Above photo: A protest against weapons in the United States. Wikimedia Commons.
Since the end of WWII, especially since the breakup of the Soviet Union, it appears as if US political leaders feel they are trapped in a time warp and are unable to break free. They seem to believe that they must repeat the same disastrous foreign policy of regime change over and over. Since 9/11, the US has attacked or supported attacks against Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.
The attacks, especially the horrendous US-led war crime against Iraq, have destabilized and created havoc in the Middle East, devastated these nations and caused death and appalling suffering for the people.
In addition, the US has troops in about 800 locations worldwide, further threatening international stability. In particular, US forces surround much of Russia, China and Iran, needlessly heightening the risk of war. Moreover, illegal US sanctions, an economic form of warfare, continue to cause immense suffering for, among others, the people of Venezuela, Syria, North Korea, Cuba and Iran.
Now US political leaders are greatly concerned about China challenging US primacy or hegemony in East Asia. Wait a darned minute – why must the US be the hegemonic power in East Asia? Or in Europe, Africa or anywhere else? Why isn’t it sufficient for the US to become a member in good standing in the community of nations instead of trying to control the world?
US leaders and its corporate media proclaim that the US is the exceptional nation and that this exceptionalism conveys upon it a special responsibility to prevent chaos from happening. Talk about your chutzpah! Are these leaders blind to the chaos the US has already caused throughout the world?
Besides its two horrific original sins – the sin of genocide against the American Indians and the sin of slavery, I would agree that the US is exceptional in at least two ways. The first is that it denies its residents many of the human rights spelled out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, e.g., the right of health care, that many other economically advanced nations provide. The US is also exceptional in that it has been at war throughout most of its existence. Shamefully, most often, these were wars of aggression, stealing the land and/or resources of other peoples to benefit US businesses.
US Marine Corps legend Major General Smedley Butler captured it very well when he wrote:
“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. …”
Although President Biden has announced that the US is back and ready to lead, does the world want a self-righteous US to lead? Certainly US history as well as its record of causing, not preventing, chaos undercut any idea of US moral authority. Moreover, the numerous US violations of international laws, its failure to ratify treaties that, among other things, ban land mines and cluster bombs and safeguard the rights of women and of children, and its failure to join the International Criminal Court, hardly recommend it for a position of leadership.
Instead of attempting to lead, the US should join with Russia, China and other nations in working through the United Nations to bring about world peace and to lessen the impact of other global problems such as the current pandemic, the threat of nuclear war, and climate chaos. Even President Eisenhower, hardly a peacenik, recommended as much when, among other things, he stated that:
“No nation’s security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations.”
If the US were to focus on cooperation instead of coercion, that is, focus on defense, US weapons spending could be cut dramatically, yielding three key positive benefits. Firstly, this cut would allow more funding for domestic jobs such as restoring the physical and social infrastructure and combating climate chaos.
Many more constructive jobs would thus be gained than lost by cutting the spending on unnecessary weapons. Secondly, this new focus would allow the US military, the world’s largest user of fossil fuels, to reduce this use. This huge reduction would be an important step in the campaign to ameliorate the impact of climate chaos. Thirdly, this cut in weapons funding would greatly reduce the threat of nuclear war.
What are we waiting for?
Ron Forthofer is a retired Professor and a volunteer for peace and social justice. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.