NOTE TO THE READER: THIS ESSAY WAS WRITTEN IN 2004. IT WAS A COMPETITION, WHICH I WON. I THEN WENT TO PRESENT IT AT THE WESTPOINT MILITARY ACADEMY – SCUSA 56 IN NOV.2004 (My mom came across the essay today as she was looking for a certain old email. She then forwarded it to me… so I have decided to share it with you as I think most of the arguments are still valid, 9 years after…think of Libya…then Syria and Egypt)!!!
“Though I am not the first born, I am the greatest of all sons. I have immense political, economic, military, cultural power and influence which I have successfully exerted over all other nations and global institutions such as the UN. This power and influence was acquired after the second world war which left the European powers devastated and weak. Through the Marshal Plan and NATO I was able to dominate both economic, political and military affairs of Europe, the former dominant powers of the world. Similar arrangements with other countries in the other continents availed to me a string of military bases which were under my exclusive control. My Multi National Companies expanded all over the world and extracted natural resources extremely cheaply. This state of affairs guaranteed rapid economic development never experienced before in human history. I was able to subject the rest of the world to my needs. No wonder that I have been called the policeman of the world due to my habit of intervening militarily and economically any where in the world whenever I feel that my national interests are at stake. I can impose whatever I want to any of my brothers and cousins such as ideologies, my literature and policies. My enemies can easily be made everyone’s enemy, because I have the strongest and well-equipped media instruments such as CNN. I can control Internet and information………”This is purely American thought. Being a hegemony (the only superpower), America feels and has the capacity of doing what seems best for itself.
Beyond hegemony; It can be argued that America has gone beyond hegemony because of its habit of uniteralism i.e acting with utter disregard of international opinion and law. The invasion of Iraq was opposed by the UN and most nations because it clearly violated accepted international norms of settling conflicts and because the then ongoing inspection of suspected weapons of mass destruction by the UN was not yet complete. However, with the support of UK, Australia Spain and a few other countries the US ordered the UN out of Iraq and invaded that country. The result is an unfolding tragedy without sight in end. The US is trying to woo the UN back but the damage done is far beyond what was imagined and with the credibility of US so low there is very little support. The quick victory that the US expected is rapidly turning into a long costly war that is already using resources that could better have been used for other purposes such as medicare. The expected economic windfall for the American companies has turned into a pipedream.
America has overstretched itself. It is finding itself in the situation of King Solomon whose delusion of power made him marry more than a thousand wives only to find out that it was beyond his power to meet their needs.
We shall now turn to examine the effects of this hegemonys action both at home and abroad.
National interests are the main basis of Americas actions. Although every nation has national interests , the US tends to give special emphasis to it. It readily justifies its actions on the basis of national interests.
Security is one of the basic components of American action both at home and abroad. The issue of security has variously been used by the leaders of US.
In 1950s what was termed as Un American activities by internal enemies was considered a great threat to America. Thousands of people were interrogated and at times forced to make to make false confessions. Many intellectuals, actors, trade unionists, people with socialist leanings etc lost their jobs.
In 1960s it was the missile gap acquired by the USSR at the expense of the US ,the liberation movements in several third world which were considered to be supported and controlled by the USSR and PRC
In 1970s and 80s it was dominance of the socialist oriented policies pursued by the majority of the newly independent states.
In 1990s and 2000s is the emergence of militant Islam, acquisition of nuclear weapons by the so called rogue states of North Korea and Iran and terrorism.
Economy and trade are very important factors that influence the way America behaves. Americas economy is the biggest in the world. With less than 5% of the global population the US consumes about 25% of most commercially traded commodities and produces between 25%and 50% of most industrial wastes. This high level of consumption forces the US to depend on external sources of raw materials, especially petroleum products.
In the past it was relatively easy to get raw materials cheaply, but the change of economic balance of power and scarcity of raw materials is making it increasingly hard for the US to secure them as easily as in the past. The fast expanding economy of China and the competitive economies of Japan, the EU and the newly Industrialized countries are putting pressure on the us economy. The invasion of the oil rich Iraq is an attempt by the US to secure stable source of oil. This was not possible under Baath party and Saddam Hussein. The US also expects to regain foothold in Iran from which it was expelled in 1979.
Public satisfaction/concern/interests, the US government some times has to do what she is doing to prove to her citizens that are secure and the government holds their interests. One of Bush’s excuse, at least to Afghan war, is when he went to look on the ruins at World Trade Center, guys were shouting to him that he must do something , others shouted revenge and so had to do something.
