The United States’ rise to global power was something of a fluke (primarily to do with almost unbelievably favourable geo-political circumstances in the second half of World War Two) and it is a country with astonishing failings (not least around crime and health). As we enter 2016, however, we need to be clear about one thing: it is the best superpower available to us.
It is worrying and in fact dangerous how many people do not grasp this, not least the current leader of the Labour Party and his supporters. Countries which do not allow elections by secret ballot (I am not sure I could quite describe US elections as “free and fair”), which do not have an independent justice system, and which have opponents of the government regularly brutalised are not the sort of countries we should want influencing global affairs any more than is absolutely necessary. It is also worrying and dangerous how many people who claim to care about “human rights” do not seem to care about them in places like China and Russia when it comes to backing people who excuse those countries’ leaders’ behaviour.
Compared to the United States, we should be in no doubt that countries such as China and Russia, under their current regimes at least, are brutal, unenlightened backwaters. Their “success” depends on depriving their people even of basic rights. They are not, in any way whatsoever, a model to be admired or mimicked. It is worrying and dangerous that there are people who cannot instantly see this.
The United States – with its marginalisation of particular minorities, its militarised police services, its gerrymandered elections, its outrageous homicide rate, its incoherent foreign policy and its ludicrous healthcare system – is a hugely imperfect country. Its population remains, however, fundamentally free – a freedom which produces achievements in areas such as technology, science and media which quite possibly qualify as the greatest in the history of humankind and, most notably of all, are to the benefit of us all. The United States is therefore a vastly more reasonable and positive influence on global affairs than any of its rivals for global predominance. It is worrying and dangerous that some people seem not to be able to see that – because it is not to be risked for the alternative in any circumstances.
* I omit Europe from consideration in this article because there will be quite enough of that in 2016…!