I spent two years (2010–2012) living in Uruguay and thanks to my hispanic heritage I was able to get an insiders view of how the United States is perceived abroad. The US is a very important part of western culture, nobody contests that; the whole worlds listens to our music and watches our movies, it’s great! No complaints there. Our problem is geopolitical, we’ve made ourselves into a global police force of “moral-enforcers”. We believe that we can spread democracy through our military prowess and that we need to take revenge for wrongs committed against us and those countries we are friendly with. The world sees that zeal for democracy as imperialism, again and again I would hear, roughly, “the Americans are imperialists, they want to rule the world”.
The question is, are we really as imperialist as people think? Are our actions misinterpreted, perhaps? Is our desire to “promote the greater good” simply mistaken for selfishness?
There is a line of scripture that reads, “by their fruits ye shall know them” religious or not this sentiment rings true, it can also be put “actions speak louder than words”, however this idea is rendered we note that ones true motives are revealed by action. What does that mean for the United States? We say our military actions around the world are meant to promote peace and democracy: name one military campaign or war led by the United States in the modern era that has resulted in anything that resembles a stable democracy.
Prime example: Latin America, during the early 20th century lots of nice democracies were maturing but in order to “protect the West from the evils of Communism” during the Cold War, we set up right-wing dictatorships in as many countries as we could. These governments eventually fell to civil war (because totalitarianism is not a sustainable form of government) and new democracies rose in their place; the trouble is democracy takes time to mature, the people need to develop a culture that allows the government to function. Thanks to actions taken by the US government Latin America is only just starting to pull itself out of the third-world.
The Middle East has been a fairly unstable region for a long time, nothing we’ve done has done much to remedy the situation: the creation of an Israeli state has caused nothing put war, Operation “Iraqi Freedom” has only increased Arab antagonism towards the United States and the West, as have our military operations in Afghanistan. Desert Storm did little or nothing except secure for us a trading partner to purchase petroleum. If our actions were meant to “promote liberty and democracy” we haven’t done a particularly good job of it.
A friend of mine once wrote a satirical short story in which Walmart had been elected President of the United States (which was at that point, essentially, a corporatocracy resisted by ironically rebellious Hipsters), humorously underscoring the absurdity of corporate personhood, a doctrine that perpetuates our desire to enforce a global economic policy meant to favor, and allow us to maintain, outdated business models.
I believe in democracy and liberty but I do not believe in waging war under that banner to ensure that the rich get richer and that developing nations with a lot of promise never reach their potential. If they did so the playing field wouldn’t be tilted sufficiently in our favor to ensure our dominance, we can’t have that, now, can we?
America, quit it with the war mongering! Stop pretending you’re defending liberty or eliminating terrorism, nobody believes that to be your intention and you’re only making the world a more dangerous and paranoid place. You are falling into the same traps that have graced the end of every large empire in the history of mankind and before you know it the Union will dissolve of its own accord and the United States of America will me nothing more than a memory.
It doesn’t have to be that way but stagnated governments like ours (and Rome’s before its fall) are rarely self-aware enough to avoid causing their own demise.