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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

rhetoric and reality « Previous | |Next »
August 24, 2005

Alan Moir tends to repeat himself with his representation of Australia's relationship with the US. He accurately depicts the power relationships between the two nation-states, but he does not capture the tensions or nuances in the relationship:


And there are tensions in the triangle between China, America and Australia: between China as a threat to the US as an empire and China as a trading partner for Australia.

These tensions are often overlaid by the conservative rhetoric of the deep anti-American feeling in Australia that is located on 'the left.'Then we are straight into the culture wars of bashing the left.

In his recent speech to the Australian American Leadership Dialogue Forum Treasurer Costello says that:

The history of the world is replete with powerful states and empires–Rome, the Ottomans, Great Britain. These were powers that ruled large areas of the globe, generally by force. There always has been and, in likelihood, always will be great powers---even hegemons. But if the world is to have a hegemon the modern United States is the kind of hegemon we would like to have--democratic, respectful of human rights, with strong and genuine belief in individual liberty.

Costello accepts the reality of political power in the world of nations, and he acknowledges that the US is the top global power. (the issue of the US aS hegemon or empire is still to be resolved). We can also agree with the Treasurer's claim that:
A stable international order which recognises these values is far preferable to one where great powers seek to extinguish these values, or to an unstable international order where these values cannot be guaranteed or enjoyed.

The issue of the rule of law is put to one side in terms of 'recognition.'

What needs to be put into question about Costello's speech is whether the US under the neo-cons around George Bush is an imperial power that is actually respectful of human rights with a strong and genuine belief in individual liberty. Does the conservative practice accord with the liberal rhetoric?

Actions speak louder than words here. Vietnam was an example of not respecting human rights; nor were the frequent interventions in Latin American to overthrow demcratically elected governments, such as Chile. Okay that was the past. Today we have the Abu Ghraib atrocities in Iraq on the road to democracy in Iraq. The actions do not accord with the words.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:41 PM | | Comments (4)


If I may, I'd like to appoint myself point-officer without portfolio from America, to asuage these growing Oz concerns over our rise to super-duper global dominator status. It's the pendulum thing again - and right now it's just GOT to be at its fullest swing right - I hope. (We love the Aussies up here, and my guess is we'd gladly sign up en masse to defend her if anything ever went awry with your neighbors.)

Yes, our current administration has done plenty to mangle our reputation worldwide, but most of us (OK, 51% of us) are holding our breath until we get another President. We're tired of being looked at as Imperialists - and some of us are actively investigating Australian immigration policies while reading books on your land, planning someday to vacate this stinking/sinking ship and start anew in the only real Land of Opportunity left on the globe. We hope by then that we don't have to disguise our origins, anti-Americanism having become so vehement in Oz by then that all of us are regarded negatively.

Seems to this commentator that Australia is what the US was many years ago. "Liberty and Justice for all" - and all that.

So - to answer the question: Yes, the US under the neo-cons is an Imperial power, with a marketing finger to the wind with regard to human rights and individual liberty.

Australia, under the Howard Government, has gone along with all the nasty things the US has done recently to undermine its commitment to a liberal internatinal order.
On the issue of anti-Americanism we need to be careful as to what is meant. Peter Costello, in the speech I linked to, asks:'What are the sources of anti-American feeling in Australia?' He says:

There has always been hostility from some on the left of politics towards America. These are people who believe capitalism is evil and that the United States is the home of capitalism. In their eyes the United States is the place where the evil of capitalism and exploitation is most at home, and not only at home, but at home base from which it is exported around the world. During the Cold War, Marxists and socialists of various types were ideologically or emotionally drawn to the communist side. Their side lost. This gave them even stronger reason to dislike America.

However, as he acknowledges, there are few of these leftovers from the Cold War alive and kicking:'Except for a few strongholds in University Faculties it would be rare to meet a real socialist today, or to hear a Marxist critique of capitalism.
Anti-Americanism for Costello is interpreted as anti-globalizaton:
Opponents of globalisation locate evil in the same place that their ideological soulmates from the days of the Cold War did. Left wing politics and its more recent variant-- anti-globalisation---operates in a fever of anti-Americanism.

That equation makes people opposed to a global world, rathe than oppsoed to the big corporate version of a global world.
Costello gives another source:of anti-Americanism
Outside of left-wing circles, there might be another reason for resentment towards the United States. This is a resentment about the level of US power. This might not be a particular objection to the economic or political system but resentment that its economy is so strong and its military reach so wide. In global terms the power of the United States is unrivalled. People are naturally suspicious of power.

That ignores the way the US has used its hegmonic power to do bad things. Costello is not willing to acknowledge that the US does bad things.


Forgive a Bible quote, please:

"The kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown wealthy from her excessive luxury...The merchants of the earth will also weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their merchandise any longer-- merchandise of gold, silver, precious stones, and pearls; fine fabrics of linen, purple, silk, and scarlet; all kinds of fragrant wood products; objects of ivory; objects of expensive wood, brass, iron, and marble; cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, and frankincense; wine, olive oil, fine wheat flour, and grain; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and human bodies and souls...All this will happen because your merchants were the nobility of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery..."

The point? The Jewish /Christian God is not a big fan of capitalism either, when it exploits the poor and makes a nation excessively rich.

In that regard, the left, unbeknownst to them in most cases, are actually on the side of the evangelical right's God, the same evangelical right that will tell you (and sell you) the glories of capitalism.

The "righteous anger" of the anti-globalists and anti-Americans has some parallels among esteemed company, it would seem.

nicely pointed out.

Peter Costello, Australia's esteemed Treasurer, does have a problem with his recent talk of Judaeo-Christian values being the foundation of the nation, and the Ten Commandments being the foundation of our law and society.

That would mean we are ruled by a jealous God of the Christian commandments if we make a craven image; those who covet their neighbour's wife or house are in deep trouble.

How he can get an invasion and occupation of Iraq is beyond me, given the 'Thou shalt not kill" commandment.

We have evangelical ministers---eg.,Danny Naklliah and Daniel Scot, pastors in the Catch the Fire Ministries---urging their flock to pull down mosques, temples and bottleships because they are Satan's strongholds and saying the Muslims plan to conquer Australia and off the heads of all who oppose them.

See here.

I notice that Peter Costello nor other Government ministers (eg., Brendan Nelson) have suggested that these pastors be deported. Tis only Muslims who should be deported.