The "indispensable nation" is still spreading authoritarianism around the world.
This was a really interesting piece, Kate. I've been wondering a lot lately about the "denialism" you mentioned. I do think there's something to be said for the fact that US citizens like me can only (directly, anyway) influence policy of the US itself.
Given the fact that we all have a finite amount of time and mental energy, it's not surprising that a lot of people on the left default to denialism on various issues. I don't think it's good by any means, but it seems inevitable that it would arise as a heuristic when even a single issue, like Xinjiang, is too complicated for a lot of people to keep on top of during their lunch breaks.
I wish there were specific pressure points people could use to prevent the US government from maintaining these counter-productive, reductionist policies. Like an international relations version of voting rights legislation-- which I think is always a good thing with even more cascading benefits. Instead, we're limited to voting on candidates who might be "strong on China," but "weak on Iran," or vise versa, or just varying degrees of "strong on China" without any indication of how that rhetoric actually manifests in the real world.
Excellent work. I think the core challenge is that the the United States' incentive structure is fully weighted toward short term competition over long-term cooperation. Why would the US set up long-term cooperative structures that may undermine its dominance when it can compete and dominate NOW with its military might and economic power? This a classic game theory problem and it's incredible difficult to imagine how to alter those material incentives.
On a moral level I think the problem is that this incentive structure results in treating other states (and, by extension, the REAL PEOPLE living within those states) in a purely instrumental way. Regardless of the diplomatic gloss applied to any situation, the US sees, understands, and treats other countries and people PURELY as means to its own ends. The US absolutely DOES NOT CARE about the people of Haiti or China or Yemen or Iraq. It does not care whatsoever. The US ONLY cares about reifying, perpetuating, and expanding its status quo global dominance (economically, militarily, etc.) and if that means the people of Haiti/China/Iran suffer forever then so be it.
To broaden out, I would argue that this is the basis for all empires throughout time: they are deeply incentivized to (1) dominate and maintain hegemony in the short-term and (2) treat all other states and peoples as purely instrumental means to their own ends.
This is fantastic! Excellent work.
I'm curious, what role do you think the US media plays in driving the "there can only be one winner" narrative? It there was a president without interest in stoking international tensions, do you think MSM would still push that story to the public?