"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Is The United States A Third World Country? Of Course It Is

It all depends on how you look at the question. By traditional standards – GDP, military might, trade and financial importance, modern infrastructure, high rates of economic renewal and entrepreneurship – of course the United States is first world, if not alpha world, above all reckoning, a megalith of power, industry, and wealth.

If one looks at the less quantifiable measures of maturity – a fair and equitable system of justice, social and economic equality, strong moral and ethical principles which guide every public and private activity, and a responsive representative government – the answer must be a resounding ‘No’.
This conclusion is not hard to come by.  An electoral system which mandates Congressional elections every two years is a surefire way to guarantee their purchase by special interests. A checks-and-balances system within an environment of corporate ownership is nothing more than window dressing.  The Supreme Court – the final arbiter of Constitutional right – is as political an institution as any.  Despite claims to the contrary, Justices vote the party line almost exclusively, and recently have done more to increase the stature and influence of corporate interests than ever before.

Image result for images us checks and balances system

In a recent interview Vladimir Putin, a veteran of four American presidencies, said that he saw no difference among them. They were beholden to too many public and private interests to be able to shape a coherent, consistent policy which reflected their own principles and purpose. 

Figuring out American policy, he implied, was not difficult. Sabre-rattling and military posturing without a clear, well-defined purpose. Short term parochial economic and financial interests with no appreciation for the interrelatedness of politics, economics, culture, society, and finance. A myopic view of history and a moral exceptionalism which inhibits rational geopolitical analysis and decision-making.  An elected government which, because of its debt to large contributors and narrow, necessarily venal narrow parochial interests, cannot see beyond the cow pasture or the bank account. 
A self-indulgent, aimless, populace with little appetite for sacrifice, even less for consideration of national interests or the well-being of the commonweal.

Few Americans want to look favorably on Russia and China,  autocracies which, thanks to their historical vision, modern management, and political savvy – let alone their uninhibited ability to act unilaterally – have increased their power and influence from near ruin to superpower in a few short decades.  China barely survived Mao and the Cultural Revolution, but thanks to the vision and political courage of Deng Xiaoping, the country is now an economic and international powerhouse.

Russia was in disarray after the fall of the Soviet Union as every Communist principle, program, and initiative was dismissed and relegated to history.  Yet in only a relatively few years, Russia has regained its economic momentum and international political influence.  It is unbelievable, as intimidating and powerful a foe to the United States as the Soviet Union ever was.

Image result for images the court of the last russian czar

The move away from liberal democracy to authoritarianism can also be seen not only in Russia and China but in the Middle East and increasingly in Western Europe.   Citizens in all these regions are increasingly disturbed about levels of civic disorder and the threat of political and social divisions to culture, international status, and economic growth.

China has long stated that economic growth and rational distribution of wealth takes priority over civil rights.  Giving up certain individual rights for the sake of the commonweal  is the responsibility of every Chinese citizen.   China’s absolute intolerance for rebellious ethnic groups such as the Uighurs and the Tibetans has great support within the majority Han population which sees any disruption of the well-knit national fabric a threat to well-being and prosperity.



There are allegations that China’s policy against rebellious ethnicities is not only an abrogation of civil rights but human rights; but neither the Politburo nor of the people seem to object.

Vladimir Putin has been subject to the same allegations concerning his war against Chechnya and Islamic separatism.  There is no room for civic, ethnic, or religious unrest in a country whose President is trying to reestablish its imperial status and geo-political power.  Putin has approval ratings that any American president would wish.

Image result for images putin

France, long exemplary for respecting the principles of the Revolution, guaranteeing equal rights to all within the context of liberty, equality, and fraternity, has abruptly abrogated if not eliminated many such rights in the face of Islamic terrorism.  Germany and Scandinavia are questioning their long-standing policies of social tolerance and are more willing to suspend the rights of refugees in an attempt to stave of civil unrest, violence, and a dilution of national culture.

