Should America Continue to Be the Leader in World Politics?

America’s position as leader in world politics has not come about through any international agreement, nor by way of a proven track record in world diplomacy. It was simply the case at the end of WW2 that it was the country with the greatest economic strength and the largest military machine.

Before the war the major countries of Europe led the way in world politics, particularly the UK and France. This was because of their international influence in depth through many years of colonial development. A few other European countries had similar world influence, but to a lesser extent.

In 1945 the UK was, to all intents and purposes, bankrupt, as were the countries which had been overrun by Germany during the war, and Germany itself. Only through America’s Marshall Plan was any level of sustained redevelopment made possible in Europe.

Meanwhile, in Asia, only Japan had wielded any power up to and including WW2, and it was defeated and demoralised when the war ended, needing American help to kick start its economy.

So as the post war period began, there was America and the Soviet Union, two massive and opposed political powers, dominating the world stage. The USSR began to make its own way with its Warsaw Pact allies. The conference at Bretton Woods, setting the stage for a future western economic structure, made the dollar the main international currency and, with the United Nations based in New York, all western eyes focussed on Washington DC for leadership. Although not in any way contrived, America’s dominance in the west was inevitable and, when the communist empire crumbled, it had no competition at all.

But a sustained position as leader needs to be earned, and it is worth considering what America has achieved since 1945.

In south east Asia it became heavily mired in the so called Police Action in Korea, since when Korea has been divided, and North Korea has been a thorn in the flesh ever since. So no success there. Vietnam was an unmitigated disaster in every respect, so no success there.

In the Middle East America is tied to a policy of support for Israel. Any presidential candidate who even hinted at a change in that respect would never be elected. Therefore America’s policy in that area is biased, and on that basis it can never expect to achieve a lasting settlement.

A number of countries, many of them small and Latin American, have experienced America’s unwanted and unrequested interference in their affairs, often by way of military intervention. The CIA appears to have given itself carte blanche to operate anywhere in the world, sometimes in a way which puts lives at considerable risk. Any country, particularly close to home, which has elected a left leaning government has been at risk of direct intervention, particularly during Republican administrations.

America proclaims itself democratic, but has a presidential voting system which is skewed by use of political caucuses to an extent that makes it very close to being undemocratic. For example it has elected at least one president despite the popular vote going to the other side. For a country which uses the establishment of democracy as an excuse for unrequested involvement in other countries’ affairs, this smacks too much of hypocrisy.

Far too many presidents have lied, both to their own people and to the rest of the world, for others to continue to take the country seriously as a world leader.

America has refused to pay its full financial way in the United Nations, and maintains a right to take military action without a UN mandate.

America’s involvement in Iraq, including the use of methods of torture contrary to the Geneva Convention and the illegal imprisonment of untried prisoners, has come close to making it a pariah state in many people’s eyes.

American prisoners appearing in court and being transported between facilities are shackled as if they were slaves in the 17th century. The country still continues to practice capital punishment in many states. Its much vaunted capitalism has now been shown to be built on sand, and even after the crisis of 2008, many of its business and banking leaders seem to wish to continue a system which is a proven failure.

Levels of crime, particularly gun crime; levels of poverty and a health system which is just beginning to consider offering help for the less well off; a relatively low life expectancy; poor diet leading to massive obesity; high infant mortality rate; poor record of schooling – all these things and more suggest that America is not able to look after its own people, let alone the world.

Money does not make leadership. It may have done in the past, but that clearly has not worked, so it certainly should not in the future.

No. America should not continue to be the leader in world politics. No country should have that distinction. World politics is or should be a shared responsibility.

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