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Pushing their luck

Posted by Richard Monday, February 07, 2005

In recent months, China watchers have noted an alarming hardening of rhetoric from the Chinese government, with statements about the US redolent of the cold war emanating from the leadership.

Most recently, in December, there was an extraordinarily strident piece on the US resistance to the lifting of the EU’s arms embargo, published by the official English language newspaper, China Daily.

Now, the paper is using an American author, Michael Lind, Whitehead Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, the supposedly "centrist" US think-tank, to write a piece denouncing his own country.

Headed, "The new US century is over", Lind opens with Bush’s "second inaugural address" citing his declaration: "Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world."

Writes Lind, though, "the peoples of the world, however, do not seem to be listening. A new world order is indeed emerging - but its architecture is being drafted in Asia and Europe, at meetings to which Americans have not been invited."

Lind’s thesis is that trade blocs like Asean Plus Three (APT), which unites the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations with China, Japan and South Korea, and recent moves by South American countries to bolster an economic community represent a clear rejection of US aims to dominate a western-hemisphere free trade zone.

Added to that is:

...the EU's rapid progress toward military independence. American protests failed to prevent the EU establishing its own military planning agency, independent of the Nato alliance (and thus of Washington). Europe is building up its own rapid reaction force. And despite US resistance, the EU is developing Galileo, its own satellite network, which will break the monopoly of the US global positioning satellite system.
Lind notes that the participation of China in Europe's Galileo project has alarmed the US military, but "China shares an interest with other aspiring space powers in preventing American control of space for military and commercial uses." Even while collaborating with Europe on Galileo, he adds, China is partnering Brazil to launch satellites. And in an unprecedented move, China recently agreed to host Russian forces for joint Russo-Chinese military exercises.

This, Lind argues, means that "the US is being sidelined" even in the area that Mr Bush identified in last week's address as America's mission: the promotion of democracy and human rights. The EU, he says, has devoted far more resources to consolidating democracy in post-communist Europe than has the US. By contrast, under Mr Bush, the US hypocritically uses the promotion of democracy as the rationale for campaigns against states it opposes for strategic reasons.

Washington denounces tyranny in Iran but tolerates it in Pakistan. In Iraq, the goal of democratisation was invoked only after the invasion, which was justified earlier by claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was collaborating with al-Qaeda.
And so it continues:

Nor is American democracy a shining example to mankind. The present one-party rule in the US has been produced in part by the artificial redrawing of political districts to favour Republicans, reinforcing the domination of money in American politics. America's judges - many of whom will be appointed by Mr Bush - increasingly behave as partisan political activists in black robes. America's antiquated winner-take-all electoral system has been abandoned by most other democracies for more inclusive versions of proportional representation.
But the main theme that emerges is a tilt against US unilateralism, or "unipolarity". Lind concedes that the US remains the only country capable of projecting military power throughout the world, but that is "not preventing the rapid development of multipolarity in the geopolitical and economic arenas". Other "great powers" are content to let the US waste blood and treasure on its doomed attempt to recreate the post-first world war British imperium in the Middle East. Adds Lind:

That the rest of the world is building institutions and alliances that shut out the US should come as no surprise. The view that American leaders can be trusted to use a monopoly of military and economic power for the good of humanity has never been widely shared outside of the US. The trend toward multipolarity has probably been accelerated by the truculent unilateralism of the Bush administration, whose motto seems to be that of the Hollywood mogul: 'Include me out'."
Today, Lind claims, practically all new international institution-building of any long-term importance in global diplomacy and trade occurs without American participation.

He cites Madeleine Albright in 1998 , then US secretary of state, saying of the US: "We are the indispensable nation." But, he argues, the unilateralism of Mr Bush has proven her wrong. The US, it turns out, is a dispensable nation. Europe, China, Russia, Latin America and other regions and nations are quietly taking measures whose effect if not sole purpose will be to cut America down to size.

The bullying approach of the Bush administration has ensured that the US will not be invited to take part in designing the international architecture of Europe and Asia in the 21st century. This time, the US is absent at the creation.
There, it seems, speaks an authentic member of the Bien-Pensant Opinion Association, the central tenet of which is that anything president Bush – and by inference, the US – does must be wrong.

But this idea of a "unipolar" America really is getting out of hand. In Iraq, for instance, 35 countries, in addition to the United States, have contributed a total of approximately 22,000 troops to ongoing stability operations.

These are Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Thailand, the Philippines, Romania, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

There was also the ad hoc "core group" of the United States, Australia, India and Japan, that so effectively delivered aid to the tsunami affected areas, as well as other partnerships in aid delivery. And, in terms of trade associations, the list of agreements is too extensive to list on this Blog, but the geographical scale is huge. For instance, the US has separate free agreements countries as disparate as Singapore, Jordan, as well as NAFTA.

Then there is ongoing Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), a free trade agreement among 34 economies - all the countries of the Western Hemisphere with the exclusion of Cuba – which, when complete will be the largest regional integration ever between developed and developing countries.

There must be something seriously amiss when a US writer is given space in the journal of a totalitarian state to denounce his own country, and there is something odd when the rhetoric from the EU almost mirrors the Lind thesis. He, to say nothing of China, seem to be pushing their luck, and the EU is not far behind.