Wednesday 26 October 2016
There's a lot of anti-Americanism around. Some of it is justified, but a lot of it is a knee-jerk reaction that is unjustified and dangerous. It's especially dangerous when it takes the form of false equivalence: "sure, Russia/China/North Korea/Iran/Saudi Arabia is bad, but the USA is bad too". That position is wrong, whether it's taken by left-wing activists or Donald Trump.
In the former countries (and many others), if you're a popular opponent of the government you are very likely to end up in prison or dead. To a first approximation, countries that look more like America in their economic systems and institutions deliver more freedom and less poverty to their citizens. (China's history is a great validating experiment.) It is no accident that Western Europe turned out better than Eastern Europe, or that former Soviet satellite states would rather be part of NATO and Europe than in the Russian orbit, or that South Korea and North Korea turned out very differently, or that Taiwan and Hong Kong turned out better than mainland China. I think it's telling that "peace activists" in New Zealand reliably protest all sorts of US military action but don't bother about Russia slaughtering civilians in Syria, for example; they unwittingly show their respect for the USA by holding it to a higher standard.
That false equivalence creates various problems. It undermines support for sanctions and other action against the more problematic countries. Worse, it encourages the idea that it would be good for US global power to be substantially curtailed. To me, that seems like a very bad idea: I am very concerned about existential threats, especially nuclear weapons proliferation, and without strong US leadership that will more quickly become a free-for-all with disastrous consequences for humanity. It would be excellent if other great powers, like China or the EU, decided to take these responsibilities seriously, but that doesn't seem to be happening. Indeed, Russia and China recklessly enable Iran, North Korea and others for their own short-term ends. They (and much of the West) privately expect the USA to be the world's policeman and clean up the mess, while publicly berating it whenever that goes wrong.
The opposite error would be to uncritically accept US systems and actions as good. Most people in New Zealand and elsewhere are pretty far away from that error (except when they cherry-pick evidence to support their arguments). Personally I think New Zealand, for example, gets a lot of things more right than the USA does. That does not make the USA dispensable.