I reply to Les Hamilton’s opinion, “It is time to show our resilience. (Apalachicola Times Dec. 17, 2020) I am encouraged by Mr. Hamilton’s proposal to back away from American exceptionalism, as he calls for a change from America as the world’s top cop to a role for America as the world’s team captain. His excellent notion is flawed, however, because he seems to disfavor some of the team members.
Mr. Hamilton says that “the biggest external challenge we face is China and the competition it offers to the democratic model.” He does acknowledge the extraordinary achievements China has made in industrial growth and poverty reduction. American Cold War thinkers have consistently observed that socialist development models have been extraordinary successful; in response, they have reacted by doing everything in their power to destroy those models, militarily, economically, and psychologically (propaganda), ostensibly so other post-colonial nations do not get the idea that they could improve their people’s welfare.
Finally, we can back off this knee-jerk reaction to ideas that really do threaten the wealth and power of a tiny minority of the world’s citizens but improve the lives of the vast multitude. By allowing other countries to prosper according to their own needs and circumstances, not only would the world situation improve, but we could learn from the many lessons offered by the many experiments on offer.
A case in point is the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than learn from the efforts that China developed to contain and control the virus, we ignored Chinese effort and experience, choosing to disdain the virus and blame China instead. It is axiomatic that we cannot learn from enemies; therefore, we should cease creating enemies.
Finally, I object to Mr. Hamilton’s curious notion that “We have to counter Iran wherever and whenever possible.” Where does this idea come from? A little history is in order: the US CIA and the British MI6 successfully overthrew the Iranian government in 1953 because the Prime Minister, the democrat Mohammad Mosaddegh, was working to nationalize Iranian oil (owned by what became BP). After getting rid of Mosaddegh, they installed the Shah, who consolidated his power with almost three decades of torture, imprisonment, and general repression - one of the most brutal regimes in the world. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 sent the Shah packing.
Now, Iran with the Shah was a major link of the international fence containing the Soviet Union. The Shah himself was a dedicated ally. Removing Iran from America’s power weakened its posture. Washington was not happy. Then, Iranian students took over the American embassy, as much as from their anger at America’s coddling of the hated Shah as from the clear knowledge that people from the American embassy had given them the Shah in 1953. The American people were not happy.
So, rather than acknowledging a real offense against the Iranian people and accepting our responsibility, we adopt Mr. Hamilton’s attitude of countering Iran wherever and whenever. We need not do so.
This article originally appeared on The Apalachicola Times: Letters: From world's top cop to team captain