How are our government's decision's decided? Is there a moral compass?
The governments of the most powerful countries in the world have always tried to use their power for their own interests. There are a wide range of methods used to benefit the ruling elite as well as the average person. The United States, Japan, Western Europe, etc. use their economic power to pressure other less prosperous countries to play by their rules in trade and commerce. This leaves smaller, weaker countries left at the mercy of stronger nations and they have to do what they’re told or they’ll be left out entirely. As much benefit as the Word Trade Organization and the World Bank have caused in the creation of wealth in nations across the world, they are essentially tools by the United States and other large prosperous nations. This is not inherently a bad thing and it is certainly beneficial to have a nation with relative political stability pulling the economic strings.
The downsides of this economic hegemony are the continuing crisis of food insecurity and poverty across the developing world. There is a reason that most people in Southeast Asia, South America, Africa, and the Middle East don’t take their government seriously. The World Bank, World Trade Organization, and International Monetary Fund have adopted neo-liberalism as their economic doctrine and we are now seeing the effects.
The Philippines is a case in point. It has been a patron state of the United States for over a century now. The pretty much stable democracy and civil institutions in the Philippine are definitely a good legacy of American colonialism but the economic reality is far from peachy. The Filipino people have hardly any control over their economy partially because of the strings attached to their loans from the International Monetary Fund, and the weakness of Filipino politicians to really confront the US government on trade and economic issues. The Philippines has become a great case study for the effects of neo-liberal doctrine taken to its fullest extent. Filipino politicians are pretty much lap dogs to big business interests both foreign and domestic, and corruption and cronyism is now embedded into the system. The end result is that the Philippine government and the development of the economy only disproportionately benefit the top echelons of society while the vast majority of the Filipino people still struggle to get by. This appears to be the end result of neo-liberalism.
Economic issues do have a direct influence, positive and negative, on people’s lives but more drastic foreign policy initiatives can have a much larger impact. The war in Iraq should still be fresh in people’s minds and at this point it should be pretty clear that the war was sold the US public with the lie that the Iraqis had weapons of mass-destruction (WMD). So we didn’t discover any WMDs and nowadays American and European oil companies have open access to one of the largest oil reserves in the world but this is clearly a coincidence of the invasion, and was by no means a goal of the Bush administration. There’s no reason to single out George Bush or the Republican Party in general for American hawkish foreign policy. Bill Clinton and Obama have waged their own wars and authorized extra-judicial killings around the world. It’s not really about Republicans or Democrats, but instead has to do with dynamics of geopolitics.
Why would the French support the Hutu lead government of Rwanda while they were committing genocide against the Tutsi population? The history of the genocide of Rwanda is complex and hard to understand but the French position was pretty simple: the Hutu lead government was French speaking and thus friendlier to France and the rebel Tutsi movement was connected to English speaking Uganda. How can a government justify aiding and abetting those that were committing genocide? Sarkozy did however make an effort to repair relations with Kagame’s government in Rwanda.
There is also the case where the United States and Great Britain supported the Khmer Rouge as they fought the Vietnamese army that invaded Cambodia to oust Pol Pot’s terrible regime. The US government held a grudge about the Vietnam War and so overlooked the fact that the Khmer Rouge committed mass atrocities to innocent people. Where is the morality there?
The United States is also the home of the notorious School of the Americas which trains young military cadets from Central and South America. There have been numerous cases where graduates of this military academy have committed crimes against mankind in Central and South America and even set up oppressive regimes. Manuel Noriega was trained in Georgia at the infamous academy, and then found himself later imprisoned not too far away in Florida when the political climate changed and it became apparent just how objectionable he was. You’d think this kind of incident would be an embarrassment to the United States government but it is hardly reported by the media and the School of Americas is still up and running, training more soldiers. It is of course only a coincidence that the graduates of this school are usually very friendly to the United States if they ascertain a position of power or influence.
Why do the governments of powerful nations commit these kinds of crimes and seem to get away completely unpunished? Why is the more than half of the world living in a state of exploitation? The answer lies in the amorality of power and geopolitics. Amorality is different from immorality. Amorality is lack of morals while immorality is just evil. If there is a power vacuum then something must take its place and when there is room for abuse, well, it is not overlooked. This issue has nothing to do with culture, race, or ethnicity but has everything to do with money and power. The US, French, Russia, UK, etc. governments are not evil, but power has corrupted whatever idealism initially existed. Next time you hear a world leader or politician speak about “spreading freedom and democracy” or other platitudes, recognize it for what it is: bullshit.
As citizens and human beings we have to be able to think for ourselves. Without actively challenging our leaders we will be inevitably complicit in something evil and then we may cross the threshold into immorality.
“Evil comes from a failure to think. It defies thought for as soon as thought tries to engage itself with evil it is frustrated because it finds nothing there. That is the banality of evil.”
Hannah Arendt, “ Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.”
By Hannah Arendt
This is the book of Hannah Arendt where the quote above was taken. She witnessed the trial of the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem.
By Jason Stearns
This is a good book about the Rwanda genocide and the subsequent civil war in the Congo.