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Opinion » Columnists

Americans seem unwilling to take an honest look in the mirror

20.05.2014
 

By Doug Pancoast


The world seems so chaotic all around us. Ukraine. Diaoyu Islands. Afghanistan. Iran. Most Americans don't understand why other places in the world can't enjoy the same peace that they do. "What is everybody fighting about?" Many Americans have been convinced that the rest of the world is simply jealous of them and their freedom. Right wing media outlets like Fox News tells them that bad guys across the world just won't do what the loving and altruistic United States tells them to and that countries are malevolently trying to disrupt the international order. But, when you look all around the world, you almost can't help but notice one common denominator. No matter how far away it may be from the shores of the continental United States, the United States always seems to be close by wherever trouble is found. And these four major hotspots mentioned above are certainly no different.

The actions that Putin has (both explicitly and covertly) taken are no doubt likely both too extreme and wrong. But one thing that Americans often fail to do is to try and explore the real background behind another actor's actions. In a digital world where what happened 10 minutes ago is already old news and forgotten, Americans have little knowledge or concern for history. In their minds, the fall of the Soviet Union happened decades ago and has no bearing on the actions of nations 25 years later. If, back in the early 1990's, the first President Bush promised Russia that NATO would not expand to Russia's borders then that is immaterial to the American people and the American government (for some reason). Things change, I guess. The fact that the U.S. government, through the State Department, spends millions of dollars funding political groups in Ukraine should not matter, either. Americans believe they have every right to try and influence the politics of countries thousands of miles from their borders.

But Russia is not allowed any influence in any of its own next-door neighbors,even in those who share a common language, history, and culture. The background makes no difference to the neocons in America. All that matters is that Americans are the good guys (always trying to bring peace and prosperity to everywhere they go) and everybody else that opposes them are the bad guys. End of story.

The escalating conflict over the Diaoyu Islands between China and Japan is no different. The historical fact is that prior to the First Sino-Japanese War, the Diaoyu Islands were part of China. At that time, Japan "annexed" the islands. For decades China struggled with imperialist Japan, until Japan was finally defeated by the U..S. in World War II. Strangely, when the United States and Japan signed the Treaty of San Francisco officially ending the Second World War, Japan was given "administration rights" over the islands (re-named the Senkakus by the Japanese after taking them from China in the mid-1890's). The People's Republic of China, the official government in the Mainland at that time, declared the treaty illegal. But of course they were not strong enough at that time to do anything about it. Why didn't the U.S. return the islands to China, to whom they originally belonged? Was it part of a strategy, intentionally planting a time bomb that could go off later when it was needed? Who knows? Only the United States government knows.

In Afghanistan, many Americans struggle to understand why they kill American soldiers who are on Afghan land. Certainly many of those same Americans would certainly shoot and kill any Afghan soldiers who dared to invade the American homeland. But once again, Americans are simply trying to bring peace and prosperity everywhere they go and so they can't fathom why somebody would kill their soldiers who are on foreign land. It almost seems like the mujahadeen in Afghanistan aren't thankful for when Ronald Regan armed them to fight against the Soviets. It is ironic, in a way, that America would arm the mujahedeen in the 1980's so they could fight the Soviet Union...only to fight them 20 years later. Certainly America should have learned that Afghans don't like foreigners who invade their land. Why did America stay in Afghanistan after they had defeated Al Qaeda there? Why did they stay in an effort to try to rid the country of Taliban (as if that were possible)? Why did America ignore Pakistan's support for terrorism in Afghanistan? Does America really need bases in Afghanistan for a war with Iran that badly? Maybe so.

And finally there is Iran. How did the mullah come to power in Iran? America tried so hard to support the Shah, the ruthless dictator who they had propped up to sell them cheap oil. The Shah was brutal in his crackdown against his political enemies. Perhaps the only place safe to organize against him was in the mosques. I think it's safe to say that many Iranians now regret the mullahs coming to power. The huge protests several years ago, that were violently suppressed by the Iranian regime, certainly gives some support for this theory. But Iranians also haven't forgotten history. They haven't forgotten the U.S. turning a blind eye when Iraq used chemical weapons against them in the 1980's. And they haven't forgotten when a U.S. Navy missile shot down Iran Air Flight 655, a commercial passenger flight originating out of Tehran, on which 290 people were killed. Americans just can't understand why these countries, all the way on the other side of the world, hate them.

This is not to say that the United States is solely to blame for all of the world's troubles. Far from it. The other side almost always bears some share of the blame, as well. However, the United States government is certainly not free from any responsibility, either. The United States tries to hold other nations accountable for their actions. But who holds the United States' government accountable for its actions? Until now, no one. In the past the U.S. could say one thing, and then do another, and then try to force others to play by rules that the U.S. didn't agree to abide by themselves. But the world is changing and other countries are no longer willing to be held to these "international standards." After the United States has invaded other countries without U.N. approval (Iraq), assassinated world leaders they didn't like (in several countries), and demanded sole regional influence in the Western Hemisphere, don't expect the rest of the world to continue to agree to rules that the United States itself does not obey. The world is about to get more chaotic. And the United States' government would be remised if it didn't look in the mirror for some of the blame.

Doug Pancoast

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