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US double standards undermine its moกอง เชียร์ แมน ยูral integrity

rm efforts | กอง เชียร์ แมน ยู | Updated: 2024-07-19 19:18:07

Americans like to think of their country as a world leader, a beacon of democracy and a model for other countries to emulate. To set itself on a pedestal in this way, a country needs to earn international respect. This requires integrity, principles and consistency.

I was brought up to believe these were indeed American characteristics, as personified by Hollywood's upright heroes played by the likes of John Wayne. I still believe that most Americans aspire to such qualities. In the world of United States politics, however, these qualities no longer seem quite so obvious. Double standards now appear to be the new normal.

This issue is highlighted in the widely circulated Twitter/X comments of three US senators on the student protests in Hong Kong in 2019 and the student protests in the US this year. The marked contrast in their stance toward the two protests is illustrated by the following extracts from Senator Tom Cotton's posts.

"Hong Kong's authorities have turned a place of higher learning into a place of violence by trapping student demonstrators on their own campus," he wrote in 2019.

This year, referring to the student protests in the US, Senator Cotton wrote: "If the campus police can't do it, the schools should bring in local police. If the local police can't do it, then yes — the National Guard should restore law and order."

These contrasting attitudes may seem bewildering, especially when recalling the violence of the Hong Kong protests compared with the much more peaceful American ones. Clearly, very different standards are being used to determine what is acceptable at home and abroad.

Another example is Washington's condemnation of Hong Kong's new security laws, despite US laws being remarkably similar, and at times more stringent.

Double standards are also apparent in the US' approach to espionage. The US government frequently expresses its outrage at attempts by "malicious actors", usually referencing China, to spy on the US. However, this is never tempered by the fact that the US is itself a world leader in espionage. The CIA is probably the world's most sophisticated spying machine. Of course, the US government calls its work "intelligence gathering", but this is merely a euphemism for exactly the sort of espionage activities it condemns in other countries.

Such double standards exist in the US' approach to military expenditure as well. The US military-industrial complex has been at the heart of American policy since the end of World War II. In 1961, then US president Dwight D. Eisenhower used the term to warn US citizens about the dangerous relationship between the country's military and the arms industry. He saw this pairing as a vested interest that exerted a dominant influence on policy.

In a perceptive and statesmanlike speech, Eisenhower warned: "We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence … by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist."

Sadly, his warning went unheeded, as is evident in the Pentagon's 2023 report comparing China's defense budget of $230 billion with the US' $889 billion. Yet the US persists in portraying China, rather than itself, as a threat to peace. The double standards here are based on the clearly false premise that China's military spending is offensive, whereas American spending is purely defensive.

The hypocrisy of the US stance on military spending is also exemplified by its current criticism of China's exports to Russia. According to US sources, these are nonmilitary exports such as microelectronics and telecommunications gear, but are still portrayed as helping Russia in its war with Ukraine. However, these exports are dwarfed by the direct military aid worth billions of dollars that the US is pumping into Ukraine, rather than trying to broker peace.

Similarly, the US is sending billions in aid to the Israeli military in support of its war in Gaza. To condemn China's nonmilitary exports to Russia while simultaneously exporting military equipment to both Ukraine and Israel is pure hypocrisy.

It's a similar story with the US' geopolitical approach to security. Its own security is protected by the 1823 Monroe Doctrine, which permits no foreign interference in the Western Hemisphere. Notably, this doctrine was invoked during the 1962 Cuban crisis, when Soviet missiles based in Cuba were regarded as unacceptable provocation. After a tense standoff, the missiles were removed and the US' right to maintain the Western Hemisphere as its own distinct sphere of influence was reinforced.

This may seem a perfectly reasonable security stance, until you reflect on the US' policy toward other countries wishing to protect their own geopolitical security.

Despite verbal assurances given to the Soviet Union shortly before its breakup in 1991, the US has supported the encroachment of NATO into Eastern Europe, effectively removing the buffer zone that had previously eased Russian security concerns.

Similarly, the US has insisted on undertaking warship exercises in the South China Sea, seemingly oblivious to the fact that any reciprocal action by China in the Caribbean would be seen as hostile provocation.

For a country as powerful as the US, it may seem baffling why its government demonstrates such double standards. It condemns other countries for acting exactly as America acts — arresting protesters, enacting security legislation, conducting espionage, spending on the military, trading with countries at war, and trying to preserve geopolitical security.

Such blatant double standards should concern all fair-minded people in the US. They certainly undermine American moral authority in the world. Yet this obvious truth doesn't seem to register in Washington. Its "do as I say, not do as I do" approach to international affairs is the antithesis of good leadership. The world and the American people deserve better.

The author is a British historian and former principal of Sha Tin College, an international secondary school in Hong Kong.

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