“America…is consistently chastised within the economic development community of experts for not providing foreign aid to poor countries at a level commensurate with its wealth. We are told, ‘The whole developed world is more generous than the United States. America does not do its share!’ Somehow, the fact that America performs virtually all the Core’s combat interventions in the Gap counts far less than other countries simply sending money, or–better yet–peacekeepers after the fact.” — Thomas Barnett, The Pentagon’s New Map, p.359.
“Perhaps the worst definitions of American ’empire’ describe it in terms of compulsion, or the mechanistic notion that America seeks empire simply because it is strong and desires to become stronger. The cynicism displayed in that diagnosis is almost as pathetic as the sterile academic reasoning that defines the most powerful player in the world system as its inevitable bully. What such finger-pointing fails to understand is that this country has willingly walked away from more global power than any empire in human history has ever achieved. Indeed, over time America has displayed a generosity toward its ’empire’ that renders the ver word ludicrous.” — Thomas Barnett, The Pentagon’s New Map, p.359
There is a new website up (well, actually a modification of an old one) called America in the World. The organization behind this site is based–of all places–in Britain! Who woulda thunk? Its purpose is to be a voice of sanity in the worldwide clamor of Anti-Americanism. You will find articles challenging some of the myths that people around the world entertain about American society. Also, if your conscience permits, do sign the online declaration against Anti-Americanism which is featured on the site.
Fouad Ajami, Lebanese Arab scholar at Johns Hopkins University, explains why. Read here.
Today is Memorial Day. It is a day dedicated to the memory of American servicemen and women who have given their lives in the advancement of liberty. But of course, there are many who do not believe this to be the overarching purpose of the American military. One such person made this comment in the Singaporean newspaper today:
“The UN has made some headway in getting the junta [of Myanmar] to accept foreign aid. The US and other forces in the vicinity can deliver this aid under the auspices of the UN. This would greatly facilitate their strong desire to participate fruitfully in this calamity. This would be an excellent opportunity for the US to put its immense power to good use, and save lives instead of inflicting misery.”
I agree with the suggestion that the US should put its power to good use. However, what I resent is the last clause of this paragraph. The US inflicting misery? Indirectly perhaps. War is always a horrible thing. Many have died in Iraq and Afghanistan because of stray bullets and bombs. But I cannot help but suspect that what the author of this article is insinuating is that the US inflicts misery on purpose, as a policy. His words seem to be of a piece with those who want to portray the US serviceman and servicewoman as baby-killers–cold-blooded, unintelligent hicks who slaughter innocent people indiscriminately. I thoroughly resent this view not only because it isn’t true, but because it dishonors the soldiers and makes their job even harder. Why is it so hard to see the vast difference between the American soldier and the Taliban/Al Qaeda thug? One’s cause is just (the advancement of freedom and conditions friendly to human rights). The other’s cause is unjust (the protection and advancement of a decrepit perverse religious vision). One strives to kill specifically (only terrorists), the other kills indiscriminately (American soldiers, American civilians, pro-American Iraqis, etc.). If people cannot even see the moral difference between these two kinds of fighters, I shudder to think what else they cannot see. May we not allow the memories of liberty’s guardians to be tarnished by the pseudo-intellectuals of this age–men with empty chests and colorless minds who wax eloquent with profound non-truisms. Such men seem to have no problem calling hell and damnation on the American soldier and that consummate embodiment of American stupidity, George W. Bush. But when it comes to calling radical Muslims to account and to exercise responsibility for their social-economic plights, why, “surely they have a right to practice their religion” and “who are we to tell them what’s good or bad?”
So, may moral buffoons not have the last word on Memorial Day. Pray for the American soldier. Ask that the Lord God would grant him always to do the right thing and pursue justice for the oppressed. Ask the Lord God to not only protect him and bring him home safely but make him victorious in his struggles against those who seek to perpetuate tyranny. Without the US serviceman, the world will be a more dangerous place.
I found an article in the Straits Times forum today, entitled “Democracy and a Tale of Three Disasters.” In it, the author tries to draw a comparison between the handling of the recent natural disasters in China (earthquake) and Myanmar (cyclone) with the handling of Hurricance Katrina in the US. He writes:
“What is glaringly evident from these two calamities and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, that flooded and destroyed New Orleans in the United States, is the response of the governments of each of these nations to those specific events.