Talks of returning to military rule have surfaced in Brazil, and its case is most like that of the Philippines.  Crime rates, corruption, internecine political fighting, vast inequalities of wealth and privilege, are similar in both countries; and in both the people have said “Enough”.  Despite the brutality of previous military regimes, many Brazilians look back to the days of autocracy as peaceful and harmonious which they were. 

Image result for images brazilian police in favela operations

Haiti was a crime-free, peaceful country, congenial to tourism because of the Duvaliers and the Tonton Macoutes.  Since the fall of the Duvaliers, the country has been riven by crime, political violence, corruption, and perpetual civic unrest.  It is no wonder that many poor Haitians have revisionist thoughts about the reinstatement of authoritarianism.

The Tonton Macoutes were accused of extrajudicial killings, all in the name of preserving the absolute authority of the Duvaliers.   The police of Rio de Janeiro have been similarly accused of similar actions in the favelas.  Crime, they say, is not only endemic but viral in the slums, and there is no way that the slow, ponderous, and often corrupt system of justice can possibly deter let alone eliminate crime.

Countries which have given up on traditional Western liberalism and have turned to more authoritarian leadership and both secular and religious nationalism find the United States’ disarray, fractiousness, incessant parsing of gender and the most minor and insignificant civil ‘rights’, vaudevillian – a circus show of ‘democracy’ with little substance behind it.

Advocates for ethnic and religious separatism have no use for American democratic values.  God’s will is supreme and His law will forevermore be the law of His people.  Allegiance to race and ethnicity has always preceded a more general inclusiveness; and the tendency now is to revert to more fundamental social precepts.

Image result for images pages of koran

America may still have the world’s most powerful military, but, say international critics, it has been neutered by the smallest and most powerless nations.  The war in Vietnam should have been won by the United States, but its overweening concern for the hearts and minds of civilians let insurrection grow; while its carpet bombing only hardened local resolve.  The Taliban have never been defeated in Afghanistan, the incursion into Iraq has been an unmitigated failure, the accord with Iran a big giveaway, and the on-again, off-again military engagement in Syria laughable.

America may be a financial powerhouse, but the Great Recession of 2007 showed how badly corrupted Wall Street was; and the gigantic bailouts necessary to save the ship from foundering were not signs of political and economic health and promise, but of a last-resort desperation move to save a fractured institution.

Image result for images bernie madoff

By mid-2017, the total amount of official debt owed by the federal, state and local governments to China was more than $19.4 trillion. That figure is expected to reach at least $20.2 trillion by the start of 2018. Some experts add more than $120 trillion in unfunded future liabilities on the federal government balance sheet (Investopedia.com).  Such debt can only further limit American influence.

America might be at the forefront of oil and gas exploration, but has yet to learn – like Russia – how to use energy as a geopolitical tool.  Without a coherent, united foreign policy which includes energy, the State Department will always be outmaneuvered by Russia.

‘Paper Tiger’ said Mao and the Chinese Communists. ‘Capitalist running dogs’; but in the days of the Cold War, pointing a staggering number of nuclear weapons in their direction was enough.  No need to figure out China’s internal problems, its cultural foundations, its past empires, or its resource potential.

Image result for chinese communist posters american running dogs

To many historians America is showing signs not only of decline but of deterioration.  In 250 years a Republic founded on principle, the rule of law, and a political philosophy which represented the best of the Enlightenment, has become chaotic, ungovernable, and self-important.   There is no way that a country so obsessed with selfish individualism, identity politics, and ruled by a venal, equally selfish government can possibly retain its power and influence.  Only countries with a distinct goal, and the will and resources to achieve it can prevail.

We may dismiss Russia’s neo-Imperial designs or China’s elegies to its own Dynastic past as ‘undemocratic’; but in so doing we miss the essential nature of modern rule.  We are a nation of process not substance.  We have no culture but ambition, progress, mobility, and expression; and it is hard for us to appreciate how and why France can be so tenacious about safeguarding its patrimony. 

All of which leads to a final, inescapable, sorry conclusion.  If the US is really a Third World country, then there is no reason whatsoever to pay attention to its hectoring demands for reform.  What do they know?

No comments:

Post a Comment