Monday, January 29, 2007

The Real Culprit For the Iraq War Fiasco: American Hubris

By MARC McDONALD

Who should we blame for the Iraq War fiasco?

George W. Bush? Dick Cheney? The NeoCons in general?

Personally, I think we ought to blame the arrogance of the American nation for this fiasco.

After all, many Americans, both rich and poor, Republicans and Democrats, are some of the most arrogant people on the face of the earth.

It's an arrogance that is the result of many factors. For one thing, it stems from the fact that U.S. is widely perceived to be the world's leading economic power. And the fact that Americans regard our nation to be nothing less than God's gift to the world: a nation with the world's best political system, the best justice system, the best economic system---in fact, the best overall system of any nation.

With this sort of arrogance rampant amongst Americans, it shouldn't really be any surprise that we as a nation believe that the rest of the world hungers to live the way we do. We believe that the rest of the world these days not only seeks to model their nations after America---but that they are actively working to do so.

Such hubris led most Americans to believe that Iraqis would greet us as liberators. Such arrogance led most of us to believe that the Iraqis would shower our troops with flowers---and then busy themselves with the task of re-making their society along the lines of an American-style Jeffersonian democracy.

We were astonished when this did not in fact happen. Psychologically, we as a people simply couldn't fathom why the Iraqi people wouldn't eagerly remake their nation in our image. We were stunned when the Iraqis began a ferocious insurgency against our occupation and began killing our troops with IEDs and suicide bombers. We were even more stunned when opinion polls consistently showed that an astonishing number of ordinary Iraqis supported these attacks on U.S. troops.

It's interesting to note that Iraq has a culture that was already ancient when Christ was born. And yet for all the turmoil, war, and strife that that nation has endured over the years, there was never a recorded instance of a suicide bomber until 2003, when America invaded Iraq. For all its faults, Saddam's regime never faced a single suicide bomb. Nor did Saddam's convoys ever face a roadside bomb.

America's arrogance has resulted in disasters for our nation (and for the world at large) before. After all, it was arrogance that led the U.S. into its previous disastrous war in Vietnam. We were convinced then that the Vietnamese were eager to embrace U.S.-style capitalism (when in fact, the Communists enjoyed widespread support among the peasants in the countryside).

It is our arrogance as a nation that will almost certainly lead us into future wars.

Many Americans have a tough time comprehending that the rest of the world simply doesn't wish to live the way we do. To be sure, there may be specific aspects of our society, here and there, that other nations admire. But the rest of the world simply doesn't want to emulate our nation as a whole.

A big part of the reason we can't comprehend why the world doesn't wish to live like us is rooted in Americans' complete and total ignorance about the rest of the world. It's a state of affairs that has arisen in large part because of America's abysmal education system and our lousy corporate media.

Few Americans speak a second language. And even fewer seem to fathom that the rest of the world simply doesn't think the way that we do. Instead of accepting this basic fact of life, Americans instead tend to criticize other nations for not doing things the way we do (because, after all, we reason, the American Way is, of course the best way to get things done).

Americans never stop to consider that maybe, just maybe, other nations don't worship the American Way and have no intention of copying us.

A good example of this is the American corporate media's constant slamming of Europe's economic system these days. As a result of the U.S. media's misinformation campaign about Europe, most Americans these days are under the impression that Europe is an economic basket case, struggling with "sky-high" taxes, an "over-regulated" economic system, "out-of-control" labor unions, and "excessive" workers' rights that threaten to destroy Europe's economic competitiveness.

What's worse is that the American media would have us believe that Europeans are busy these days "deregulating" their economies and working to re-make their nations along American lines, with less regulation, weaker unions, longer working hours, etc.

It might come as a surprise to most Americans that Europe, in fact, has no intention of copying America's concept of capitalism. In fact, Europe long ago took a good, hard look at America's brutal, dog-eat-dog economic system and rejected it.

In fact, many Europeans resent the U.S. lecturing them about economics. They wonder how Americans can proclaim their nation to be the "world's most competitive" economy, when in fact the U.S. economy doesn't make much these days that the rest of the world wants to buy. (Hence, America's titanic trade deficits, the largest in world history).

