In a manner reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s New Cold War policies, Obama has
vastly increased the military budget, increased the number of combat troops, targeted new
regions for military intervention and backed military coups in regions traditionally
controlled by the US. However Obama’s rollback strategy occurs in a very different
international and domestic context. Unlike Reagan, Obama faces a prolonged and profound
recession/depression, massive fiscal and trade deficits, a declining role in the world
economy and loss of political dominance in Latin America, the Middle East, East Asia and
elsewhere. While Reagan faced off against a decaying Soviet Communist regime, Obama
confronts surging world-wide opposition from a variety of independent secular, clerical,
nationalist, liberal democratic and socialist electoral regimes and social movements
anchored in local struggles.

Obama’s rollback strategy is evident from his very first pronouncements, promising
to reassert US dominance (‘leadership’) in the Middle East, his projection of massive
military power in Afghanistan and military expansion in Pakistan and the destabilization of
regimes through deep intervention by proxies as in Iran and Honduras.

Obama’s pursuit of the rollback strategy operates a multi-track policy of overt
military intervention, covert ‘civil society’ operations and soft-sell, seemingly benign
diplomatic rhetoric, which relies heavily on mass media propaganda. Major ongoing events
illustrate the rollback policies in action.

In Afghanistan, Obama has more than doubled the US military forces from 32,000
to 68,000. In the first week of July his military commanders launched the biggest single
military offensive in decades in the southern Afghan province of Helmand to displace
indigenous resistance and governance.

In Pakistan, the Obama-Clinton-Holbrooke regime successfully put maximum
pressure on their newly installed client Zedari regime to launch a massive military
offensive and rollback the long-standing influence of Islamic resistance forces in the
Northwest frontier regions, while US drones and Special Forces commandoes routinely
bomb and assault villages and local Pashtun leaders suspected of supporting the resistance.

In Iraq, the Obama regime engages in a farcical ploy, reconfiguring the urban map
of Baghdad to include US military bases and operations and pass off the result as “retiring the troops’ to their barracks”. [1]
Obama’s multi-billion-dollar investment in long-term, largescale
military infrastructure, including bases, airfields and compounds speaks to a
permanent’ imperial presence, not to his campaign promises of a programmed withdrawal. [2]

While ’staging’ fixed election between US-certified client candidates is the norm in Iraq
and Afghanistan where the presence of US troops guarantees a colonial victory, in Iran and
Honduras, Washington resorts to covert operations to destabilize or overthrow incumbent
Presidents who do not support Obama’s rollback policies.

The covert and not-so-invisible operation in Iran found expression in a failed
electoral challenge [3]
followed by ‘mass street demonstrations’ centered on the claim that the
electoral victory of the incumbent anti-imperialist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a
result of ‘electoral fraud’ [4] . Western mass media played a major role during the electoral
campaign exclusively providing favorable coverage of the opposition and negative accounts
of the incumbent regime. The mass media blanketed the ‘news’ with pro-demonstrator
propaganda, selectively presenting coverage to de-legitimize the elections and elected
officials, echoing the charges of ‘fraud’. The propaganda success of the US-orchestrated
destabilization campaign [5] even found an echo among broad sections of what passes for the
US ‘left’ who ignored the massive, coordinated US financing of key Iranian groups and
politicos engaged in the street protests. Neo-conservative, liberal and itinerant leftist ‘freelance
’, like Reese Erlich, defended the destabilization effort from their own
particular vantage point as ‘a popular democratic movement against electoral fraud’.

