June 24, 2006

The Chauvinistic Approach

I recently received this comment and I would like to adress it as a post:

The US specifically and its foreign policy. Several times you've described its sinister-ism, argued that it's a malevolent force and influence, etc. All of these things are arguably true--in some measure, at some times--but I can't grant you that this is an American phenomenon. It's a human problem. How much foreign aid do European states give? How often have developing countries tried to protect human rights? An idealist can certainly imagine the US taking advantage of its unique position in the world and changing those tendencies, but if it's difficult enough (and bloody enough--see Iraq) to deter it from trying, is that sufficient for an indictment? I've spent 3 years working on my PhD (in international relations/int'l conflict), and I have to say I struggle to see how the US is exceptional in this regard.

You are right. I too often blame only the US government when its actions can be traced back to all nations or a human phenomenon. I personally think it is the nature of capitalism. The idea that profit and the market come before human needs, can only lead to a world where a small percentage of the global population lives off the labor and resources of the rest of the globe. The actions of the IMF, World Bank, and major corporations lead to many of the world’s problems. So you are right these factors should not solely be placed on Uncle Sam’s shoulders

So why do I pick on the US so much ? Here goes:

I am from the US, so its polices affect my future, and I have a vested interested in seeing that runs more effectively. I worked for two years in the Bronx, in one of the worst school districts I have ever seen. I cannot comment on education in France or India, I know very little about it. I have never had affordable insurance in the States, and now the social security I have paid into is going to shit. But you may be asking, this has nothing to do with foreign policy. The country in which I was born, Iran, was ruined by US foreign policy. See Mohammad Mossadegh and the CIA coup and the rise of Shah for details. I have seen the effects of US foreign policy first hand in Vietnam, Indonesia, Mexico, Laos, Mozambique, and Angola. But again you are right these places have also been affected my other global powers as well. I guess it is the hypocrisy of the US that makes it such an easy target for me. They say one thing, with the flags and freedom , but then act in the exact opposite manner.

The US is also an easy target because it has been doing so much, for so long to extend its power throughout the world. Why else do we spend more on military spending than all the other nations combined? ALL OF THEM! Why else do we have military bases in 170 countries? Why else do we wield so much power in the IMF, the World Bank and the UN. I mean Paul Wolfowitz is the head of the World bank…that is not an accident.

So you are right, maybe I am a bit too harsh on the US. And maybe other nations are just as bad; I am sure China is no sitting angel. But the US has chosen to champion a system I believe to be corrupt.

As for foreign aid, I think we all know that aid is not the right term for the money being spent. These moneys are used to influence politics, broker arms deals and, curry favors. See the withholding of aid from Palestine in the last few weeks. This is criminal behavior in which the entire world is involved. Again, you are right it is not the US alone, but you have to admit that the US does have a lot of pull at the UN and power over most of Western Europe.

About your second point:

The second point is on attempting to change other's minds. As a liberal, I think the main weakness in the progressive movement is the chauvinistic approach that its activists take in order to try and convert the flock.

Again, you are right. I don’t know what to do. I guess after having had my own awakening and learning about how much the US has affected global power, I just feel that if others learned the things I have learned, then they would be just as angry as me and would demand change. I mean we are living in a near state of fascism at home, and over extending ourselves through the world, in order to secure and open new markets. This cannot and will not lead to a sustainable peaceful world. So how do we show, explain or “awaken” people unless we repeatedly tell them? For example do people know that while the politicians, both Dems and Rep, talk about withdrawal on any timetable, that the US is building the biggest embassy in the world in Baghdad. It will be a permanent little city in the heart of the Middle East. What else is this for, but for complete control of the world’s most important resources? I think these types of facts are vital for truly understanding the role of US foreign policy. We cannot simply say, that the US is in Iraq to bring about democracy. Yet, people still do…I have had a long day and now I will go to sleep. But I appreciate you taking the time to comment. I am not trying to sound self-righteous. I am an idealist and I refuse to believe that utopia is impossible. People like me are hard to stomach sometimes. But I believe in human beings. I have faith in a better future.


  1. BZ, fantastic post. I just discussed this exact topic with a friend of mine last night. I'm afraid by our very nature (liberals, prograssives, democratic socialists, whatever you want to call us) we tend to be hard to the U.S. for the reasons you point out. For instance, we are U.S. citizens; that's undeniable. And because we are we have an obligation to try and better our system (which as you pointed out is corrupt to begin with).

    But let's not let our guard down too much either. The U.S. is a country that values ideals like freedom and this burns bright in the modern world but look at how we forsake the ones who need freedom the most?

    I'm reminded of the genocide in Rwanda that was ignored by the Clinton Administration, as well as their poor handling of the situation in Somalia later on.

