With more than 800 bases dotted around the world, the United States is no doubt the world’s largest military force. In 2014, it spent US$580 billion on the military – twice as much as the combined figure for China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. While supporters of the American military, economic, and political power claim that it is crucial to international stability, the policy is merely a rebranding of colonialist ideas and poses a threat to peace.
No one puts “American leadership” as clearly as Hillary Clinton. In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, she referred to the US forces as “indispensable”, with an “earned responsibility” to help other countries achieve peace and develop. While this might have played well with her American audience, her words are a sinister reminder of 19th century Eurocentric concepts – a world view centred on the eminence of white people. It is, in many ways, identical to the “white man’s burden” myth: the idea that European powers have a responsibility to invade Third World countries in order to “civilise” them.
In the case of “America’s burden”, this illusion is both patronising and potentially dangerous. The idea that non-Caucasians are unable to sort out their own problems without American help is simply untrue, and in fact, plays into the beliefs of the racist, bigoted individuals that Clinton claims to be fighting against.
While the principle is morally repulsive, its practical effects are worse. In a bid to rid the world of “communist influence”, the US government staged a coup against Chile’s democratically-elected president, Salvador Allende, in 1973 and installed a military dictatorship led by Augusto Pinochet. Fast forward to this month, the US was reported to be assisting Saudi Arabia in their vicious bombing campaign against militants in Yemen. What’s more, a naval blockade of Yemeni ports has left the country facing a humanitarian disaster. It seems that the “moral element” of American leadership simply isn’t there.
The effects of America’s political and economic domination are no better. Weaker countries have no option but to accept US demands, even if that means devastating consequences for their economies and for their people.
While the status quo is already bad, this sort of power in the hands of a tyrant (think Donald Trump) can lead to massive global stability in the future.
As the victims of US exploitation are finally taking a stand, it is high time the American government rethinks its policy towards the world and grant people their right to economic, social, and political self-determination.