The right/left cheerleaders of US destabilization projects fail to address several key
explanatory factors:

1. None, for example, discuss the fact that several weeks before the election a
rigorous survey conducted by two US pollsters revealed an electoral outcome very near to
the actual voting result, including in the ethnic provinces where the opposition claimed

2. None of the critics discussed the $400 million dollars allocated by the Bush
Administration to finance regime change, domestic destabilization and cross border terror
operations [6]. Many of the students and ‘civil society’ NGO’s in the demonstrations received
funding from overseas foundations and NGO’s – which in turn were funded by the US

3. The charge of electoral fraud was cooked up after the results of the vote count
were announced. In the entire run-up to the election, especially when the opposition
believed they would win the elections – neither the student protesters nor the Western mass
media nor the freelance journalists claimed impending fraud. During the entire day of
voting, with opposition party observers at each polling place, no claims of voter
intimidation or fraud were noted by the media, international observers or left backers of the
opposition. Opposition party observers were present to monitor the entire vote count and
yet, with only rare exception, no claims of vote rigging were made at the time. In fact, with
the exception of one dubious claim by free-lance journalist Reese Erlich, none of the
world’s media claimed ballot box stuffing. And even Erlich’s claims were admittedly based on unsubstantiated ‘anecdotal accounts’ from anonymous sources among his
contacts in the opposition.

4. During the first week of protests in Tehran, the US, EU and Israeli leaders did not
question the validity of the election outcome. Instead, they condemned the regime’s
repression of the protestors. Clearly their well-informed embassies and intelligence
operative provided a more accurate and systematic assessment of the Iranian voter
preferences than the propaganda spun by the Western mass media and the useful idiots
among the Anglo-American left.

The US-backed electoral and street opposition in Iran was designed to push to the
limits a destabilization campaign, with the intention of rolling back Iranian influence in the
Middle East, undermining Tehran’s opposition to US military intervention in the Gulf, its
occupation of Iraq and, above all, Iran’s challenge to Israel’s projection of military power
in the region. Anti-Iran propaganda and policy making has been heavily influenced for
years on a daily basis by the entire pro-Israel power configuration in the US. This includes
the 51 Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations with over a million members
and several thousand full-time functionaries, scores of editorial writers and commentators
dominating the opinion pages of the influential Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times as well as the yellow tabloid press.

Obama’s policy of roll back of Iranian influence counted on a two-step process:
Supporting a coalition of clerical dissidents, pro-Western liberals, dissident democrats and
right-wing surrogates of the US. Once in office, Washington would push the dissident
clerics toward alliances with their strategic allies among pro-Western liberals and rightists,
who would then shift policy in accordance with US imperial and Israeli colonial interests
by cutting off support for Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, Venezuela, the Iraqi resistance and
embrace the pro-US Saudi-Iraqi—Jordan-Egypt clients. In other words, Obama’s roll back
policy is designed to relocate Iran to the pre-1979 political alignment.

Obama’s roll back of critical elected regimes to impose pliant clients found further
expression in the recent military coup in Honduras [7]. The use of the high command in the
Honduras military and Washington’s long-standing ties with the local oligarchy, which
controls the Congress and Supreme Court, facilitated the process and obviated the need for
direct US intervention—as was the case in other recent coup efforts. Unlike Haiti [8]
the US marines intervened to oust democratically elected Bertrand Aristide, only a decade
ago, and openly backed the failed coup against President Chavez in 2002 [9], and more
recently, funded the botched coup against the President-elect Evo Morales in September
2008, the circumstances of US involvement in Honduras were more discrete in order to
allow for ‘credible denial’.

The ‘structural presence’ and motives of the US with regard to ousted President
Zelaya are readily identifiable [10]. Historically the US has trained and socialized almost the
entire Honduran officer corps and maintained deep penetration at all senior levels through
daily consultation and common strategic planning. Through its military base in Honduras,
the Pentagon’s military intelligence operatives have intimate contacts to pursue policies as
well as to keep track of all political moves by all political actors. Because Honduras is so
heavily colonized, it has served as an important base for US military intervention in the region: In 1954 the successful US-backed coup against the democratically elected
Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz was launched from Honduras. In 1961 the US orchestrated
Cuban exile invasion of Cuba was launched from Honduras. From 1981-1989,
the US financed and trained over 20,000 ‘Contra’ mercenaries in Honduras which
comprised the army of death squads to attack the democratically elected Nicaraguan
Sandinista government. During the first seven years of the Chavez government, Honduran
regimes were staunchly allied with Washington against the populist Caracas regime.

