Tale of Two Standards in World Politics – Part II

This is the second part of my article “Tale of Two Standards in World Politics – Part II.” The first part “Tale of Two Standards in World Politics – Part I” [1] appeared in the “Political/Social Commentary” page of this March 2022 issue of this website. These two articles assess the U.S. government in the four important metrics of democracy, human rights, peace, and addressing world problems. In particular, these two articles assess the actual performance of the U.S. government, and not what the U.S. government is advertised to be. Part I discussed the two metrics of “democracy” and “human rights.” This Part II discussed the other two metrics of “Peace” and “Addressing World Problems,” and It also provides more discussion on the American dream and a summary of the whole two-part article.

Peace:

Since the end of WWII, the U.S. has been involved in several major wars that are usually well known to the world, such as the Korean War (1950-1953), the Vietnam War (1955-1975), the Gulf War (1990-1991), the Iraq War (2003-2011), and the War in Afghanistan (2001-2021). Not so well known to the world or to the American public is that the U.S. has also been involved in many other wars [2], such as:

  • Laotian Civil War (1953-1975)
  • Lebanon crisis (1958)
  • Dominican Civil War (1965-1966)
  • Cambodian Civil War (1967-1975)
  • Multinational intervention in Lebanon (1982-1984)
  • U.S. invasion of Grenada (1983)
  • Bombing of Libya (1981)
  • Tanker War (Persian Gulf) (1987-1988)
  • U.S. invasion of Panama (1989-1990)
  • First U.S. intervention in the Somali Civil War (1992-1995)
  • Bosnian War and Croatian War (1992-1995)
  • Intervention in Haiti (1994-1995)
  • Kosovo War (1998-1999)
  • American intervention in Yemen (2002-present)
  • American intervention in the War in North-West Pakistan (2004-2018)
  • Second U.S. Intervention in the Somali Civil War (2007-present)
  • U.S. intervention in Libra (2011)
  • Operation Observant Compass (Uganda) (2011-2017)
  • American-led intervention in Syria (2014-present)
  • American intervention in Libya (2015-2019)

In addition to these wars, the U.S. has also been involved in numerous regime changes when the people in power in these foreign countries were not in alignment with the positions of the U.S. There has been a large number of regime change activities. [3][4] To mention all these regime change activities will take a much longer article. Below we list only a subset of such regime change activities, especially during the cold war period before the dissolution of USSR to Russia in 1991:

  • Replaced the Egyptian monarchy with the Republic of Egypt under Mohamed Naquib and Gamal Abdel Nasser (Egypt 1952)
  • Iranian coup d’etat that replaced the constitutional monarchy of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi by the military general Fazlollah Zahed (Iran 1953)
  • Guatemalan coup d’etat that with the help of the CIA overthrew the government of President Jacobo Arbenz with a right-wing dictator Carlos Castillo Armas (Guatemala 1954)
  • A failed coup d’etat orchestrated by the CIA against Syria (Syria 1956-1957)
  • A failed CIA attempt to overthrow the non-aligned and independent President Sukarno of Indonesia (Indonesia 1957-1959)
  • Mass protests largely funded by the CIA that ultimately resulted in the India government dismissing the first elected state government in Keral, India led by Namboodiripad of the Communist Part of India (India 1958-1959)
  • A coup d’etat from the Kennedy administration that assassinated South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem (Vietnam 1963)
  • A failed CIA-back attempt to overthrow President Fidel Castro (Cuba 1959-1962)
  • Extensive involvement by the CIA in planning and murdering President Rafael Trujillo (Dominican Republic 1961)
  • U.S. government provided the Indonesian army with thousands of names of alleged Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) supporters and other alleged leftists so that these people can be killed off resulting in the erosion of support for President Sukarno and forcing him out of power and replaced by an authoritarian military regime led by General Suharto. Historian John Roosa in his book Pretext for Mass Murder: The September 30th Movement and Suharto’s Coup d’État in Indonesia wrote “almost overnight the Indonesian government went from being a fierce voice for cold war neutrality and anti-imperialism to a quiet, compliant partner of the US world order.” This campaign is considered a major turning point in the Cold War, and was such a success that it served as a model for other U.S.-backed coups and anti-communist extermination campaigns throughout Asia and Latin America. (Indonesia 1965-1967)
  • U.S. endorsed and supported the coup d’etat that overthrew President Isabel Peron of Argentina and replaced with the US-backed military dictatorship of General Jorge Rafael Videla. (Argentina 1976)
  • U.S. provided funding and arms to provide covert support to Nicaraqua’s Contras, an anti-Sandinista rebel group based in the next-door country of Honduras. As part of the training, the CIA distributed a manual “Psychological Operations in Guerrilla War” which instructed the Contras on how to blow up public buildings, assassinate judges, create martyrs, and blackmail ordinary citizens. After many years, the regime change was successful. (Nicaragua 1981-1990)
  • U.S. interfered in the internal affairs of Haiti and forced the transfer of power from Raoul Cedras to Jean-Bertrand Aristide (Haiti 1994-1995)

