After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. was unrivaled as a superpower. During the 1990s and, until about 2012, the U.S. was relatively unconstrained in its use of military power in an attempt to get its way.
However, often the use of military power was counterproductive. More importantly, the U.S. frequently violated international law through its military interventions and unilateral sanctions, thus weakening support for the idea of a rules-based order.
The worst U.S. war crime since the fall of the Soviet Union was the unprovoked U.S.-led attack on Iraq in 2003. This war crime led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people as well as to the devastation of Iraq. The U.S. media did not call for any type of punishment for its leaders who committed these crimes.
In addition, the U.S. has not paid any substantial reparations nor tried any of its leaders for their war crimes. As a result of its criminal actions, U.S. standing around the world suffered as other nations took note of U.S. crimes and hypocrisy.
Instead of learning lessons from its failures in the Middle East and elsewhere, the goal of the U.S. still seems to be the maintenance of its hegemonic position through its military might. Although communism is no longer a force that qualifies as the enemy, the U.S. now views Russia and China, two autocratic nations, as threats to its long-term hegemony.
Unsurprisingly, the Biden administration has now reframed the situation today as a battle between democratic and autocratic camps. Democracies that have ratified and enforce the Universal Declaration of Human Rights within their countries often do a very good job in providing good lives for their populations.
Many U.S. media pundits parrot this democracy versus autocracy narrative. There is no recognition that some democracies, particularly those following the neo-liberal economic approach, have many residents living in abject poverty. Moreover, these pundits seem to be unaware that some autocracies also provide stable lives for most of their residents.
For example, despite almost no civil/political rights, Iraqis had a relatively high standard of living with good health care, women had good education and jobs, and there were good relations between Sunni and Shia Muslims before the U.S. destroyed their country. In addition, some of these pundits seem to think that democracies have a corner on moral behavior. They must have forgotten about the U.S. genocide of Native Americans, about slavery, about Jim Crow laws, etc.
Unfortunately, many of these U.S. pundits are also in denial about U.S. foreign policy and how the U.S. hasn’t always walked its talk about democracy. If a democracy had a government that didn’t suit U.S. corporate interests, the U.S. often worked to oust the democratically elected government.
For example, the U.S. played a major role in overthrowing the Iranian democracy in 1953, the democracy in Guatemala in 1954 and Chile’s democracy in 1973. William Blum wrote a powerful book, “Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since WWII,” that detailed in 56 chapters U.S. involvements in overthrowing governments around the world up through 2003.
It is incredible that our political leaders, even today, are still caught up in the nightmare of rival camps. Unfortunately, our leaders are not alone in this nightmare narrative. Many other leaders around the world also seem unable to grasp fully the need for the nations of the world to overcome their differences and to cooperate in dealing with the existential problems of climate change and the threat of nuclear war. These leaders don’t seem to realize that there are no winners of a nuclear war, nor winners on a planet ravaged by climate change.
President Biden talks about how future generations will write theses on what succeeded, democracy or autocracy. I believe he is wrong and that future generations will curse the leaders who wasted precious time and resources on a narrative of rival camps, instead of working together to find ways of dealing with climate change and preventing a nuclear catastrophe. These leaders are stealing the future from some current and all coming generations.