Obviously no military coups ever occurred or could occur against any US puppet
regime in Honduras. The key to the shift in US policy toward Honduras occurred in
2007-2008 when the Liberal President Zelaya decided to improved relations with
Venezuela in order to secure generous petro-subsidies and foreign aid from Caracas.
Subsequently Zelaya joined ‘Petro-Caribe’, a Venezuelan-organized Caribbean and Central
American association to provide long-term, low-cost oil and gas to meet the energy needs
of member countries. In more recent days, Zelaya joined ALBA, a regional integration
organization sponsored by President Chavez to promote greater trade and investment
among its member countries in opposition to the US-promoted regional free trade pact,
known as ALCA. [11]

Since Washington defined Venezuela as a threat and alternative to its hegemony in
Latin America, Zelaya’s alignment with Chavez on economic issues and his criticism of US
intervention turned him into a likely target for US coup planners eager to make Zelaya an
example and concerned about their access to Honduran military bases as their traditional
launching point for intervention in the region.

Washington wrongly assumed that a coup in a small Central American ‘banana
’ (indeed the original banana republic) would not provoke any major outcry. They
believed that a Central American ‘roll-back’ would serve as a warning to other
independent-minded regimes in the Caribbean and Central American region of what awaits
them if they align with Venezuela.

The mechanics of the coup are well-known and public: The Honduran military
seized President Zelaya and ‘exiled’ him to Costa Rica; the oligarchs appointed one of their
own in Congress as the interim ‘President’ while their colleagues in the Supreme Court
provided bogus legality.

Latin American governments from the left to the right condemned the coup and
called for the re-instatement of the legally-elected President. President Obama and
Secretary of State Clinton, not willing to disown their clients, condemned unspecified
violence’ and called for ‘negotiations’ between the powerful usurpers and the weakened
exile President – a clear recognition of the legitimate role of the Honduran generals as

After the United Nations General Assembly condemned the coup and, along with
the Organization of American States, demanded Zelaya’s re-instatement, Obama and
Secretary Clinton finally condemned the ousting of Zelaya but they refused to call it a
‘coup’, which according to US legislation would have automatically led to a complete
suspension of their annual ($80 million) military and economic aid package to Honduras.
While Zelaya met with all the Latin American heads of state, President Obama and
Secretary Clinton turned him over to a lesser functionary in order not to weaken their allies
in Honduran Junta. All the countries in the OAS withdrew their Ambassadors…except the
US, whose embassy began to negotiate with the Junta to see how they might salvage the
situation in which both were increasingly isolated – especially in the face of Honduras’
expulsion from the OAS.

Whether Zelaya eventually returns to office or whether the US-backed junta
continues in office for an extended period of time, while Obama and Clinton sabotage his
immediate return through prolonged negotiations, the key issue of the US-promoted ‘rollback
has been extremely costly diplomatically as well as politically.

The US-backed coup in Honduras demonstrates that unlike the 1980’s when
President Ronald Reagan invaded Grenada and President George Bush (Papa) invaded
Panama, the situation and political profile of Latin America (and the rest of the world) has
changed drastically. Back then the military and pro-US regimes in the region generally
approved of US interventions and collaborated; a few protested mildly. Today the centerleft
and even rightist electoral regimes oppose military coups anywhere as a potential threat
to their own futures.

Equally important, given the grave economic crisis and increasing social
polarization, the last thing the incumbent regimes want is bloody domestic unrest,
stimulated by crude US imperial interventions. Finally, the capitalist classes in Latin
America’s center-left countries want stability because they can shift the balance of power
via elections (as in the recent cases in Panama, Argentina) and pro-US military regimes can
upset their growing trade ties with China, the Middle East and Venezuela/Bolivia.

