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Moral America more potent on the world stage

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Allan Jacob (Opinion Editor)  :
America's real or perceived withdrawal from the world has been met with shock by its estranged allies in Europe amid quiet acceptance by some partners in the Middle East. There is also derision by its foes who are elated by the recent muscularity shown by Russia and China. Ideologically, those on the Left, or the red of the political spectrum, who have made it their life's mission to rail against American hegemony and modern capitalistic imperialism should be pleased as a punch at the new order taking shape under Moscow and Beijing. Or are they? Should they be elated when the very existence of humanity is at stake as the lone star of liberalism backs off and cedes powers to others who are morally bankrupt? I am not saying here that other counties cannot replace the US. All that I am trying to get across is that America is the only country that questions itself about its history, laughs at its follies, brushes off its foibles while moving on with friend and foe.
Many believe the Russians and Chinese have it in them to provide the values-based leadership that the United States once provided to the world, or is still providing, albeit in a smaller measure. Indeed, the US was and remains a great power - a superpower. What it did with that power was what mattered and made a difference to billions across generations and geographies. They say that with great power comes great responsibility, and Washington used that power wisely in most cases, though it got carried away in many instances when it abused its position atop the world order - from plotting regime-change in Latin America, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq in recent times.
One may love the US or hate it, but what cannot be ignored is the fact that the US has been a moral power for much of its existence. This has been clear from the pages of history when chaos enveloped civilisation, and threatened its very existence whenever the US retreated from its pre-eminent position globally. The two great wars in modern history are cases in point. The United States went into a shell for brief periods in the early and mid-1900s and fascism took hold. The balance of power was restored only when the US returned stronger.
Not many know that America First was a phrase coined by president Woodrow Wilson in 1916 at the Democratic party's national convention during the height of World War I. Current President Donald Trump is merely finding inspiration from history or could be merely hijacking it for the sake of rhetoric that suits his agenda. Depends on which way one looks at it. With Wilson as president, America stayed away from the war for three years from 1914-1917. America First back then meant the US would be neutral and provide support to the war effort of its European allies against Germany.
When Germany upped their submarine warfare which claimed American lives, Wilson decided it was time to act. "Property can be paid for; the lives of peaceful and innocent people cannot be. The present German submarine warfare against commerce is a warfare against mankind," he said in a speech that signalled the active entry of America into the war that saw the German war machine being crushed in 1919. The League of Nations was set up, but America stayed out and Britain, France and other European victors of the war made it hard on Germany with hefty reparations that broke the back of the economy. That humiliation led to the rise of the far-right Nazis and Hitler. Again, it was America that swung the tide that landed the killer blow to end the war. The defeat of the Axis powers culminated in the horrible nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. What emerged was the liberal West and dictatorial communist East under the Russian sphere of influence. Are modern day liberals listening?
So liberal is a much abused word these days, a grey area that is the source of much confusion. And this confusion in minds about the clash of civilisations could lead to a greater war if we fail to rein in our criticism of America. That could get me into trouble from those who despise Trump. I am a covert Americophile, you see. I love America for what it stands for and espouses - unchained liberty, free speech and thought, universal values, civil action - a dream democracy practised by diverse people who are unafraid to laugh at themselves. America as an ideal (of democracy) introspects on past flaws. That's why millions rush to its shores past the breakers across the Atlantic while others clamber over walls and seek comfort and solace in its embrace.
Meanwhile, the world is quick to brand US President Donald Trump as an illiberal (which he might be). His style of international outreach (or exit) as in the case of Syria has been slammed by people who preach some inexplicable, Quixotic virtue. Those who upbraided the United States once as an occupying force in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan at the behest of allies are now aghast at what Trump is doing. He wants to be neutral like Wilson but an industry that spawns wars will have nothing of it. Other powers are waiting in the wings to take over from America, they tell us. But how, is the question? Only America can provide the 'moral diplomacy' that president Woodrow Wilson had perfected. Trump may be taking America back to that neutrality in his inimitable yet brash style. What's wrong with that? Perhaps we need to brush up our morals on wars and violence.
Courtesy: khaleejtimes.com

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