As you can see, the U.S. government has engaged in a large number of wars, declared and undeclared wars. Furthermore, the U.S. government has also engaged in a large number of regime change activities in foreign countries. These regime change activities interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign countries and are not consistent with the self-projected gold standard of the U.S. government.

The purpose of our discussion is not to conclude that the U.S. has engaged in the most number of wars or engaged in the most number of regime change activities in foreign countries. See, e.g., References [5] and [6] for regime change activities by USSR or Russia. The purpose of our discussion is that the actual behavior of the U.S. government does not match at all to the gold standard presented by the U.S. government that it is always working for peace and it is always acting for the best benefits of the people of any country.

Addressing World Problems:

We all know that our world has many critical problems. These critical problems are all important, and some if not addressed properly could result in the end of civilization as we know it. Here are among the major problems:

  • Global warming
  • Nuclear disarmament
  • Hunger
  • Health
  • Jobs

Global Warming: As the most industrialized country and the richest country in the world, the U.S., together with China the country with the most people and the second largest economy, contribute the most to fossil fuel pollution. We must take the lead to reduce our use of fossil fuel and create alternative energy sources. It is good that we are moving toward electric vehicles, and we are relying more on other alternative energy sources, such as solar power and wind power. But we may not be moving fast enough.

In 2016 the world reached an agreement to address the climate change issue. It is known as the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. However, the U.S. under President Trump withdrew on June 1, 2017 from this agreement. After he was defeated in the 2020 U.S. presidential election and replaced by President Biden, the U.S. rejoined the Paris Agreement in February 2021. [7] On an issue of this importance to the U.S. and the whole world, it is really unimaginable and unconscionable that the U.S. would adopt such a position and waste several years of crucial time. It makes the world wonder whether the U.S. can always be counted that it will assume its role, as well as involving in the leadership as the world’s most powerful and richest country.

We should also use our technology prowess to develop new methods to solve climate change related problems. For example, one of the consequences of climate change is that the sea level will rise, and therefore some of the coast land will increase in salinity and therefore may not be able to grow food. However, technology may also be coming to the rescue, because China has shown in recent years that by selecting a type of wild rice that is more resistant to saline and alkali, such land with higher level of salinity can be used to grow rice. [8] As we discuss later in the discussion on “hunger,” China in the last few years has also successfully used new technological technique to transform deserts into fertile land. [9]

Climate change can create devastating droughts. We should also investigate how scientific breakthroughs can create artificial rain as well as other methods to reduce the negative impacts of climate change. Instead of dropping out of the Paris Agreement, the U.S. with its well known research infrastructure and large number of brilliant scientists and engineers should be able to contribute greatly in this effort if our government decides that it is one of our important goals.

Nuclear Disarmament:

People recognize that there is no winner in a nuclear war. As a matter of fact, our civilization may not survive as we know it after a nuclear war. Many countries have dozens or hundreds of nuclear weapons, with the U.S. and Russia having thousands of nuclear weapons. However, detonation of just a few nuclear weapons may already be sufficient to result in calamitous damages to the world. That is why unless the world can agree to getting rid of all nuclear weapons, the next best thing is to commit to a “No First Use” (NFU) policy, i.e., a pledge by a nuclear power not to use nuclear weapons as a means of warfare unless first attacked by an adversary using nuclear weapons.

Currently, the only country with nuclear weapons who has a NFU policy is China. [10] The U.S. with its massive and sophisticated conventional weapons should be willing not to rely on its nuclear weapons as a deterrent.

