Declining empires never decline gracefully. And neither will the US empire – addicted as it is to a belief in its ‘exceptionalism’ and its grounding in aggression both at home and abroad. Add to the mix that 70 million people voted for Donald Trump and 70% of Republican supporters believe that the election was stolen by the Democrats. A sick country! Joe Biden will smooth a few rough edges but won’t do much more.
Yesterday I discussed US ‘exceptionalism’ and that the US is almost always at war. Today I discuss the US domestic sickness- a failing democracy,inequality, racism and violence.
It is a myth that democracies like America will behave internationally at a higher level of morality. Countries act in their own interests as they perceive them. We need to discount the noble ideas espoused by Americans on how they run their own country on the domestic front and look instead at how they consistently treat other countries. Consider how the Kurds are being treated. They led the fight against ISIS but are now largely abandoned by the US and other ‘allies’. The scrapping of the alliance with them is made the more dishonourable by the US/Saudi alliance with the resulting tragedy in Yemen.
The US claims about how well they run their own country are challenged on so many fronts. Alongside great wealth and privilege, 43 million US citizens live in poverty, they have a massive prison population with its indelible racist connotations, guns are ubiquitous and they refuse to address the issue. Violence is as American as cherry pie. It is embedded in US behaviour both at home and abroad.
The founding documents of the US inspire Americans and many people throughout the world. “The land of the free and the home of the brave” still has a clarion call. Unfortunately, those core values have often been denied to others. For example, when the Philippines sought US support it was invaded instead. Ho Chi Minh wanted US support for independence but Vietnam was invaded.
Like many democracies, including our own, money and vested interests are corrupting public life. As some have described it, ‘Democracy’ in the US has been replaced by ‘Donocracy’, with practically no restrictions on funding of elections and political lobbying for decades. House of Representatives electorates are gerrymandered and poor and minority group voters are often excluded from the rolls. The powerful Jewish lobby, supported by fundamentalist Christians, has run US policy off the rails on Israel and the Middle East. The powerful private health insurance industry has mired the US in the most expensive and inefficient health services in the world
The US has slipped to number 21 as a ‘flawed democracy’ in the Economist’s Intelligence 2016 Democracy Index. (NZ was ranked 4 and Australia 10). It noted that ‘public confidence in government has slumped to historic lows in the US.’ Trump is pushing the US into becoming a failed state. His executive power is largely unchecked by a crippled Congress. The Supreme Court is stacked
Many democracies are in trouble. US democracy is in more trouble than most. With over 40% of Americans still prepared to vote for Donald Trump it tells us a great deal about the pervasive sickness.
But our risky dependence on the US cannot be avoided or excused by laying problems at the door of Donald Trump alone. Malcolm Fraser warned us about a dangerous ally long before Donald Trump came on the scene. US obsession with war and with overthrowing or undermining foreign governments goes back over a century. So does domestic gun violence,inequality and racism.
Donald Trump excesses are not likely to significantly move American policies from what has become the norm over two centuries.
Hugh White has pointed out, the US has in effect now given up looking after anyone but itself – “America first” – which makes it very dangerous for a country to be joined at the hip with the US, with or without Donald Trump. It could, of course, be argued that Trump is just being honest and saying what US presidents have always done, looking after their own interests even if they refuse to admit it.
A major voice in articulating American extremism and the American Imperium is Fox News and Rupert Murdoch who exert their influence not just in America but also in the UK and Australia. Fox News supported the invasion of Iraq and is mindless of the terrible consequences. Rupert Murdoch applauded the invasion of Iraq because it would reduce oil prices. Fox and News Corp are leading sceptics on climate change which threatens our planet. News Corp underpins American imperialist intentions. The New York Times tells us that outside the White House, Rupert Murdoch is Trump’s chief adviser. God help us!
In the past as in the Vietnam war, the good sense of the American people turned the tide. It is now a moot point whether the US can turn the tide again. The sickness is now more entrenched by Fox News and other moneyed extremists.
But it is not just the destructive role of News Corp in the US, UK and Australia. Our media, including the ABC and even SBS, is so derivative. Our media seems to regard Australia as an island parked off New York. We are saturated with news, views, entertainment and sit-coms from the US. It is so pervasive and extensive, we don’t recognize it for its very nature. The last thing a fish recognizes is water. We really do have a ‘white man’ media’. We see it most obviously today in its paranoia over China.
One outcome of the declining comparative US economic power is that the US will ask its allies to do more. We saw the influence of US budgetary pressures in its launch of the pivot to the Pacific. It was designed in part to help the US extricate itself from the Middle East, but also to reduce defence expenses in the budget.
Despite continual wars, often unsuccessful, the overthrow or subversion of foreign governments and declining US economic influence, US hegemony and domination of Australian thinking continues. Despite all the evidence, why do we continue in denial?
One reason is that as a small, isolated and white community in Asia we have historically sought an outside protector, first the UK and when that failed, the US.
We are often told that we have shared values and common institutions first with the UK and now with the US. But counties will always act first in their own interests as Australian farmers are finding as a result of Trump’s dealing with China.
We continue to seek security from our region through a US protector rather than, as Paul Keating put it, security within our own region. Our long-term future depends on relations in our region and not reliance on a dangerous and distant ally.
Another reason why we are in denial about the American Imperium, is, as I have described, the saturation of our media with US news, views and entertainment. We do not have an independent media. Whatever the US media says about tax cuts for the wealthy, defence or climate change it inevitably gets a good run in our derivative media.
A further reason for the continuing US hegemony in Australian attitudes is the seduction of Australian opinion leaders over decades who have benefitted from American largesse and support – in the media, politics, bureaucracy, business, trade unions, universities and think-tanks. Thousands of influential Australians have been co-opted by US money and support in travel, ‘dialogues’, study centres and think tanks. That is real ‘foreign influence’.
China is a beginner in this soft power game.
How long will Australian denial of US policies continue? When will some of us stand up? Are our political leaders right in their assessment that any questioning of the threats posed by our interpretation of the benefits and obligations of the US alliance will lose them an election?
In so far as China is any sort of distant threat it would be much less so if we were not so subservient to the US. The great risk of war with China is if we continue to act as a proxy for the US.
What will we do if the US decides to follow the advice of some of its senior generals and use tactical nuclear weapons in North Korea? Their use would engage the US/Australian facilities in Central Australia a fact that would not escape the notice of China
There is also a great risk that we could be drawn into a US-led attack on China without our knowledge or agreement.
We are a nation in denial that we are ‘joined at the hip’ to a dangerous ,erratic and risky ally. Apart from brief isolationist periods, the US has been almost perpetually at war. The greatest military risk we run is being led by the nose into a US war with China.
Our record is clear. We have allowed ourselves to be drawn into the futile wars of the UK and the US time and time again. We are used to acting at the direction of our imperial masters. We have become culturally addicted to being told what to think and do. We have forfeited our strategic autonomy while parroting on about our sovereignty