    I think about modern day Uganda, where Joseph Kony and the L.R.A. can kidnap and forcibly conscript children into their rebel ranks to rape, murder, and pilage.

    We allow this sort of thing to go on all of the time and too often we turn a blind eye to it.

    The U.S. is ultimately a force for good but anyone who denies that we have some major faults has another thing coming.


  2. The main problem we see with the US is that it likes to put itself up there as the 'beacon of freedom and democracy', but you only have to see what it does abroad to see what a crock that is. It is a disgerace with everything from high priced medicine that the countries that need them cannot afford, to it's foreign policy that sees it invade countries it defines as a danger. We have a thing here called the tallest poppy syndrome. Anyone who sticks their head up the furthest above everyone else is the one that everyone notices. If America did not try and purvey itself as whiter then white and the saviour of the world, then people would not be so harsh. Unfortunatly it does so it deserves every withering word aimed at it.

  3. But let's not be too hard either. After all, no one assigned us the duty of helping out other nations. It's not like we necessarily have a natural obligation to do so. We've just sort of become this force for justice in the world and I would say in the past we have been.

    Man, I flip-flop way too much on this issue because although I recognize that we are so much better off (value-wise and material-wise) than most other nations, problems like our 12.7% poverty rate don't help that case. I suppose any disappointment/anger I have towards us is directed at the administration who led us in this direction, namely Bush.

  4. The poorest in this country have way better then many in this world, at last they have options. As capitalism being so bad, how do you explain the standard of living being lower in communist/strongly socialist countries?

  5. Because the "Communist" and "socialist" countries you're referring to are probably more in line with fascist nations (i.e. the Soviet Union, Vietnam, North Korea) and some are "Communist" in name only (China, which is actually a capitalist nation in most ways).

    A prime example of real socialism is Sweden, which not only prides itself with one of the lowest poverty rates, highest GDP's, and lowest unemployment rates.

  6. So you are saying that China is more of a capitalist country then Sweden?

  7. Sacramentovoice, the poorest in this country do NOT have it better than others. We have inadequate health care in the USA. This includes a shortage on trauma centers; nursing; even doctors. We have an incredible imbalance of wealth vs. poverty which winds up dictating policy in favor of the wealthy. We have overcrowded conditions in most schools with inadequate facilities. Several years ago, as a substitute teacher in Chicago, I went to one such school to teach art. I asked for some supplies; the principal told me that they had $.19 (19 cents) in their budget for the rest of the school year. That was in January. BTW, the school was 100% black.

    We ignore real crisis in Africa because, really, who cares about a black nation? WTF is that about? We march blindly into Iraq because the real goal is to control oil. Has nothing to do with terrorists.

    Yes, China is a capitalist country; much more so than Sweden. We are a fascist country, and we call ourselves a democracy - we aren't. When all things are operating without insanity, the USA is actually a Republic, not a Democracy.

  8. Sorry Diva. We're not quite at a fascist state yet. Actually you're misusing the term fascist. Too often liberals like to envoke the word as a sort of political curse word. Read Trotsky's pamphlet on fascism for a better understanding of it.


    -Comrade Dave

  9. We've just sort of become this force for justice in the world and I would say in the past we have been.

    Just curious Dave, which time are you talking about? Was it when we helped the Native Americans with their land, or when we helped Mexico with California and Texas? Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic? When did the US bring about any justice? Please don’t bring about WWII. That was a war to realign and set the stage for our current century, and the US after the Marshal Plan and the re-creation of Japan, was not out trying to help anyone but it’s own position in the world.

    Sac Voice, you are right the poor in the US do have it better than many of places. I lived in a small town in Mozambique for two years without any running water or electricity, and while the experience was quaint and exciting for me, it was not for the people who had no choice but to live there. However, the poor in the US are not far off, see New Orleans, or the inner-cities of any major city, or poor rural parts of Mississippi or Alabama. You say the poor have a choice, as if it is there fault that they are in a system that is stacked against them. I also taught in the Bronx for two years, and I can’t tell you how many talented, bright amazing kids I saw struggling to get by in a school that was falling apart. The only real choice they had was the military. Don’t you think that given a choice, most people would prefer not to be poor, and have the things they need in life. So you are right, while most people in the states do have electricity, and water, and they are better off than people living in the slums of India, that doesn’t mean that they have it made.

    And finally yes China, plays the part of Communist well, but it is probably one of the biggest capitalist economies in the world as we speak.

  10. That's an interesting point. I would have cited World War II as an example because indeed some liberation was done but we probably wouldn't have even gotten involved had Pearl Harbor not occured... I'm certainly going to have to rethink what I said. Excellent point, BZ.