The American way: exporting US dysfunction to the world

Apr 30, 2023
The statue of liberty with blurred American flag waving in the background.

The United States of America is not well, a fact that even as an acolyte the Australian government does not seem to be aware or care about, on account of our unconditional love for the Americans.

The rest of the world is waking up to the fact that the US is suffering a number of maladies. In its delirium it is replicating these maladies on the world stage. This, unfortunately, is an inopportune time for the US to insist on continuing to police the world as a unipolar hegemon. It is in denial that its hitherto uncontested domination of the world is being increasingly challenged by the rising stars like China, India and the BRICS members. A number of examples of its domestic maladies that it is attempting to foist on the rest of the world, are worthy of examining.

After WWII, with its wealth and military might, and the fact that it played a major role in saving the world from the Nazis, the world acceded to American domination. The US controls the world through what it describes as “rules based order” (RBO). The US dollar became indispensable as the “petrodollar” and the world’s reserve currency Other control mechanisms include SWIFT, the world’s currency exchange system; and a number of international institutions such as WTO, World Bank and IMF, over which it has significant influence. Breaking any of the rules, challenging the US’s hegemony or competing too successfully against US corporations incurs the wrath of the US. The consequences are often dire. Alex Lo in Pearls & Irritations, citing the Centre for Strategic Studies of Tufts University, indicates that “the US has undertaken over 500 international military interventions since 1776, with nearly 60 per cent undertaken between 1950 and 2017”.

This takes us to the second point: that the US is addicted to violence. In its 2023 report titled “Gun Violence”, Amnesty International reports that “… in 2017 some 39,773 died from gunshot injuries, an average of nearly 109 people each day. … Firearm homicides in the USA disproportionately impact communities of colour and particularly young black men.” In its ideological fixation on the role of guns in American freedom and dereliction of duty to ensure the safety of its own people, US governments continue to refuse to have any sensible gun control. This propensity for violence is extended to the international arena to deal with countries that dare to violate their “rules based order”.

One of the most egregious of all of the US manifestations of violence on the world stage is the extrajudicial killing of its enemies by drones. Drone killings were carried out in two ways. One was targeted killings where precision strikes aided by intelligence killed the terrorist. Of notable significance is the recent targeted killing of Qasem Suleimani, an Iranian major general, killed by a US attack drone near the Iraqi airport on 03/01/2020. US drone strikes were known to be effective in America’s war on terrorism. However, legal and moral questions were raised when the US killed one of its own citizens, Ayman al-Awlaki, a Muslim cleric, on Yemeni soil. Two weeks later his 16-year old son, a bespectacled all-American looking boy, Abdulrahman Annuar al-Awlaki, was also killed in a US drone strike. The other was known as “signature” strikes targeting groups of men who were suspected of terrorist activities but whose identities were not known. Many innocent lives were lost when their normal activities were mistaken for terrorist activities. A comprehensive account is given in “Kill or Capture” by Daniel Klaidman (2012, HMH, New York).

The US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. “The United States leads the world in total number of people incarcerated, with more than 2 million prisoners nationwide (per data released in October 2021 by World Prison Brief). … an incarceration rate of 629 people per 100,000—the highest rate in the world,” says World Population Review. What occurs to me is that the US is of course unable to incarcerate a recalcitrant China.  However, it has resorted to the next best method of keeping China under “house arrest” by encircling it with a reported 80 bases with missiles and spying satellites pointing in its direction.  This is called “containment” or “push back” according to Western sanitising euphemisms.  Among its armed guards are Japan, South Korea, Guam, Philippines, and Australia.  One could even say that it is even denying China of its favourite “teddy bear”, Taiwan.

The third American malady projected onto a world stage is its uneven distribution of wealth machinated politically by their big business corporations under the direction of American plutocrats, its elites. Noam Chomski says that “… the top 0.1 percent doubled their share of wealth to 20 percent of the total since Ronald Reagon” (The Precipice, p. 326).  What unfailingly occurs to people perusing the US-led Western world’s attempts to impose a strategic landscape on the world is that power and wealth must be determined by its favoured elites. The G7 countries are one such elite. There is a pecking order not generally noticed. Contrast, for instance, the smooth passing over of the baton from Britannia to Uncle Sam after WWII with the West’s resistance towards the rise of a non-Western nation, China.  Japan, the second largest economy until about 2010, was about to eclipse the US in the 1980s when it was quickly brought to heel. It is now tolerated as a third largest economy. The hierarchical order is gradually being eroded by growing consciousness of the role of the “rules based order” in maintaining the economic status quo much to the despair of the global elites.

If the world were to continue to be led by a country where over 40 percent of the population expect the Second Coming by mid-century while over 80 percent believe in miracles (Chomski, The Precipice, p.328); where difficult problems are solved using primarily punitive measures; then we are in danger of sliding back to the age of the Inquisition. Surely the Enlightenment still means something. If it does, we should be getting together to solve our common problems, regardless of who, of what colour or creed, leads the world.

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