Wednesday, September 23, 2009

American Exceptionalism and Foreign Policy

I find that some of the most insightful points raised in international dialogue often come from the most marginalized of world leaders. A few years ago, Ahmadinejad skewered the hypocrisy of the United States and her allies, who in their adamant condemnation of nuclear programs seem to forget about the massive stockpiles residing within their borders. (On a related note, former U.S. ambassador John Bolton deemed the nuclear programs of India and Pakistan "legitimate" since the two countries neglected to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Why didn't you think of that, Iran?)

More recently, Moammar Gadhafi of Libya made a scene at the U.N. General Assembly by launching into a vehement anti-Western tirade. One point that was emphasized in the linked article was that Gadhafi protested the nature of the Security Council, on which the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain (the victors of WWII) hold permanent seats and veto power. Indeed, for an institution that draws upon and heavily promotes democratic concepts, the presence of five unelected oligarchs is cause for cynicism. Coincidentally (actually, probably not), Ahmadinejad made the same criticism a while ago on his blog, which I used to frequent until I realized the dude was too lazy to keep a consistent posting schedule (cough, Juan, cough).

To say nothing of the other four countries, this is just one of many examples of exceptionalism and entitlement on the part of the United States. Ever since the end of the Cold War, the leaders of the U.S. have casually ignored any international rules or agreements that do not serve their interests.

The most publicized of these are the Ottawa and Kyoto Treaties. The U.S. refused to ratify the former, which would prohibit the production, stockpiling, and use of anti-personnel landmines, because it undermined what military leaders saw as a core component of peacekeeping in Korea. America also snubbed he Kyoto Treaty, despite its overwhelming support by similarly industrialized nations, because it was seen as an economic detriment.

Even an unequivocal reprimand from the U.N. cannot deter the U.S. from pursuing its goals. During the invasion of Iraq, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has an awesome name, described the war as "illegal" as per the U.N. Charter. Over the course of the conflict, the U.S. blatantly wiped its big, imperialistic ass all over the Geneva Conventions through the use of extraordinary renditions.

In addition, the U.S. could easily be indicted for war crimes for its indiscriminate bombings runs that have inflicted collateral damage on hapless villages all over the Middle East. Then again, a subpoena from the International Court of Justice would mean little to the U.S., whose team of hardliner diplomats and lawyers have deftly avoided legal repercussions for decades.

For an organization intended to eradicate warfare, the U.N. has been little more than a mouthpiece and puppet for America's many and sometimes belligerent whims. When the U.S. needs to rally support for its policies, it uses its significant clout with the U.N. to gather coalitions; when the U.N. shows up with a demand or a treaty, the U.S. can often be found with its back turned, whistling nonchalantly in the corner with a finger in each ear.

That the U.N. was meant to foster multilateralism is nothing but a myth. As long as the United States is the organization's predominant financier and military backbone of its peacekeeping branch, the American agenda will always be at the forefront of international priorities.


  1. Enter Samuel Huntington in support:

    "Decisions made at the UN Security Council or in the International Monetary Fund that reflect the interests of the West are presented to the world as reflecting the desires of the world community. The very phrase "world community" has become the euphemeistic collective noun (replacing "the Free World") to give global legitimacy to the actions reflecting the interests of the United States and other Western powers. Through the IMF and other international economic institutions, the West promotes its economic interests and imposes on other nations the economic policies it thinks appropriate. In any poll of non-Western peoples, the IMF undoubtedly would...get an overwhelmingly unfavorable rating from just about everybody..."

  2. Now you have to ask yourself if you believe in the Dominance theory of International Relations or the Reciprocity theory. Judging by your arguments here, it seems you are a realist and a firm believer in the theory of unilateral dominance. I wonder if it would be also correct to assume you share Hobbes' view that human life is inherently brutish and thus decisions made by states in the IR are made with rational self-interest. But by assuming this position, you should have no problems with US exceptionalism because the US is the most powerful and influential country in the world; what we say goes. And that's the beauty of America. We can say one thing and turn around and do something completely different and no one can really do much about it. So who's fault is this really? Is it the US's fault for being so awesome, or is it the rest of the collective world who don't have the balls to do anything about it?