Obama’s global roll-back strategy includes building offensive missile bases in
Poland and the Czech Republic, not far from the Russian border. Concomitantly Obama is
pushing hard to incorporate Ukraine and Georgia in NATO, which will increase US
military pressure on Russia’s southern flank. Taking advantage of Russian President
Dimitry Medvedev’s ‘malleability’ (in the footsteps of Mikail Gorbechev) Washington has
secured free passage of US troops and arms through Russia to the Afghan front, Moscow’s
approval for new sanctions against Iran, and recognition and support for the US puppet
regime in Baghdad. Russian defense officials will likely question Medvedev’s obsequious
behavior as Obama moves ahead with his plans to station nuclear missiles 5 minutes from

Roll-Back: Predictable Failures and the Boomerang Effect

Obama’s roll-back strategy is counting on a revival of right-wing mass politics to
‘legitimize’ the re-assertion of US dominance. In Argentina throughout 2008, hundreds of
thousands of lower and upper-middle class demonstrators took to the streets in the interior
of the country under the leadership of pro-US big landowners associations to destabilize the
‘center-left’ Fernandez regime. In Bolivia, hundreds of thousands of middle class students,
business-people, landowners and NGO affiliates, centered in Santa Cruz and four other
wealthy provinces and heavily funded by US Ambassador Goldberg, Agency for
International Development and the National Endowment for Democracy took to the streets, wreaking havoc and murdering over 30 indigenous supporters of President Morales in an
effort to oust him from power. Similar rightist mass demonstrations have taken place in
Venezuela in the past and more recently in Honduras and Iran.

The notion that mass demonstrations of the well-to-do screaming ‘democracy’ gives
legitimacy to US-backed destabilization efforts against its democratically-elected
adversaries is an idea promulgated by cynical propagandists in the mass media and parroted
by gullible ‘progressive’ free-lance journalists who have never understood the class basis of
mass politics.

Obama’s Honduran coup and the US-funded destabilization effort in Iran have
much in common. Both take place against electoral processes in which critics of US
policies defeated pro-Washington social forces. Having lost the ‘electoral option’ Obama’s
roll-back looks to extra-parliamentary ‘mass politics’ to legitimize elite effort to seize
power: In Iran by dissident clerics and in Honduras by the generals and oligarchs.

In both Honduras and Iran, Washington’s foreign policy goals were the same: To
roll-back regimes whose leaders rejected US tutelage. In Honduras, the coup serves as a
‘lesson’ to intimidate other Central American and Caribbean countries who exit from the
US camp and join the Venezuelan-led economic integration programs. Obama’s message
is clear: such moves will result in US orchestrated sabotage and retaliation.

Through its backing of the military coup, Washington reminds all the countries of
Latin America that the US still has the capability to implement its policies through the
Latin American military elites, even as its own armed forces are tied down in wars and
occupations in Asia and the Middle East and its economic presence is declining. Likewise
in the Middle East, Obama’s destabilization of the Iranian regime is meant to intimidate
Syria and other critics of US imperial policy and reassure Israel(and the Zionist power
configuration in the US ) that Iran remains high on the US roll-back agenda.

Obama’s roll-back policies in many crucial ways follow in the steps of President
Ronald Reagan (1981-89). Like Reagan, Obama’s presidency takes place in a time of US
retreat, declining power and the advance of anti-imperialist politics. Reagan faced the
aftermath of the US defeat in Indo-China, the successful spread of anti-colonial revolutions
in Southern Africa (especially Angola and Mozambique), a successful democratic revolt in
Afghanistan and a victorious social revolution in Nicaragua and major revolutionary
movements in El Salvador and Guatemala. Like Obama today, Reagan set in motion a
murderous military strategy of rolling-back these changes in order to undermine, destabilize
and destroy the adversaries to US empire.

Obama faces a similar set of adversarial conditions in the current post-Bush period:

 Democratic advances throughout Latin America with new regional integration projects
excluding the US; defeats and stalemates in the Middle East and South Asia; a revived and
strengthened Russia projecting power in the former Soviet republics; declining US
influence over NATO military commitments , a loss of political, economic, military and
diplomatic credibility as a result of the Wall Street-induced global economic depression and
prolonged un-successful regional wars.