Expansion of American ideology, culture, policies, values and beliefs. Despite the end of the cold war, 1989, America still wishes to expand her ideologies all over the world. Cold war ended with the collapse of Russia, but communism ideology still exists, example PRC (People’s Republic of China), (though think that it’s changing, but communism part is still very strong), North Korea, and Cuba. That is why a trusted ally of Taiwan, and is fully supporting Taiwan in her Strait issue, that is why it reacted in 1996.Capitalism, as they claim, goes along with democracy and the rule of law; U.S claims that her goals abroad is to expand democracy and establish the rule of law everywhere. Always Bush says that he wants to free people of Middle East, to make Middle East liberal. When Bush went to Ankara this year, he said Middle East should follow Turkey’s example of secularism and liberalism.
The war in Afghanistan and Iraq had different causes, that is, war on terrorism (looking for Osama bin Laden and his crew) and elimination of Weapons of Mass Destruction respectively, now along with different reasons for invading, America is boasting that those people are freed, we hear sentences like ‘Afghan’s women are now free’ even to the point of voting’ or ‘Iraqi’s are now, much more better’.
Human rights issues as an American action’s goals are contradicting per se. Look at the latest American actions, especially the war on terrorism. Close examination shows that America has abused Human Rights more than has advocated/promoted them. Example is in Xiajin China where a large population of Muslims live and with lots of Islamic movements which prior to the war on terrorism were receiving American support and accusing Chinese government on the basis of human rights. With the onset of war on terrorism, the U.S is now labeling those guys terrorists. This is just one example of many double standards of the US which can be understood in the context-permanent interests and temporary friendship.
America is accusing human rights abusers, such as Sudanese government over Darfur issue, but what it is doing in many parts of the world is exactly what the Sudanese government is doing only in a more hidden way under the cover of other reasons.
Culture expansion is also an abroad goal for American action. Most people in the world have imitated American culture; this is the result of America’s effort to export her culture. Even now in Iraq’s occupation, one of the America’s objectives is to impose culture on Iraqis. I watched a movie on American occupation in Japan from 1946-1952, apart from political and economic reformations; America tried to impose her culture on Japanese like showing American movies, dances and selling her literature.
CONSEQUENCES AT HOME :
Two extremes, meaning that some Americans became more patriotic, while others loose their trust on the government. Those who became more patriotic feel what the government feel is doing is right and that America is the best and has to be secured for their own interests and of the world too. While those who really understand the other world feel what the government is doing is wrong and do not even care or participate in political activities such as voting. According to CNN, and other American based media, we could say that those patriots are more, but we cannot wholly trust that. Anyhow, the point is the action of America has created two extremes in the society.
Another consequence is economic deficit. We have all heard from the candidates (Bush and Kerry) debates about economic deficit facing America. This is obvious situation, apart from economic slowdown, factors like budget for Afghanistan war 40 billion dollars and Iraq 89 billion dollars, are major contributors of that deficit. There’s increasing unemployment rate, and closure of many industries.
Building hatred, people hate America mainly because of her actions. Of late due to war on terrorism, Afghanistan war, Iraq war and many new security policies, the world has created a very strong hatred to America and her citizens. Most people consider them immoral, discriminative, and oppressive. People even curse and wish them bad luck. There are also belief that America hates Middle Easterners and Arabs at large. This might not be necessarily true, but that is the existing belief.
Betrayal of America’s own stand viewpoint and ideas. Example America claims to be the frontline of Human Rights protection and promotion. But does her actions portray human rights? Obviously no. America has some foreign policies towards other countries, which are very discriminative. Example, during the cold war period, and also her policy towards Nicaragua 1980’s. America imposes sanctions to some countries, whereby people suffer due to them, example Libya and Iraq.
Furthermore, America action has cost her friends. Many of her old allies do not agree with her action. The recent and prominent example is Iraq war. France has been a very long American ally, but it did not support her action on Iraq. That is just one example; many allies did not support the war. Apart from that there have been lots of disagreements with other countries. US interfere with other countries affairs, which is not very welcomed by those states. Example when Bush said is going to help Turkey join E.U the leaders of E.U were not amused.
Finally, US action has led to the establishment of new policies and international laws and rules. Example laws on terrorism. U.N has had to pass some resolutions, which are either indirectly or directly influenced by the American actions.
In short, I summarize by saying that the main drive behind American actions is national interests; it wants to make the world safe for America and not for the entire humanity as it often proclaims. If America wanted to make the world a better place for everyone, as she claims, she would have used her ability to solve the many problematic issues which facing humanity. It has been estimated that if the US was to spend just 1% of its GDP in aid the problem of education wouldbe solved. The US, without much sacrifice , can put any school age child to school. Apparently this does not serve its interests.
Example it took so long for them to deploy troops in Liberia, while the situation was urgent and critical, why? Because it is not a strategic area. Why isn’t she dealing with the issue of HIV AIDS in Africa muscularly? For the reason that there’s nothing much of their interests. Was the Iraq in bad situation under Sadaam’s regime than what Burmese are going through with the military regime? Too bad they do not have much to attract America to act on that. So national interests is behind the whole idea of ‘beyond hegemony’.