The Secret to Understanding US Foreign Policy

In one of his regular “Reflections” essays, Fidel Castro recently discussed United States hostility towards Venezuela.  “What they really want is Venezuela’s oil,” wrote the Cuban leader.  This is a commonly-held viewpoint within the international left.  The point is put forth, for example, in Oliver Stone’s recent film South of the Border.  I must, however, take exception.

In the post-World War Two period, in Latin America alone, the US has had a similar hostile policy toward progressive governments and movements in Guatemala, Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Grenada, Dominican Republic, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, and Bolivia.  What these governments and movements all had in common was that they were/are leftist; nothing to do with oil.  For more than half a century Washington has been trying to block the rise of any government in Latin America that threatens to offer a viable alternative to the capitalist model.  Venezuela of course fits perfectly into that scenario — oil or no oil.

This ideology was the essence of the Cold War all over the world.

The secret to understanding US foreign policy is that there is no secret.  Principally, one must come to the realization that the United States strives to dominate the world.  Once one understands that, much of the apparent confusion, contradiction, and ambiguity surrounding Washington’s policies fades away.  To express this striving for dominance numerically, one can consider that since the end of World War Two the United States has:

  • Endeavored to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically elected.
  • Grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries.
  • Waged war/military action, either directly or in conjunction with a proxy army, in some 30 countries.
  • Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.
  • Dropped bombs on the people of some 30 countries.
  • Suppressed dozens of populist/nationalist movements in every corner of the world.*

The United States’ institutional war machine has long been, and remains, on automatic pilot.


* A link to any of the first five lists can be obtained by writing to William Blum at  The sixth list has not yet been uploaded to the Internet.

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions since World War 2; Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower; West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir; and Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire.  Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at <>.  See, also, Paul A. Baran and Paul M. Sweezy, “Notes on the Theory of Imperialism”; and Leo Huberman and Paul M. Sweezy, “The Theory of U.S. Foreign Policy — I.”

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