Zhu Yuan

US should put its own house in order

Updated: 2011-06-22 07:54

By Zhu Yuan (China Daily)

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If the "sacred trinity" of US military power, the Pentagon's global footprint and US' penchant for intervention, described by Andrew J. Bacevich in his book Washington Rules is directly behind the US' military interventions in other countries during the past decades, the US' missionary credo that the United States has an obligation to spread its values to every part of the world by whatever means necessary, is, I believe, at the root of all the problems the world's sole superpower has with other countries.

Arrogance is the word that is most frequently used when the US is criticized for the unilateralism it favors in almost all world affairs. Behind this is the widespread belief fostered among the US people that they've been mandated by their God to lead, save, liberate and ultimately transform the world.

This deep-rooted belief explains why very few US papers questioned the rationale behind the US' involvement in the military action against Libya. Instead, most discuss to what extent the US military should intervene in the war and whether it should send in ground forces. Most US citizens seem to take it for granted that what their government is doing must be right if it is in the name of democracy and freedom. What is in question is only the way it should be done.

What I want to point out is the discrepancy between what the US as a country regards as its international obligations and the way the US people lead their lives, which lays bear the hypocrisy of its mission.

The US is the world's largest consumer in absolute terms. Of a list of 20 major traded commodities, it takes the greatest share of 11 of them: corn, coffee, copper, lead, zinc, tin, aluminum, rubber, oil seeds, oil and natural gas and it is the largest per capita consumer for many more.

A typical example is meat. China, with the world's largest population, is the highest overall producer and consumer of meat, but the highest per-capita consumption is that of the US. The average US citizen consumes more than three times the global average of 37 kilos per person a year.

As far as its financial policy is concerned, the US is borrowing money from the world to meet its people's demand for almost everything, a per capita demand that is several times the world's average.

When it comes to climate change, the US was the largest carbon dioxide emitter until recently and is still the largest in terms of per capita emissions.

If people all over the world were to consume as much as their US counterparts do, the world's resources would very soon be depleted and climate change would likely be devastating.

If, as so many in the US believe, they are commissioned to save, liberate and transform the world and make the planet a better place to live, they should also reflect on their own way of life and make adjustments in favor of sustainable development.

What is worse is the conde-scending manner in which the US communicates with the rest of the world. With its self-proclaimed mandate of divine sanction for its actions and its status as the world's most powerful military power, it just assumes that its values are universal and whatever means it employs to spread them - conspiracy to overthrow a sovereign government or launching of a war to bring down a regime - can be justified even with lies. (The weapons of mass destruction used as the primary reason for the US' war against Iraq soon proved non-existent.)

Apparently, the fundamental principle for justice championed by the US, that "all men are created equal", only applies to the residents of its own country (and then not to all). It is obviously against this principle for the US to send troops to a sovereign country without consent from the people of that country.

On this matter, the combination of its own values and the traditional values of Chinese culture should provide the US with a mirror in which to see the contradictions between evangelizing its values with military force and maintaining a way of life that is detrimental to the overall sustainability of the planet and the condescending manner it communicates with the rest of the world.

The Chinese sage Confucius stressed constant reflection on what one has said or done to make sure they conform to those of a man of moral integrity.

The US as a nation needs to reflect on the values of other cultures and adapt those of its own so it fosters harmonious coexistence with others and nature.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily. E-mail:

(China Daily 06/22/2011 page8)


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