The cost of exceptionalism

How American ethnocentrism has shaped its foreign policy

The world’s leading superpower since World War 2, the USA has long been guided by its sense of exceptionalism, having a profound impact in shaping the modern geopolitical landscape. By imposing its values and norms on other countries in the form of military interventions, foreign policy decisions, economic globalization and human rights issues, it has left an indelible mark on the global community. It is essential to understand how this perspective has shaped the world we live in today and the ramifications it continues to have for the future.

The USA has militarily intervened in many countries around the world, often under the garb of democracy and freedom. However, these interventions have been criticized for being based on ethnocentric attitudes and for being driven by US interests rather than a genuine concern for the welfare of the people of the country in question.

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In 1953, The USA, along with the UK, orchestrated a coup d’état to overthrow Mohammad Mossadegh, known as Operation Ajax. Mossadegh has nationalized Iran’s oil industry, which was previously controlled by British and American companies. Mosssadegh’s government had also implemented a number of policies that were seen as a threat to US and British interests in the region, such as the expropriation of British-owned assets, the termination of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s oil concession, and the introduction of land reform.

In return, the USA’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) provided funding, logistical support, and propaganda to opposition groups in Iran, and British intelligence helped to organize and train the Iranian military to carry out the coup. The USA’s actions in the ousting of Mossadegh were heavily influenced by its ethnocentric perspective, which saw Mossadegh as a threat to US interests in the region and prioritized the protection of those interests over the rights and aspirations of the Iranian people. This involvement in the coup d’état was a significant factor in the fall of Mossadegh and the rise of the Shah’s regime.

The USA  had a close relationship with the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was a strong ally and a key player in the region. The USA provided the Shah with significant military and economic aid and supported his regime, even as widespread protests and civil unrest began to grow in Iran. This support helped to prolong the Shah’s regime, which was marked by repression, corruption, and lack of political freedom which ultimately led to the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

The USA also played a notable role in the eight-year war between Iraq and Iran, which lasted from 1980 to 1988, and its actions were heavily influenced by its parochial outlook. The new Islamic Republic was viewed as a threat to US interests in the region. The USA saw Iraq as a bulwark against the spread of Iranian-style revolution and provided Iraq with significant military and economic aid throughout the war. This included providing Iraq with intelligence, military equipment, and even chemical weapons, which Iraq used during the war. The USA also provided Iraq with political support, blocking UN resolutions that condemned Iraq’s actions and even vetoed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire. Additionally, the US Navy and Air Force provided escort and protection to Kuwaiti oil tankers and even reflagged them as US ships under protection of the US Navy.

On the flipside, The USA also provided support to Iran, in the form of arms and intelligence through a secret arms-for-hostages deal, known as the Iran-Contra affair, during the war in an effort to prolong the war and weaken both sides, destabilizing the region for years to come. Coupled with sanctions, this ultimately resulted in a devastating conflict that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and significant damage to both countries’ infrastructure and economies.

The USA’s geopolitical actions have been heavily motivated by its ethnocentric attitude. It has consistently supported its allies, often at the expense of the rights and aspirations of the people of the region, using its military and economic power to further its interests in the region; even if it meant supporting dictators, orchestrating coups and violating the sovereignty of nations. Furthermore, it has been a biased mediator in peace negotiations and has used its veto power in the UN to block resolutions critical of its allies. These actions have contributed to the continuation of conflicts, the violation of human rights and the destabilization of the region. It’s important to understand these actions and the underlying motivations behind them, to be able to critically analyze US foreign policy and its impact on the world.

The US has often promoted democracy and human rights selectively, supporting them in some countries while ignoring or opposing them in others. This has been driven by the belief that democracy and human rights are US values and that other countries should adopt them, but only if it aligns with US  interests.

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One example of the USA’s ethnocentric attitude in its foreign policy and nitpicking human rights issues is its long standing support for Israel in the Palestine-Israel conflict. The USA has consistently supported the Israeli government’s actions, often at the expense of Palestinian rights and freedom. This support has been reflected in the use of its veto power in the UN to block resolutions critical of Israel, and its militarily and financially backing Israel. This attitude is driven by the belief that Israel is an important ally of the USA and that its interests and security should be prioritized over the rights of the Palestinian people.

The USA has also played a substantial role in the peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine. The USA has often been the mediator in these negotiations, but its actions have been heavily biased in favour of Israel. It even recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2018 under the Trump Administration, a move that was heavily opposed by the international community as it undermines the peace process and the rights of the Palestinian people on the city.

Furthermore, the USA also financially backed Israel to support settlements and other activities that violate the rights of Palestinians. Although the USA has also provided economic aid to the Palestinian Authority, it has often been viewed as conditional and as a tool of leverage to pressure the Palestinian leadership to make concessions to Israel. This is a clear example of how the USA’s ethnocentric perspective has shaped its foreign policy.

The USA’s geopolitical actions have been heavily motivated by its ethnocentric attitude. It has consistently supported its allies, often at the expense of the rights and aspirations of the people of the region, using its military and economic power to further its interests in the region; even if it meant supporting dictators, orchestrating coups and violating the sovereignty of nations. Furthermore, it has been a biased mediator in peace negotiations and has used its veto power in the UN to block resolutions critical of its allies. These actions have contributed to the continuation of conflicts, the violation of human rights and the destabilization of the region. It’s important to understand these actions and the underlying motivations behind them, to be able to critically analyze US foreign policy and its impact on the world.

The price of American exceptionalism, a mask for arrogance and imperialism, has been too high for the world. It’s time for the US to chart a new course that prioritizes humility, cooperation and mutual understanding for the sake of a more just and peaceful world.

Mohammad Jamal Ahmed
Mohammad Jamal Ahmed
The writer is a freelance columnist

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