Friday, June 30, 2006

The American Political Tradition: "Kinzer does not buy into the myth of an American Century in which the forces of freedom fought those of totalitarianism. His alternative version of that century, running from the 1890s to the present day, recounts the generally sorry record of US efforts to subvert and overthrow foreign governments that failed to meet with American approval. His new book catalogues fourteen such episodes, beginning with the 'revolution' concocted by wealthy American planters in 1893 to depose Hawaii's Queen Liliuokalani and culminating with George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq 110 years later."

"Overthrow makes it abundantly clear that far from being some innovation devised in the aftermath of 9/11, 'regime change' has long been a mainstay of American statecraft.

"When targeting some offending potentate for retirement, Kinzer notes, Washington has seldom if ever acted for altruistic reasons. 'Every time the United States has set out to overthrow a foreign government, its leaders have insisted that they are acting not to expand American power but to help people who are suffering.' In reality, however, the suffering of the oppressed has never figured as more than an afterthought. 'What distinguishes Americans from citizens of past empires,' writes Kinzer, 'is their eagerness to persuade themselves that they are acting out of humanitarian motives.' But Kinzer recognizes this as poppycock; like any great power, the United States has set its policy according to self-interest. Whether in Latin America, the Asia-Pacific or the Persian Gulf, the United States has seen regime change as a means for improving economic access, shoring up political stability and enhancing American control."

Its amazing the extent to which Americans, and even some non-Americans, are prepared to believe that the US 'acts out of humanitarian motives', and not self interest. The rules of human nature and history have been repealed, and suddenly, for the first time, in this one case alone, a power acts for humanitarian motives and not self-interest.

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