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No basis for stance of moral superiority

By John Menadue | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-08-16 09:12
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The Statue of Liberty and the skyline of Manhattan is seen from the water in this file photo of September 11, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

The United States is addicted to a belief in its exceptionalism, is grounded in aggression and violence both at home and abroad, and finds it hard to admit mistakes.

It is looking more and more like a slow-motion train wreck.

Apart from brief isolationist periods, the US has been almost perpetually at war.

The record is clear. Over two centuries, the US has subverted and overthrown numerous governments. It has a military and business complex that depends on war for influence and enrichment.

The US assumes a moral superiority that it denies to others. It is blinded by its own ideological delusions and self-righteousness.

The US has never had a decade without war. Since its founding in 1776, the US has been at war 93 percent of the time. These wars have extended from its own hemisphere to the Pacific, to Europe and most recently to the Middle East.

The US has launched 201 out of 248 armed conflicts since the end of World War II. In recent decades, most of these wars have been unsuccessful.

The US maintains 800 military bases or sites around the world, including in Australia. It has a massive deployment of hardware and troops in Japan, the Republic of Korea and Guam. China has one offshore naval base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, primarily to combat pirates.

The US has been meddling extensively in other countries' affairs and elections for a century. It tried to change other countries' governments 72 times during the Cold War, research indicates.

The overthrow or interference in foreign governments is diverse, including in Honduras, Guatemala, Iran, Haiti, Congo, Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam, Chile, Iraq, Afghanistan and, most recently, Syria.

In addition, with US encouragement, NATO has now provocatively extended right up to the borders of Russia. Not surprisingly, Russia is resisting.

The US also encouraged the 2014 and 2019 insurrections in China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Despite all the evidence of wars and meddling, the "American imperium" continues without serious check or query in the US or Australia.

I suggest several reasons why this record has not been challenged.

The first is what is often described as America's "manifest destiny", the right to interfere in other countries' affairs. This right is not extended to others because many Americans see themselves as more virtuous and their system of government better than others. US President Joe Biden dresses up this manifest destiny in terms of democracy versus autocracy.

The second reason is the power of what former US president Dwight Eisenhower once called the "military-industrial complex" in the US. Congress increases the enormous military budget year after year. The intelligence community and many universities and think tanks also have a vested interest in the "American imperium".

This complex co-opts institutions and individuals around the globe. It has enormous influence.

The third reason for the continuing dominance of the "American imperium" is the way that the US expects others to abide by a "rules-based international order" that was largely determined at Bretton Woods after World War II and embedded in various United Nations agencies. That "order "reflects the power and views of the dominant countries in the 1940s. It does not recognize the legitimate interests of such newly emerging countries as China that now insist on playing a part in an international rules-based order.

The US only follows an international rules-based order when that suits its interests. It cherry-picks what best suits it at the time. It pushes for a rules-based system in the South China Sea but has not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or accepted International Court of Justice decisions. The invasion of Iraq was a classic case of breaking the rules. The resultant death and destruction in Iraq met the criteria for war crimes, but the culprits got off scot-free.

It is a myth that "democracies "like the US 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.

The claims by Americans about how well they run their own country are challenged on so many fronts.

Alongside great wealth and privilege, over 40 million US citizens live in poverty, the country has a massive prison population and gun violence is ubiquitous. Violence is embedded in US behavior both at home and abroad.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

The author is founder and publisher of the Australian liberal commentary platform Pearls&Irritations, a former ambassador to Japan and former CEO of Qantas.

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