The failure of the Bush administration was broadcast for all to see and it became clear that as much as the US professes to be a democratic society, differing sets of rules apply to its citizens.
Despite claiming to have the world’s greatest army, it could not see to the needs of its own people. So one must ask the question: Are the Americans better in their vision of democracy and a system of government they seek to stamp on the rest of the globe?
In so far as the response of their ‘freely elected government’ to the plight of the residents of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina is concerned, I would say no.”
From here, he goes on to point out that Myanmar’s ruling junta has been shameful in its lack of response.
However, China earns kudos from him: “What the devastating earthquake in China has shown is that despite being branded as a government that does not offer its citizens the freedoms so dearly espoused in the US, the Chinese government has shown the world through its actions that it is connected with its citizens and that they can count on it.
It has wasted no time to mobilise its massive army to aid its citizens. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has spent time on the ground with the people and feels their plight.
The Chinese army is leaving no stone unturned to help end the suffering in Sichuan.
Beijing has shown itself to be a worthy government of the people. To those in government, I say, the proof is in the pudding.”
I grant that one of the problems with articles printed in the Straits Times forum page is that it gets edited. Thus, there is no way of knowing if the article presented is one that reflects the article as it was originally written. But working with the article that we have, we see that what the author is saying (or comes close to saying) is this. (1) Since the Beijing government is able and willing to help its own people in this particular event, it is therefore “a worthy government of the people.” (2) Since the US government(s) was not able and willing to help its own people in the event of Hurricane Katrina (interestingly, he doesn’t mention any other natural disaster that happend on US soi), it is therefore a government unworthy of its people. (3) Since the US government was (presumably) unwilling and/or unable to help its own citizens in the event of Hurricane Katrina, and since the Chinese government was willing and able to help its own citizens in the event of the recent earthquake, the US vision of government and democracy is therefore not superior to China’s communism (“Are the Americans better in their vision of democracy and a system of government they seek to stamp on the rest of the globe?”).
Now, I admit that I do not know the intricacies of politics during Hurricane Katrina but I am willing to concede that the US government failed at both the state and federal level. But to extrapolate from one failure to make far-reaching pontifications on the intentions of people’s hearts (“as much as the US professes to be a democratic society, differing sets of rules apply to its citizens”), system of government, and political ideology is mind-boggling. Even if the US is indeed a superior form of government, it does not mean that it will not make a mistake or succumb to administrative failure from time to time. The author seems to work on the childish assumption that good governments will not fail their people–ever. Furthermore, we are also looking at the actions (or inactions?) of one administration. Is that really a good indicator of the integrity or “goodness” of the whole system? The whole vision of government? I have no reason to doubt that the Chinese government is doing good for its people in this situation. I have also no reason to doubt that the Chinese government has done better here than what the American government has done for its people in Hurricane Katrina. But the fact that the Chinese government is willing to help its people in this one situation and many others like it does not automatically lead to the conclusion that it is better for its people in the long run. Like it or not, personal freedoms are as much a part of being human as the ability to live and breath. The author has not made the case for the worthlessness of the American vision any more than he has made the case for the greatness of communism. So given the baselessness of his case, I suspect that what we have here is simply another empty-headed anti-American rant. As long as you have found something wrong in America and the Bush administration, you have earned the right to condemn the whole American experiment.
“Anti-Americanism is at base a totalizing, if not totalitarian, vision. The peculiar blindness of fanaticism can be recognized in the way it seizes on a certain behavior of the hated object and sweepingly condemns it, only to condemn with equal fervor the opposite behavior shortly after–or even simultaneously….According to this vision–in the sense that Littre confers on the word: a ‘phantom projection, a credulous fantasy of fears, dreams, delusions, superstitions’–Americans can do nothing but speak idiocies, make blunders and commit crimes; and they are answerable for all the setbacks, all the injustices and all the sufferings of the rest of humanity.” — Jean-Francois Revel, Anti-Americanism, p. 143.