December 4, 2014

LEE | You Reap What You Sow: How the U.S. Created its Own Worst Nightmares

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A Gallup poll conducted across 65 countries showed that these countries viewed the U.S. as the greatest threat to world peace. We were the only ones left to uphold global order after the Cold War. Our forces had gone far to quell unruly masses and angry fundamentalists. So why are we a threat to peace? Poor foreign excursions seem to squander resources while China grows, concerning many Americans. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t helped others. Then how can some describe the U.S. as “the Great Satan?” We have no precise answers to why people hate the U.S., but we understand that anti-American sentiment is why we have enemies and why we intervene around the world. All the while, Americans seem to have deluded themselves with theories that our enemies are envious of our freedoms or disgusted by American culture. This reminded me of a conversation with a friend about the dictatorships in Central America the United States was responsible for. When I told her about the governments, her only response was that the U.S. didn’t support governments like that. I responded that the U.S. would support anything in its interests. Instead of blaming differences or innate violence of the “other”, it is more evident self-serving interests have only served to sow the seeds of our own enemies. So what if we’ve only been fighting old ghosts, called into existence by the U.S. itself?

American intervention has been predicated on democratization and liberalization markets of other countries, but more often than not, economic interests marginalize democracy. The U.S. finds that democratic governments tend to be protective with economic assets, and ends up dismantling democracies, installed or indigenous, to gain access to local markets. Though forcing free markets are justified as mutually beneficial, the reality shows that it is another venue to extract resources. Iran serves as an example. The diplomatic strains that characterize Iran have been attributed to Iran’s aggressive behavior towards the U.S., such as the embassy crisis and nuclear weapons, but ask anyone from Iran why it isn’t democracy, and one will hear “Iran had a democracy. The U.S. destroyed it.” This may sound incredulous to some, but the U.S. did oust a democratically elected Prime Minister during the Cold War. To add insult to injury, the U.S. installed a brutal regime under a monarchy, in hopes that it would maintain favorable oil policies for the west. This regime fell to a revolution that created modern Iran that we all know and love. Repressive as modern Iran is, it finally nationalized its oil, something Iranians wanted for a long time. In other words, this was a government that found legitimacy by upholding promises to the population, exhausted of U.S. manipulation.

The most eye-wateringly frustrating aspect of U.S. foreign policy is that most supposed enemies either had no quarrel with the U.S. or saw us as allies. The conflicts that the U.S. has engaged in, even since the Philippines to the conflicts seen in the Middle East show a common denominator in which the U.S. blunders into a conflict and makes more enemies. The war in Vietnam embodies this scene. Ho Chi Minh had been the leader of the Viet Minh, the organization fought the French empire for independence. In modern context he has been associated with the communists in Vietnam, but Ho Chi Minh had long viewed the United States as a potential savior or at least an ally. He subscribed to American revolutionary rhetoric and had appealed to President Wilson at the advent of the League of Nations. Though Ho Chi Minh never got an audience with the president, he continued to believe that the U.S. was a state that would eventually assist Vietnam on the grounds of self-determination, seeing as Americans and Vietnamese both struggled under imperialism. This of course, was not true as the United States supported the French empire’s war against Ho and eventually went to active war against the Viet Minh. This war and enemy could have been avoided entirely, but the U.S. had almost chosen to view Vietnam as a potential threat, and dragged its people into war once again.

While I applaud our leaders for finally bringing about global consensus (united in Anti-American sentiment), we, the U.S. citizenry, deserve as much credit for neglecting such realities and occasionally supporting them out of ignorance. We must collectively recognize that such crude foreign policy actions are inherently against the interests of the American people as it demonizes us in the face of the world, and that limiting foreign excursions would help stem our enemies, as intervention only inflated their ranks.

Crispinus Lee  is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at [email protected].