Contrary to Obama, Ronald Reagan’s roll-back took place under favorable
circumstances. In Afghanistan Reagan secured the support of the entire conservative
Muslim world and operated through the key Afghan feudal-tribal leaders against a Sovietbacked,
urban-based reformist regime in Kabul. Obama is in the reverse position in
Afghanistan. His military occupation is opposed by the vast majority of Afghans and most
of the Muslim population in Asia.

Reagan’s roll-back in Central America, especially his Contra-mercenary invasion of
Nicaragua, had the backing of Honduras and all the pro-US military dictatorships in
Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Brazil, as well as rightwing civilian government in the
region. In contrast, Obama’s roll-back coup in Honduras and beyond face democratic
electoral regimes throughout the region, an alliance of left nationalist regimes led by
Venezuela and regional economic and diplomatic organizations staunchly opposed to any
return to US domination and intervention. Obama’s roll-back strategy finds itself in total
political isolation in the entire region.

Obama’s roll-back policies cannot wield the economic ‘Big Stick’ to force regimes
in the Middle East and Asia to support his policies. Now there are alternative Asian
markets, Chinese foreign investments, the deepening US depression and the disinvestment
of overseas US banks and multi-nationals. Unlike Reagan, Obama cannot combine
economic carrots with the military stick. Obama has to rely on the less effective and costly
military option at a time when the rest of the world has no interest or will in projecting
military power in regions of little economic significance or where they can attain market
access via economic agreements.

Obama’s launch of the global roll-back strategy has boomeranged, even in its initial
stage. In Afghanistan, the big troop build-up and the massive offensive into ‘Taliban’
strongholds has not led to any major military victories or even confrontations. The
resistance has retired, blended in with the local population and will likely resort to
prolonged decentralized, small-scale war of attrition designed to tie down several thousand
troops in a sea of hostile Afghans, bleeding the US economy, increasing casualties,
resolving nothing and eventually trying the patience of the US public now deeply immersed
in job losses and rapidly declining living standards.

The coup, carried out by the US-backed Honduran military, has already re-affirmed
US political and diplomatic isolation in the Hemisphere. The Obama regime is the only
major country to retain an Ambassador in Honduras, the only country which refuses to
regard the military take-over as a ‘coup’, and the only country to continue economic and
military aid. Rather than establish an example of the US’ power to intimidate neighboring
countries, the coup has strengthened the belief among all South and Central American
countries that Washington is attempting to return to the ‘bad old days’ of pro-US military
regimes, economic pillage and monopolized markets.

What Obama’s foreign policy advisers have failed to understand is that they
can’t put their ‘Humpty Dumpty’ together again; they cannot return to the days of Reagan’s
roll-back, Clinton’s unilateral bombing of Iraq, Yugoslavia and Somalia and his pillage of
Latin America.

No major region, alliance or country will follow the US in its armed colonial
occupation in peripheral (Afghanistan/Pakistan) or even central (Iran) countries, even as
they join the US in economic sanctions, propaganda wars and electoral destabilization
efforts against Iran.

No Latin American country will tolerate another US military putsch against a
democratically elected president, even national populist regimes which diverge from US
economic and diplomatic policies. The great fear and loathing of the US-backed coup
stems from the entire Latin American political class’ memory of the nightmare years of US
backed military dictatorships.

Obama’s military offensive, his roll-back strategy to recover imperial power is
accelerating the decline of the American Republic. His administration’s isolation is
increasingly evidenced by his dependence on Israel-Firsters who occupy his Administration
and the Congress as well as influential pro-Israel pundits in the mass media who identify
roll-back with Israel’s own seizure of Palestinian land and military threats to Iran.

Roll-back has boomeranged: Instead of regaining the imperial presence, Obama has
submerged the republic and, with it, the American people into greater misery and

Source: James Petras