Everyone thinks that it was a wonderful gift to Europe that America entered World War II. And, yes, it was. It was a much needed boost at a dim time for the Allies. Of course, the US had already been supplying the Allies with arms and materials for the duration of the war, so they had an important involvement all the way through. But it wasn’t an altruistic venture at all. Big business in America (and America itself) has often profited from the wars it has been involved in.
What most people don’t know, for example, is that America’s assistance of the Allies didn’t come for free. In fact, America charged England one billion pounds (Â£ 50 billion in today’s money) for their involvement – and amount loaned to the UK. And interestingly enough, on the 60th anniversary of VE day, England is about to make its final repayment (of Â£ 40 million, I believe) to finally settle the account. This payment is due before the end of July this year. The US has never once even considered writing off any of this loan or reducing the repayments required. Sure, charge something for your services, but surely there came a time in the past 60 years when it would have been a good gesture to write off the remainder of the loan?
America also benefited hugely during World War II, by stripping every single German-owned company of their patents and copyright protection. In most cases, the patents owned by German companies in the US were taken by the US government (rather than being made public property). Under the guise of war time rules, they flagrantly ignored international protocol and just did their own thing! This is a trend that is endemic in US history. Right now, foreign nationals sit languishing in Guantanamo Bay holding cells – having never been charged with any crime, with limited access to judicial process, and caught in the limbo of a farcical and made up status of “enemy combatant” (a category that has no international standing or status).
America refuses to be part of this planet. For most of the past half century it has been the dominant country on earth. But instead of using its position to enhance the planet, it has steadfastly focused its myopic gaze on limited self interest, while at the same time fooling itself that its own brand of culture and capitalism (lately wrapped in the disguise of “freedom and liberty for all”) is good for everyone on the planet, and that everyone is desperate to get it.
That’s just not true. For example, Europeans are aware that these systems provide better primary education, more job security and a more generous social net than America’s. They are willing to pay higher taxes and submits to regulation in order to bolster their quality of life. Americans work far longer hours than Europeans to, for instance. But they are not necessarily more productive – not happier, period is they are in household data, without the time (or money) available to Europeans for vacation and international travel (for some more details on this particular point, see Newsweeks’ “Dream on, America” – premuim access on Newsweek site required). And that’s not to mention the many Muslims around the world who want nothing at all to do with the United States.
America is its own worst enemy in this regard, failing almost completely to connect with the international community. It is the classic example of a bully boy, and the rest of the community feels the need to keep it in its place. America could change all of this with a change in attitude, but it would need a big one. For example, here is a list of major international treaties not recognised by the United States of America:
- Convention on Discrimination Against Women
- Convention on the Rights of the Child
- Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights
- Kyoto Protocol
- Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty
- Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty
- Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
- Chemical Weapons Convention
- Land Mine Ban Treaty
- International Criminal Court
In the connection economy, you cannot get away with that type of arrogance. Not in the long run, anyway.