The USA is one of the world's 200 countries.
The USA is an influential country that is loved by most of its population and many around the world. It is also a country that is loathed and hated by large sections of the planet. As one of the world's 200 countries the USA has its great points, its good points, its bad points and its terrible points. It is a typical country, in that respect. Let us examine these points closely.
This is a personal view from outside the USA.
Great Things About the USA
Science and Technology are superb in the USA, probably better than anywhere else in the world and on a par with Europe at its best. The freedom that allows information to pass unhindered is the main reason for this. Another is the huge amounts of money put into laboratories and into education. Most of the world's great living scientists are in the USA. Of course, the USA has been known to assimilate people so that great German, Czech or Russian scientists are given USA citizenship and the credit for any discoveries they make then goes to the USA.
The USA and its scientists has made great contributions to astronomy, chemistry, physics and biolotechnology. Not all of this is used for the good of humanity in general but the contribution can only be praised.
The right to Freedom of Information in the USA is one of its great strengths - and it works. In this, the USA is better than most places in Europe or elsewhere. Even the highest levels of government can be brought to account. This is true in theory but, in practice, some miscreants have been pardoned by incoming presidents and escaped punishment.
The Freedom of Speech is a right that is ingrained in the country. Generally you are allowed to say what you like in the USA. On a practical level, not everybody owns media outlets, so the views of a rich and powerful elite predominate. Also there are periods in USA history (the McCarthy era and post September 11th) where speaking out against the establishment leads to a loss of job or worse.
The presence of a Constitution in the USA and the Supreme Court to ensure that laws are not passed that violate this constitution is a great political idea. This generally works well except that Supreme Court judges can be appointed by the ruling party.
Good Things About the USA
Here we have much to chose from. The USA Film Industry has produced some of the world's classic movies. USA Music is played and loved around the world (especially rock, jazz, blues, soul, and rap).
Food is good value (but not as varied as in Europe or Asia and there is too much reliance on junk food). The USA habit of coffee top-ups in restaurants is unique and an excellent concept.
People in the USA are generally very hard working - they certainly take fewer vacations than their European counterparts. This certainly contributes to their High Standard of Living. The high standard of living in the USA is one of the major reasons why people want to come and live in the country. Two points about this standard of living need to be made:
- The hard work of people in the USA is not the only factor leading to a high standard of living. World trade rules and the availability of cheap resources from areas of the world controlled by the USA are two major factors.
- It is not the highest in the world. The USA has quite a lot of poverty for such a large and rich nation. Parts of Japan and northern Europe have higher overall living standards. In the USA the standard of living is very good but not the best.
Bad Things About the USA
Public Transport is not as good as in other parts of the world (espacially Europe). You really need a car in most places. Petrol is cheap, however, which makes cars affordable to run but is ecologically unsound.
Health Care, while generally excellent, is not freely available to all. Europeans find the idea of a hospital refusing to treat a person because they are uninsured, a primitive and uncivilised one.
Uniformity and Conformity. USA culture tends to be very uniform. Wherever you go, food is similar, facilities are similar. While this makes some aspects of life easier it takes away the variety that makes the world interesting. Travelling in Europe and Asia is more interesting because of the diversity and regionality of food, language, culture, architecture. There are exceptions, of course (New York, Cajun culture in Louisiana, indigenous culture).
This uniformity / conformity can be seen in several places:
- People who emigrate to the USA feel compelled to change their names to more English sounding ones, something that happens less in Europe.
- Music from Cuba or Mexico has to be "Americanised" before being accepted.
- Foreign films have to be remade in American style before they can be seen. Watching subtitled originals is not the done thing in the USA except in a few cities like New York.
- A general reluctance to accept anything from other cultures or countries unless it has been Americanised. This can be seen in the number of USA tourists travelling in Europe and Asia who only eat USA food and stay in USA owned hotels and are guided by USA educated guides. This is not the way to learn about other cultures and peoples. Americans are not unique in this attitude but it does seem to be very prevalent.
USA Television and Radio is not intelectually challenging or informative. Even with numerous stations the variety is limited.
One of the biggest complaints that visitors to the USA make is that the media essentially ignores the rest of the world or views it as a theme park for American amusement. The USA Media is one of the main reasons why people in the USA know so little about what is happening in the world and the role their government plays in events abroad.
Terrible Things About the USA
The Gun Culture and Violence. The USA is one of the most violent societies in the developed world. Gun crime is a big problem and large areas of cities are dangerous. This is very different from nearby Canada, Europe (although US-style gun crime is increasing in the UK) and most of Asia. In this, the country is more similar to Latin America and parts of Africa.
The USA is one of only two developed countries that still uses the Death Penalty (the other is Japan).
It executes minors and the mentally ill in huge numbers. In this it is on a par with China, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The USA has a terrible record of Human Rights around the world. This is covered in detail in numerous tables on this web site. The USA ignores the world community, demonising or economically punishing countries that disagree with it.
In needs to be added that the vast majority of USA citizens are totally unaware of their country's real record around the world. A few know but are lone voices, often accused of being unpatriotic. One of the positive aspects of the dreadful crimes aginst humanity of 11 September 2001, is that more citizens of the USA are beginning to look at alternative media sources to find out more about their country's role and actions in the world.
The USA Lectures the World
The USA likes to lecture the rest of the world without getting their own house in order first:
- In the 2000 presidential election, the candidate with the most number of votes failed to gain the presidency because of the convoluted voting system used in the USA. There were allegations of voter intimidation in Florida where the winning candidate's brother was governor. The presidency was awarded by the Supreme Court which had been staffed with friends of the winning candidate's father.