Hunger:

Current estimate is that about 10% of the world’s people do not have enough food to eat on a regular basis. [11] We need to produce more food for the world, as well as more equitably distribute the food. As we already previously mentioned that new technological advances have recently shown that desert lands can be converted to become fertile fields to grow food, and food can be grown in land immersed with water of high salinity. Again, should the U.S. with its sophisticated research infrastructure and talented pool of scientists and engineers willing to contribute to this effort? Besides addressing technical questions, to address the world hunger problem would also require overcoming many political and social obstacles. Therefore the most important question may not necessarily be the scientific question, but the political question of the commitment of the U.S. government.

Health:

Many countries in our world have a lot of people with poor health, high infant mortality and low life span. To address the health issue of the world, we may be able to learn some lessons from addressing the Covid-19 epidemic. Not only that we need proven medical solutions and skills, we also need political and social commitment, and willingness to sacrifice some individual freedom for the benefit of the larger community. Of course, solving the question of global health is also related to the previously discussed problem of hunger (and associated malnutrition). Again, the most important question may be the political question whether we are willing to make the commitment to work together with the world to address this critical problem.

Jobs:

On a small scale, people need to have jobs to earn enough money to provide for themselves and their family. On the large scale, a country needs to have a vibrant economy to provide enough jobs for its citizens as well as providing an infrastructure for the country’s transportation, communication, education, healthcare, security, etc. Usually by working together collaboratively with other countries, we can complement each other and also increase the outputs of an individual country. Something like a joint or multi country collaboration, similar to a belt and road initiative, can create additional benefits. Instead of fighting among ourselves and criticizing each other and trying to sabotage each other’s contributions, countries should seriously consider how we can work together and complement each other and create teams whose outputs are greater than the sum of individual parts.

Again, the question is whether the behavior of the U.S. government actually matches what it pretends to be. We should look inward and ask whether we are really doing our share, and working together with the rest of the world to right perhaps a mis-directed or wandering ship.

Revisiting the American Dream:

One may raise the following question: The fact that there seems to be an American Dream in the minds of many Americans as well as other people of the world, isn’t that already an existence proof that the American system of government must have been doing things close to what has been advertised. This is a very important question, which we actually have previously discussed in another article in this website. [12] We only have time to summarize the main points of that article:

  • The American Dream occurred after the end of WWII, and it occurred in a unique environment of the U.S. in terms of geographic or natural opportunities during most of its existence.
  • It offered a vast country with a very small native population.
  • If offered a large percentage of the land that was ideal for agriculture and cattle ranging.
  • Thus, there was always room to expand and enough resources to share, instead of being a zero-sum situation where one could gain only at the expense of someone else.
  • The country actually welcomed more new comers to help develop the vast land.
  • As a matter of fact, it was partially due to immigration to the U.S. of so many of the best and brightest from other countries that propelled the U.S. economic engine to become the richest and most powerful country in the world.
  • The U.S. is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the East and the Pacific Ocean on the West, providing natural barriers from foreign aggressors.
  • It is bordered on the north and the south by two relatively new countries also with a vast land of their own and a small native population.
  • Therefore, the U.S. was able to live relatively peacefully without worrying too much about the threat of foreign invasion until WWII. Thus, it could focus its resources and energy internally to develop the country.
  • With the above advantages, the U.S. was able to develop into a rich and powerful country. Furthermore, compared with most other countries, it suffered relatively minor damages from WWII.
  • This enabled the U.S. to develop for about another 25-50 years before other countries (e.g., first Germany and Japan, and then Korea, India, and China) developed into credible economic competitors. The result was that the U.S. was able to reap great economic advantages all over the world.

This is not to deny that other factors, e.g., its democratic system of government (in spite of many shortcomings pointed out earlier in this article), the American entrepreneur spirit, the creativity and independent thinking of Americans, and the hard work of Americans, also contributed to the success of the U.S. during the first two hundred-plus years of its existence. The point we want to make is that there was almost an ideal geographical or natural environment for the U.S during most of its existence that helped to create the base for the American Dream, and thus propelling the U.S. into the richest and most powerful country in the world.

The important question now is whether the American Dream can be continued in the future? In my opinion, unless drastic changes occur, it will not happen. These drastic changes would need to include:

  • The U.S. government and the American people need to reflect and look inward at their country, and not just at what it depicts itself as
  • We need to look at not only the positive things, but also at the negative things
  • We need to elect leaders who work for the benefits of all the people, and not just for the benefits of those who can contribute the most for campaign elections
  • Assess whether each decision has long-term benefits, and not just short-term gains
  • We must look within ourselves and ask whether all of us are doing our parts, instead of just placing the blame on others
  • We must genuinely care for our fellow citizens of the world, instead of considering them as a country or people we can exploit
  • We must keep in mind that we are part of the larger community in which we must work together cooperatively

Unless these changes occur, the American Dream will not be able to continue.

