The American Way of Meddling in Foreign Soil

Iranian coup d'état of 1953- Pro-shah sympathisers. Photo by William Arthur Cram

Recently, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina warned her ruling party about a national and international conspiracy against the government. Prior to that, she also accused the US wants to topple the government and install an undemocratic government. In her own word, “It has the power to topple the government in any country and the Muslim countries, in particular, are experiencing a tough time. They are trying to eliminate democracy and introduce a government that will not have a democratic existence. It’ll be an undemocratic action.”

Even though it is a political statement, her skepticism is not a made-up one. The historical pieces of evidence of meddling in foreign soil by the US and its recent activities in Bangladesh provide justice to her statement. The US mainly relies on meddling in foreign countries to meet its objective.

US Meddling During Cold War

During the cold war, the US meddled worldwide to counter the spread of socialism and the USSR’s presence. The famous book All the Shah’s Men written by Kermit Roosevelt- grandson of President Roosevelt and top CIA officer revealed how the US staged a coup against the Mosaddegh government in Iran. Many Latin American countries also experienced the bitter meddling of the US during the cold war. For ousting the government or installing a puppet government, the US used to rely on both overt and covert means. Overtly, it is used to fuel dissidence, fund the opposition and provide political or military support; while it usually relied on intelligence activities, political assassination, and subversions to topple the government. 

Lindsey A. O’Rourke- an assistant professor of international politics at Boston College conducted research on this issue. According to her research, the US attempted to change governments in foreign countries 72 times during the cold war. However, the attempts are an admixture of both success and failure. The US succeeded 26 times and failed 40 times. According to O’Rourke, even though the US mostly failed, the operations brought devastating impacts to the states.

The US also mastered election engineering. In 75% of cases, the US-backed parties won the election on foreign soil. There were at least 16 occasions in which the US influenced foreign elections by clandestine sponsoring, advising, and spreading propaganda for its favorite candidates, often doing so beyond a single election cycle.

 In the book “Meddling in the Ballot Box”, the writer Dov H. Levin argued that the United States is the biggest election meddler of them all time, having messed with more than twice as many elections as Russia /Soviet Union. According to Levin, the U.S. intervened in most elections between 1946 to 2000.

Meddling after 9/11

The US meddling did not end with the cold war. In the aftermath of 9/11, the US continued to meddle in many countries. It fueled the Arab Spring in the Middle East. US-sponsored Arab Spring only destabilized the Middle East ousting strong leaders only. Ironically, the US had to back dictator Sisi in Egypt, who actually ousted Morsi Government- Egypt’s democratically elected regime in years. Donald Trump even called Sisi his ‘favorite Dictator’. The US also had an alleged role behind Turkey’s failed coup in 2016.

The US Meddling in Bangladesh

Since past few years, the US is highly active in the internal matters of Bangladesh. As the Chinese presence is increasing in South Asia, and it established a US interest in South Asia. As a result, the US and its Western allies are now grouping on several issues regarding Bangladesh’s internal affairs for a while now. At this moment, there is an impression among common people that the US is backing the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Such impression also influences the voting pattern. The impression is so strong that the US Embassy in Dhaka had to clarify their neutral position formally.

Apart from these, the US is also funding many programs that may seem ‘benevolent’ in first look. Take for instance, the Confronting Misinformation in Bangladesh program. The Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) of Fulbright has launched the program in Bangladesh. It is generating a ‘flavor’ that the government is solely responsible for misinformation in Bangladesh. In the name of Democracy and Human Rights, the US also fuels dissidence by providing support and giving unnecessary statements related to Bangladesh’s domestic political issues.

Such meddling, therefore, creates valid skepticism among the government regarding possible US ousting. However, this is not the only experience Bangladesh has. In 2007, the US and its Western allies conspired against Bangladesh and installed a quasi-military government. The conspiracy at that time wanted to sideline both Awami League and BNP and install a puppet regime in Bangladesh. The Embassies at that time used to conspire behind ‘tea parties’.

The US is one of its largest trading partners for Bangladesh. It is also the single-largest market for Bangladeshi RMG. Since the past 52 years, cooperation between Bangladesh and the US flourished in all aspects. There are also rooms for further upward trajectory in the relations. But Coercive diplomacy and meddling in internal affairs are detrimental for the ties. As Bangladesh always tries to preserve its self-determination, such conspiracies are likely to be foiled in the long run. Yet, if it fails, such nefarious activities may bring destabilization to Bangladesh. Lastly, Bangladesh welcomes cooperation, wants the respect of other nations for its self-determination, and denounces coercion and subversions.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Policy Watcher’s editorial stance.

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