by W Vic Ratsma (30 April 2004)
Some Americans seem genuinely puzzled why they are so intensely disliked in the world beyond their own borders. After all, America is a modern industrious nation that has welcomed immigrants from almost any country on earth, it has offered opportunities to many, has developed technologies others can only dream of and attained one of the highest living standard in the world. During the second world war it liberated many countries from German and Japanese occupation and was held in the highest regard virtually everywhere.
So why is today so much different? Why are Americans not welcome anymore like they used to be?
There are many answers to this question, of which I will touch on only a few of the most obvious. To be sure, most of the answers have little to do with the individual US citizen the majority of whom, when met on a personal basis are as likeable as any other. No, the problem lies in the portrait the USA projects of itself beyond its borders, a portrait that is the result of its actions abroad and the impact these actions have on people in other parts of the world. This process has been developing for many years, but accelerated in the last 12 to 15 years with the demise of the Soviet Union. With the possible exception of the countries of eastern Europe, who at least for some time held out hopes for a better life under capitalism, dislike for America grew more rapidly after it became the sole superpower in the world and began to act like an imperial power that operates with bullyish arrogance and a sense of superiority and impunity that not only annoyed many but also caused increased resentment.
Americans have a right to be proud of the achievements of their country, but tend to wear their pride and patriotism on their sleeves. In what is today a globalized and almost totally capitalist world, multinational corporate enterprises, many --but by no means all -- lead by the USA, are fanning out across the world, establishing themselves in many countries in order to take advantage of new markets and low labour costs. In parallel with this development is the continuous growth in the number of US military bases around the world, ostensibly to defend US (corporate) interests abroad, but at the same time at the ready to intervene when any country threatens to seek its own independent road to prosperity that could potentially affect the position of corporate America in that country or region.
With the means of communication that exist today, such as television and especially the internet, anything that happens in one place is immediately flashed around the world. Events are virtually impossible to cover up, even if not always for lack of trying. The US/NATO bombing of TV & Radio installations in Yugoslavia, of Al Jazeera offices in Afghanistan as well as ordered media shutdowns in Iraq are just a few examples, which exemplify this. And the enormous concentration of the US news media networks and their voluntary compliance with their government's positions doesn't help either, as it presents Americans with a far too one-sided perspective, which only helps to widen the information gulf between Americans and the rest of the world.
With the spread of American economic and military power around the world, it has become unavoidable that with almost every reported event, the involvement of the United States becomes visible. It is often said, and I think rightly so, that "between nations there is no such thing as friendship, only interests". Therefore, as the US is defending its own interests, it frequently stands in opposition to regional or local interests, even though it usually pretends otherwise. For most people the US argument of spreading freedom and democracy around the world is starting to wear pretty thin and the fact that it is always acting first and foremost in its own self interest has become quite apparent.
Under capitalism, self interest is the driving force of the system. Being one step up on your competition is essential for self preservation and growth. Obviously the best cards are in the hands of the most powerful, in this case the USA and the transnational corporations. Their economic powers outweigh those of many independent governments upon whom they can bring excessive pressures to bear, forcing them to comply with US demands, lest they will be subjected to some form of retaliation. It is most understandable that, when this process is seen to be going on continuously all over the world, resentment of the USA and of Americans in general is constantly growing. America, a rich country, is seen to enlarge its already considerable wealth at the expense of poorer nations, using any means necessary to get what it wants. Today, Iraqi oil is the primary example of this policy, but there are many other examples and there are no doubt many yet to come. This whole process has nothing at all to do with freedom or democracy, but rather more with the freedom of the powerful to acquire access to whatever resources they set their ever searching eyes on.
This process of capitalist imperialist expansion feeds on itself and cannot but lead to many more conflicts in the future, unless the system is replaced by a less aggressive, less selfish, more co-operative form of economics, where peoples' real needs are first and foremost. The gradual depletion of non-renewable energy resources is expected in the decades to come. These are resources necessary for any country's development, whether rich or poor. But what possibility is there for poor countries to acquire sufficient energy resources to enhance their independent development, when rich nations battle it out over control of these resources? "If you can't pay the price, you don't get the product", it's as simple as that! This is the time to tame the corporate capitalist beast that scours the world, and adopt a new innovative and fair system of sustainable development in which all people can share the benefits. Failing to do so will see ever more resentment and opposition to US policies abroad and will only increase the number of armed resistance fighters that seek freedom from America. The ultimate outcome of this latter scenario is anything but promising.
- Axis of Logic