on the right side of history” and will be greeted with “severe consequences”. .
The actual effectiveness of US coercion is a matter of debate, but its pernicious effects have been clearly felt by ordinary people in US destination countries. For example, the US embargo has cost Cuba some $130 billion (roughly one and a half times Cuba’s annual GDP) in economic value over the past six decades, and studies have shown that the embargo is “contributing to increasing health threats and the decline of some health indicators.” .
As for US sanctions on Iran, they have resulted in annual inflation there of 42 percent and more than a third of Iranians live below “the subsistence level”.
Despite the human and economic toll, the term coercion was not viewed negatively in the US dictionary. For a time it was proudly branded as the “alternative to war,” as we read in the many pages of the study of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis by Alexander George, who was one of the first to place “coercive diplomacy” in a theocratic framework the early 1990s.
From the Trump administration to the Biden administration, Washington politicians have used the term “coercion” to describe those moves by China that they don’t like.