Recently, the phrase US President Joe Biden used during his June trip to Europe, “America is back”, has, it would seem, become one of the most popular topics of world-wide discussions and conversations. So what did the US come back to?
In an opinion piece published by The New York Times on June 23, 2021, the author expounds on his theory that the United States is lagging behind other nations in terms of “well-being at home and competitiveness abroad” and supports it with concrete examples. In his view, the country is in fact “sliding toward mediocrity”. For instance, “high school graduation rates” are higher in Greece than in the US, and Chileans live longer than Americans do. In addition, “one-fifth of 15-year-olds” in the United States can not read “at the level expected of a 10-year-old”. Fifteen-year-old teenagers “in Russia, Poland Latvia and many other countries” are better at Maths than their American counterparts. In fact, the latter could be treated as a metric “for where nations will stand in a generation or two”.
Readers of The New York Times note that as children, Americans are taught to believe “the United States is the premier nation of the world”. But “each year, a few more layers of the facade peel away”. The 73-year-old Linda In WV openly expresses her doubts about whether her homeland could be viewed as superior to other nations. In fact, she admits that “each passing year brings a deeper awareness of all the lies” the United States is built on. Linda In WV also opines that “money is power in the USA” as “money buys power” and “truth is optional”. Another reader, Kathy, writes that hyperindividualism in the United States helps create “perfect conditions for billionaires” but does not “make for a healthy or desirable society for the average person”. In his or her comments on the article, Ira Shorr states that USA’s huge military budget “is not a strength” and that the “Pentagon’s spending is so out of control it cannot even be audited”.
As if in response to the views expressed by readers of The New York Times opinion piece, activists and US representatives “launched a visionary resolution,” as reported by Newsweek, to end poverty across the United States by redirecting “spending away from the Pentagon and toward human needs”. According to the article, “experts have identified up to $350 billion in defense spending cuts that would both save resources and keep the country safe and secure,” and these funds could then be spent on social services, health care, etc. For instance, $50 billion that will be saved “by withdrawing from Afghanistan” could permanently end homelessness. In addition, such changes in spending will “reduce the harm caused by US military aggression globally”. The reports also states that “United States’ wars since 2001 have killed more than 800,000 people and displaced 37 million”. What is more, “almost 38,000 veterans” in the US are homeless. “That’s what we mean when we say poverty is a policy choice,” says one supporter of the resolution.
In 2021, according to the IMD (International Institute for Management Development based in Lausanne) World Competitiveness rating, the United States took 10th place among 64 other nations. “A similar forward-looking study from the World Bank” ranked the United States No. 35 out of 174 countries. “America’s chronic failure to turn its economic strength into social progress is a huge drag on American influence,” said Michael Green, the CEO of Social Progress Imperative that publishes the Social Progress Index.
A June 20 article in the American magazine National Review opines that for a number of years now, “the US government, the think-tank community, and academics working in the field of international relations have been refocusing on the resurgence of great-power competition”. Its author says “the liberal institutionalism that has dominated the strategic thought of the past three decades and drained American power on misconstrued projects and wars in secondary theaters is still wafting in the air”. And in the meantime, “Russia regained its footing, modernized its military and set about revising the post–Cold War” order in Eurasia. In addition, globalists “facilitated a 900 percent GDP growth of the People’s Republic of China in just 30 years” while USA’s industrial power has been depleted and “society destabilized”.
According to the latest study by the Eurasia Group Foundation, the United States and its democracy are not always viewed favorably around the world, especially in developed nations. Its results, reported in a May 20 article in Newsweek, indicated that “only 18 percent of Germans” thought the USA used its influence to good effect in Europe. Twenty eight % of Japanese held US “influence in high regard” while over 77% of Indians and 66 % of Nigerians felt the same. In conclusion, its author stated that it would be far better if such surveys could “provide a little more clarity and context as support for realism and restraint within US foreign policy circles”.
On May 5, 2021, UK’s The Guardian published an article with the following title “US seen as bigger threat to democracy than Russia or China, global poll finds”. Nearly half of 50,000 respondents surveyed in 53 countries were concerned that the US threatened “democracy in their country”. Far fewer of them thought this way about the PRC and Russia. According to the poll, since the previous year, “the perception of US influence as a threat to democracy around the world” increased significantly, “from a net opinion of +6 to a net opinion of +14”. The rise “was especially high in Germany (+20) and China (+16)”. The report also stated that the countries where inhabitants were “still overwhelmingly negative about US influence” happened to be Russia and China, followed by European democracies.
Over the years, US government’s human rights efforts essentially amounted to issuing criticism about violations thereof in other nations. In order to reach its political, economic and security-related objectives, American officials have a habit of imposing unilateral sanctions against other countries for all kinds of reasons, on the pretext that human rights trump sovereignty. At the same time, US administrations use human rights among others as an excuse to incite interracial violence and conflicts between nations.
During the 46th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (from February 22 to March 24, 2021), Universal Periodic Review Working Group outcome reports were adopted, and 347 recommendations aimed at improving the human rights situation in the United States were made. An increasing number of people are coming to the conclusion that the world order can not be imposed by a handful of leaders. It is no longer acceptable to interfere in internal affairs of other nations by focusing on human rights violations that may or may not have occurred within their borders. At the aforementioned session, Cuba delivered a statement on behalf of 64 countries that began “by expressing strong opposition to the politicization of human rights and double standards”.
According to a March 23 article published by RIA Novosti, Russian senator Aleksey Pushkov thinks that the Biden administration wishes to bring back US hegemony but its members do not know how to achieve this goal. The official reminded his readers that the US leadership carried out air strikes against Syria; insulted Vladimir Putin without good cause, and tried to intimidate Iran. Hence, in his opinion expressed on the Telegram channel, Joe Biden and his team appear to act on impulse.
The current US President’s motto “America is back and ready to lead the world” may prove to be just as meaningless as “America first”. The former supposedly shows that the United States is prepared to once again take on the role that it had after World War II ended but it has not played in the last 20 years or so, i.e. since the G20 was established. Its leadership was further eroded by disastrous outcomes of neoliberal globalization efforts spearheaded by the United States; the formation of BRICS, and Russia’s and China’s growing roles on the global stage. The latter motto (“America first”) reflected a policy shift, i.e. an attempt to focus on domestic issues and disagreements. Still, its impact was felt abroad for the most part, especially in the PRC. Unfortunately, both slogans seem dated as neither of them takes into account the current world order with its balance of powers. And at present, the US leadership has to deal with quite a number of challenges as soon as possible that include restoring faith in democracy, bridging the gap between the rich and poor and containing the pandemic.
Valery Kulikov, political expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.