Tuesday, January 05, 2010



Gideon Rachman,

Yours is a very careless way of writing.

How can you lose what you never had?

I am reminded of the paranoid talk within the United States after Mao took power in China.

It was commonly said that certain people had helped America lose China. Indeed, it was used as a serious accusation in the witch-hunts.

Of course, America never had China.

Setting aside that annoying use of language, there is a phenomenon here worthy of study: America clearly is losing prestige and some influence in the world.

There are several things at work in this.

First, America since World War II has made an intense effort at building a world empire, almost dropping its one-time belief in itself as the good scout who stays out of other people’s affairs. The last half-century or so is dotted with American colonial wars, none of which have anything to do with the defense of America.

Indeed, in recent years, the neo-cons in America actually preached the philosophy of dropping the pretences about empire and just using all that military and economic might to shape the world as it wished.

De facto, this is pretty much what America has done, and despite the empty rhetoric of a Bush or even an Obama and the officious stuff from the State Department about who is or is not performing adequately with regard to human rights and democracy, everyone recognizes the fact.

The holocaust in Vietnam (3 million killed for no purpose justifies the word), the pointless invasion of Afghanistan, the slaughter of a million in Iraq, plus countless coups and interventions, including against genuinely democratic governments such as those in Iran, Guatemala, ands Chile, hardly qualifies America to continue as spokesman for rights and democratic values in the world.

And there is the ugly, suppurating wound of Israel-Palestine which only the United States possesses the power to remedy, power it refuse to use – surely a wound that all critically-minded people know is at the heart of the grievances of many Muslims today.

Then again, if we look at the three genuine attempts at genocide in the world since WW II, where do we see the position of the United States?

In Indonesia, after Sukarno’s fall, when the rivers were running red with the blood of half a million people whose throats were cut and bodies dumped, American State Department officials were burning the long-distance lines submitting names for inclusion in the slaughter.

In Cambodia’s killing fields, where was the United States? Its intense secret bombings and armed incursions (much as in Afghanistan now) had toppled the neutral government, effectively bringing the monsters to power. Then it stood by and attacked the Vietnamese who actually helped end the slaughter for proving the domino theory true by entering Cambodia.

In Rwanda, as the best part of a million people were hacked up, the American government pretended nothing was happening: Clinton and the State Department did not want to talk about it.

It is not a very admirable history, to say the least.

And how about America’s other postwar abuses? The devaluing off the American dollar after the Vietnam War? The great recent financial failure which threatened to send the world into another Great Depression? The result of Americans not being able to govern their own affairs, of spending and experimenting mindlessly at the expense of others?

To my mind, these are all just aspects of the decline of the American empire. Imperial over-reach and the demonstrated inability to govern its own affairs, let alone those of others.

The voting population of the United States – less than one percent of the world’s population – is losing its privileged position as de facto world aristocracy. And that is not a bad thing. A multi-polar world is emerging.