Do the Europeans really need any lessons in economics from America? Through European eyes, the U.S. economy seems to be a giant Ponzi scheme: an economic system that needs trillions of dollars in foreign capital just to stay afloat.

All of this raises the question: does any nation really want to emulate the American system these days? After all, the U.S. has the worst education system in the industrialized world. We have the world's largest prison population. We have a currency that is in danger of meltdown, because of our out-of-control deficits. We have a population that is the most economically polarized in the First World. We have a crumbling infrastructure. We have 45 million people who have no health-care coverage.

Last, but not least, we have a political system that has been thoroughly corrupted by money. People in other nations look at our political system these days not with admiration, but with bafflement. They wonder how Americans can tolerate a system that produces travesties like the 2000 election, when the "losing" candidate got 549,000 more votes than George W. Bush. They also wonder how Americans can tolerate a political system that is so obviously rigged to benefit the rich, at the expense of the poor and middle class.

In George W. Bush's simplistic, black-and-white view of the Middle East, the people were hungering for American-style democracy. I'd suspect most Americans believed the same, particularly in the heady days leading up to the U.S. 2003 invasion, when Americans went through one of their periodic outbursts of jingoistic flag-waving.

Four bloody years later, we've come to learn that maybe, we never really understood Iraq, after all. In the end, we invited the current disaster, with our nation's complete ignorance of other cultures and our arrogant delusion that the people of the Middle East were eager to remake their societies along American lines.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Unless I'm mistaken, I don't know of a single nation that has copied our health-care system. Strange when you consider that our health-care system is supposed to be "the best in the world."

Anonymous said...

I'd suspect many people in the Middle East are deeply skeptical of America's idea of "democracy." America's leaders have no intention of letting any Muslim nation ever select the leadership the people really want. The people of Algeria have already seen this principal in action; when the West pressured the Algerian gov't to cancel the 1988 elections in which Islamic candidates to clearly set to win.

Anonymous said...

Where, exactly, is all this "anti-Americanism" that supposedly exists around the world? I travel to Europe and Asia and elsewhere across the globe regularly and everyone I talk to has nothing but good to say about America. In fact, a lot of people I talk to seem to have this idealized vision of America as a utopian land of milk and honey. I almost hate to burst their bubble and tell them that it isn't so. (And no: to any of you right-wing nutcases reading this: I'm not "anti-American" myself, I'm simply being realistic).

Anonymous said...

All true. Most of us who read this, know this; it's why I want to leave the USA.

But today we are in an imminently dangerous sitution: it would be of no surprise for Bush / Cheney to bomb Iran. The Republicans, the Democrats I truly believe don't realize how dangerous the situation is. So, for us who are more tuned into reality than the useless politicians, than most Americans, what happens next?

What happens if they bomb Iran?

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with many of my friends on the Left that are convinced that Bush is about to attack Iran. Maybe we'll drop some bombs there. But I simply don't believe that we're going to do an all-out invasion. Not because Bush wouldn't like to do this---rather because our military has been so banged up in the Iraq misadventure that I don't believe we even have the military assets these days to do an Iran invasion.

Anonymous said...

there is only one way to stop big corporations and the government.

on 9 11 07 just stop.
Tune in, Turn on and Drop out.

BIG TIME

Its up to the next generation of flower children to save us from ourselves.

Peace and Love Forever.

Phillip Glanville-Australia said...

At present I am studying International Politics at uni (UNE-Armidale NSW Aust) and my major assignment is on American hegemony/post cold war.

I am a 'mature age' student and have been through the Vietnam war times. NO, I did not serve in VN, but was in stores & supplies.

If the USA did not take up against the VC and oust the Soviets in Nth Korea and fight Sadam Hussein in Iraq. Who would have? Russia? England?

I agree with 'anonymous:
'Where, exactly, is all this "anti-Americanism" that supposedly exists around the world? I travel to Europe and Asia and elsewhere across the globe regularly and everyone I talk to has nothing but good to say about America.'

If America is so bad why are so many people lining up to immigrate to the US?
God bless the US!
Phill

Anonymous said...

Arrogance? Pot......meet kettle.