Summary:

The U.S. government always presents itself as a government that is democratic, respects human rights, treats other countries with peaceful intention, and helps to solve world problems. That is the image that the U.S. government and the U.S. mass media depict itself. In reality, the U.S. government doesn’t act that way. It is not a democratic government of working for the benefits of all its people, it treats its citizens differently depending on race, sex, place of origin, wealth, social and political status, etc., it involves in many wars, and instigates numerous regime changes. Not only that it often doesn’t get involved in solving various world problems. It sometimes drops out of critical agreements (e.g., Paris Agreement on Climate Change) and criticizes or even sabotages other countries’ contributions.

We are not saying that the U.S. government is worse than other governments, but it is definitely not the model government that it presents itself as and wants other governments to copy and mimic. We need to have an open mind and allow other governments to try other systems of government and join together cooperatively to address the world’s problems. It is not just everyone for himself, but we are in this together.


[1] “Tale of Two Standards in World Politics – Part I”: https://www.dontow.com/2022/03/tale-of-two-standards-in-world-politics-part-i/.

[2] See, e.g., List of Wars Involving the U.S.: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_the_United_States#21st-century_wars.

[3] See, e.g., United States involvement in regime change: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_involvement_in_regime_change#1991%E2%80%93present:_Post-Cold_War.

[4] Also, see, e.g., “The U.S. tried to change other countries’ governments 72 times during the Cold War,” Lindsey L. O’Rourke, The Washington Post, December 23, 2016: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/12/23/the-cia-says-russia-hacked-the-u-s-election-here-are-6-things-to-learn-from-cold-war-attempts-to-change-regimes/. According to the author, of the 72 times, 60 were covert operations and 6 were overt operations. And among the 60 covert operations, only 20 successfully brought the U.S.-backed government to power, and 40 failed.

[5] See, e.g., Soviet involvement in regime change: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_involvement_in_regime_change.

[6] See, e.g., Russia involvement in regime change: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_involvement_in_regime_change.

[7] “United States Officially Rejoins the Paris Agreement on Climate Change”, February 21, 2021: https://www.npr.org/2021/02/19/969387323/u-s-officially-rejoins-paris-agreement-on-climate-change.

[8] See, e.g., Bloomberg News, 2/19/2022: http://www.dontow.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/By-Bloomberg-News-growing-rice-in-seawater.docx.

[9] Numerous articles on this subject can be found in the web. Here are a few examples: (1) “Regreening the Desert with John D. Liu” – 5/7/2017:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDgDWbQtlKI (47:30); (2) “How China transformed its desert into a fruit growing oasis” – 9/26/2018:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BepMqZ4pFXQ (29:07).

[10] See, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_first_use.

[11] See, e.g., https://www.actionagainsthunger.org/world-hunger-facts-statistics.

[12] “Can the American Dream Be Continued?”: https://www.dontow.com/2010/01/can-the-american-dream-be-continued/.

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2 Responses to “Tale of Two Standards in World Politics – Part II”

  1. Daniel Wang says:

    Thank you for sharing your article about World Politics. I enjoyed reading it.
    If I may, please add the financial health of the US government to your discussion (Part III?)

    The US is 30T in debt and yet the GDP is only 23T.
    The US government now must borrow money to balance the budget. As such it does not have money
    for many important projects such as infrastructure reconstruction, and advanced R&D research.
    Lack of money is why the US is lagging behind China in technology innovations.
    So if the US falls into 2nd place, and China leads, how can the US maintain world peace,
    let alone the American Dream?

    The Roman empire collapsed not because of its enemy, but because of financial bankruptcy.
    The U.S. is marching toward a similar financial bankruptcy due to years of fiscal irresponsibility.
    In the COVID-19 crisis, the US government printed over 6T (stimulus + QE) resulting in the current high inflation
    that is eating away the US productivity and forcing the Fed to raise the interest rates which are
    very bad for businesses. The US government now must pay over 500B of interest per year.
    In a sense, the US financial condition is collapsing slowly right in front of our eyes but politicians don’t care
    because they are all short-term focused.

    Best Regards,

  2. RUBY P TSAO says:

    Meticulous research with statistics, powerful analysis of US history on democracy and human rights; war and peace. I hope you can publish it in US national media for Americans. Ruby P Tsao

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