The US Global Masquerade
by Leon Hadar
her meetings with foreign leaders in Washington and the many world
capitals she has visited recently, US Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice sounded like a kindergarten teacher warning rowdy kids that
if they won't behave, they could end up standing in the "Axis
of Evil" corner. Meanwhile, those who had learnt by heart the
entire State of Inauguration Address of President George W Bush
earned her admiration.
Rice disparaged the Europeans for considering the lifting of an
arms embargo on China a move which, she explained, could threaten
the delicate military balance in East Asia, insisting that the US
regards itself as the peacekeeper in the area and would look harshly
on any European interference. "It is the United States, not
Europe, that has defended the Pacific," she said. She then
lectured the Chinese on the need to pressure the North Koreans,
and told reporters that China could be "a positive influence
in the region," adding, however, that it could just as easily
become the region's biggest problem.
diplomatic mission, and hers, she said, was "to guide it to
the positive side of the ledger." At the same time as "guiding"
China, Ms Rice has been leading an effort aimed at helping India
become a "major world power in the 21st century." And
when it comes to the "broader" Middle East, the US chief
diplomat continued to lecture its people on the need to join the
US-led March towards Freedom, which would now be marketed to the
world by Karen Hughes, Mr. Bush's former top media spinner.
fact, Ms Rice and her aides are now grading the progress to democracy
of the Middle East on an almost daily basis. Good grades are rewarded
with US dollars and photo opportunities with Mr. Bush, while an
"F" could bring, in some extreme cases, an American military
occupation. Ms Rice even canceled her stop in Cairo to punish the
Egyptian government after it arrested a political activist.
infuriates many non-Americans, including friends of the US, is not
only the patronizing America-knows-best tone of Ms Rice that echoes
the attitude projected by past imperial powers towards their satellites.
The most problematic aspect of the current American global approach
is the continuing tension between the hegemonic US that reflects
its own geo-strategic and geo-economic interests, and the idealistic
and missionary pretensions that Washington exhibits.
ideologues resolve this tension by interjecting the idea of "American
exceptionalism." Since America is the upholder of the ideals
of freedom and democracy, then, by definition, whatever it does
to spread liberty abroad, including the use of military force, should
be blessed by all people of goodwill everywhere. The means to achieve
those lofty goals can at times be harsh, but what counts are the
intentions of the US, which, unlike those of other former global
powers Rome, the Ottomans, Britain, the Soviet Union, etc. are
to "do good" and are supposedly devoid of any element
America is like the kindergarten teacher who sometimes inflicts
harsh punishment on the naughty kid, but who is only motivated by
a commitment to the broader public good the teacher actually suffers
when he or she is forced to discipline the bad boy by detaining
him after class. But, hey, someone has to do the dirty job that
would end up achieving a moral end.
the real world, however, as opposed to the Democracy Movie produced
by Ms Rice and Mr. Hughes, the US is engaged in promoting real political,
economic and military interests. It is trying to contain the threat
from terrorist groups, maintain a hegemonic position in the Middle
East to the exclusion of other regional players like Iran, and global
powers like the EU, and protect its military supremacy in East Asia
against the challenge from China. Therefore, the gap between the
lofty ideals it is supposed to represent and the crude interests
it advances will be exposed sooner or later.
bashing the "cynical" and "greedy" Europeans
for contemplating the removal of a 20-year-old arms embargo on China none of the members of the EU had been actually planning to sell
any arms to Chinese Washington announces that it will sell F-16
jet fighters to Pakistan.
the deal going to keep American military manufacturers in Texas,
the defense contractors and the guys at the Pentagon happy? You
mean that you are really thinking that we are doing that to promote
US global economic and military interests? Moi? How dare you? It's
all done in order to "improve regional security," Washington
explains. But isn't the move going to destabilize South Asia and
force India to buy more planes? Perhaps, but then we would sell
them F-16s and stability would be reestablished in the Indian subcontinent.
what about the promotion of democracy in the "broader"
Middle East? Isn't Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf
a military dictator who ousted a democratically elected government?
Isn't Pakistan an Islamic theocracy that is dominated by corrupt
oligarchs and unlike, say, Iran, actually has a nuclear bomb? Wasn't
Mr. Musharraf's top scientist selling nuclear technology to all
those "Axis of Evil" types? Well Okay. But then America
is helping India, the world's largest democracy become a "major
world power in the 21st century" and that would help to contain
the potential threat from Pakistan.
that, my friends, should not be construed as "cynicism."
Like your kindergarten teacher and other saintly figures, America
works in mysterious ways. One day when you grow up, you'll understand.
Hadar [send him mail] is
Washington correspondent for the Business
Times of Singapore and the author of the forthcoming Sandstorm:
Policy Failure in the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan).
© 2005 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved. Reprinted
with permission of the author.