The image to the right is a Japanese representation of the “black ships” commanded by Matthew Perry which, in 1853, forced open trade with Japan for US commercial interests. A few may scoff that this sounds like Bush policy. Some of us think that it is US policy no matter who is in charge.
What unites the wing-nuts; left-wing Democrats, right-wing Republicans, and shrill Internet pundits from the Huffington Post to Michelle Malkin? The idea that the US is the centre of the universe. That everything that happens is somehow because of US engagement, lack of setting values, overt interference or rampant consumerism.
Get over it. The US isn’t that important.
The Third World War
Over the last decade Africa has been home to a war the size and scale and scope of which rivals World War II. The ex-Zaire, present Democratic Republic of Congo, is the size of Western Europe. Every single neighbouring country has troops there. Up until very recently each was fighting a proxy-war against the other. Each was fighting for influence over the astonishing mineral wealth present in the state that collapsed after the death of Mobutu sese Seko.
Guess what? The US has no real involvement in this war. It’s an African affair. So too the settlement (with occasional violent wobbles) that was negotiated in South Africa by our president, Thabo Mbeki.
Need a few more examples of things happening which the US isn’t involved with? How about Pakistan and India’s continuing spat over Kashmir? Ethiopia and Eritrea’s continuing border skirmishes? Thailand’s coup? Zimbabwe’s self-destructive agricultural collapse?
Too many wars? How about something hopeful?
The Cricket World Cup was held successfully in the West Indies over the last two months. It was a wonderful experience, although South Africa choked near the end and came home in disgrace. As usual, Australia won against a sterling performance by Sri Lanka
In business: Mittal’s recent acquisition of Accelor makes this Indian company the largest steel-maker in the world. Tata is well on their way to producing a US$2 000 family sedan.
This list could go on.
The Hubris of Interference
Yes, when US Conservatives or Republicans start lecturing the rest of the world about morality, democracy or capitalism it is patronising and terribly imperialistic. That a large number of Republican candidates believe in creationism, are against a women’s right to choose an abortion, gay marriage and general support for the marginalised and dispossessed is outrageous.
But just as true is this: when US Liberals and Democrats start lecturing the rest of the world about labour rights, new-age environmentalism and gang-rape-style union protectionism and punitive taxation on the goods of countries less fortunate than those in the US it is also patronising and terribly imperialistic. A large number of Democrat front-runners seem to think that capitalism is evil and civil society knows best.
One of the largest and best funded NGOs operating in Liberia at present â€“ a country still brutalised by the scars of one of the worst civil wars ever, where children were conscripted into battle and had to prove their metal by ripping open the wombs of pregnant women, where there are no skills and no economy and everything is destroyed â€“ is a US-funded left-wing environmental organisation lecturing the locals on conserving their indigenous animals.
You don’t think that is as frightening and damning as the accusations against US hegemony in Iraq?
Everyone’s in their own race for their own reasons
Life is like a never-ending journey where uncountable millions are travelling along at their own pace, style and ability. The front-runners attract all the attention but everyone else is in it too. And they’re not there because of the front-runners. Each is running a private race against their nearest neighbours.
When the front-runners start saying, “Oh, they’re in the race because of us. We should slow down to let them catch up. We should speed up to give them something to aim for. We should give them a hand. We should tell them how to run better. We should …”
Could it be that, when the US negotiates with Iran, Iran has its own agenda that has nothing to do with the US? Could it be that they’re playing for profile and seniority amongst their Arab neighbours? Could it be that Brazil wants to be the important influence in Latin America and that vocal US opposition to Venezuela prevents Brazil from taking the same slot? Could it be that China and India are jockeying for position as the world’s workshop with all the jobs and investment that this entails?
It is frustrating and permanently annoying that, whether it is the Republicans or the Democrats, the assumption is that the US is the most important influence in the room. The assumption seems always to be that either what is happening (no matter what) is because of US involvement (incompetent or not) or lack of it. Like some self-centred pouty model who demands to have all the cameras pointing at her. You want an image of the US? Think Paris Hilton. Wearing a nun’s habit.
Teddy Roosevelt was right. Bring back the Munro Doctrine.
It’s not about you.