- Even so, the USA lectures other countries about democracy.
- Fundamentalist Christians in the USA shoot doctors who carry out abortions. They have attempted to ban the teaching of evolution in schools. They approve of, encourage and finance Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian territory for religious reasons.
- Even so, the USA lectures countries about religious fundamentalism.
- The USA refuses to abide by the Geneva Conventions in its treatment of prisoners in Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan. The USA consistantly vetos United Nations resolutions on Israel, human rights, fair trade and arms treaties. The USA has ignored a World Court judgement concering Nicaragua. The USA unilaterally imposes economic sanctions on nearly 50% of the world's population. For many years the USA refused to pay its financial dues to the United Nations. The USA refuses to ratify the Tokyo Agreement on Climate Change even though it is the world's largest emitter of Carbon Dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.
- Even so, the USA lectures (certain) countries and threatens them if they violate United Nations resolutions or treaties.
- The USA refuses to allow inspectors to examine its chemical or biological weapons facilities. The USA sells arms to regimes that are undemocratic (Saudi Arabia), oppress their minorities (Turkey, Indonesia) or are an occupying power (Israel). The USA spends more on arms than the next six countries put together.
- Even so, the USA insists on weapons inspections for others, criticises countries like North Korea and Iran (for "gun-running") and inisists on trying (selected) war criminals from other countries.
- The USA has supported some of the world's nastiest dictators (Pinochet in Chile, Duvalier in Haiti, the Saudi Arabian royal family). The USA has trained some of the world's nastiest death squads and secret police (El Salvador, the Contras in Nicaragua, the Shah of Iran). The USA has financially and militarilly supported Israel as it terrorises the Palestinian population, takes their land and ethnically cleanses large areas of the West Bank.
- Even so, the USA criticises countries for "supporting terrorism".
- It is illegal in the USA for foreigners to make contributions to political parties or to interfere in the USA elections.
- Even so, the USA pumps money into favoured candidates in many countries around the world. It uses "economic coersion" to ensure that the USA's favoured candidate wins. It will also appoint the members of a country's government to put a "local face " onto an occupation.
- The USA has used economic blackmail to force countries (like Thailand) to accept the selling of USA tobacco (and advertising) even though many countries are attempting to cut down on tobacco use. Tobacco contains the addictive drug, nicotine.
- Even so, the USA bombs parts of Colombia accusing it of "drug-running" and shoots down aircraft in Peru accused of running drugs.
- The USA subsidises large parts of its industry giving them an unfair advantage in world trade. The USA places tariffs on goods coming from developing countries making it difficult for these countries to trade in a fair market place. Non USA-citizens are not allowed to own media in the USA.
- Even so, the USA insists that other countries remove subsidies from their goods and industries and "open up" their markets to USA goods by removing tariffs and to allow foreign ownership.
- The USA requested the Taliban government in Afghansiatn to hand over Osama bin-Laden, who was accused of terrorist crimes. When the Taliban refused, the USA invaded and bombed Afghanistan, killing over 3000 people.
- Even so, the USA refuses to hand over the then-boss of USA company Union Carbide (Warren Anderson) to the democratic government of India to answer charges of culpable homicide after the explosion in Bhopal in 1984 that killed 20,000 people and has left hundreds of thousands chronically injured. The USA also refused to hand over the brutal Shah of Iran to the Iranians in the 1980s when he was wanted for crimes committed during his 25 years of USA-backed dictatorship.
- The USA organises and televises trials of its enemies accused of war crimes and crimes aginst humanity.
- Even so, the USA refuses to do the same for its allies or citizens. For example, Henry Kissinger organised the secret bombing of Cambodia in the early 1970s - an act that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians. The USA refuses to let its citizens be subject to the International Criminal Court and has coerced dozens of countries to sign special waivers for USA citizens, imposing sanctions on those that refused.
- The USA threatens and invades countries like Iraq and Iran after accusing them of secretely developing nuclear weapons.
- Even so, the USA stores 480 nuclear weapons under its control in six European countries, including the UK and Turkey.
- The USA (correctly) criticises the government of Burma for its refusal to accept international help after a cyclone.
- Even so, the USA refused help offered by Venezuela and Cuba after the hurricane that devastated New Orleans.
For many people in the world, USA actions appear to embody the principle of one law for the USA, another law for the rest of the world. This can be rephrased as "do as we say not as we do".
KryssTal Related Pages
Military or political interventions, invasions, bombings, military aid, sanctions, and terrorist activity by the USA against countries and popular movements. The reasons given for the interventions are usually very different from the actual reasons. Many of these actions remain secret for many years and may be mis-reported in the Western media.
How world trade really works and an explanation of tariffs, subsidies, debt and aid. There are numerous tables with links to further details.
Military coups and changes of government, planned, organised or backed by the USA. The reasons given (Communism, terrorism, drugs, fundamentalism) are compared with the actual reasons (oil, minerals, political influence, business interests, military bases).
These links will open in a separate window
Why Do People Hate America
This is an excellent alternative view which shows that the USA is not unique in many of the criticisms aimed at it and also counteracts some of the arguments on this page.
The USA: Why Do They Hate Us?
An Australian site that lists 83 reasons why the USA is disliked around the world.
Richard Perle, USA Pentagon advisor:
"I do not believe that the United States should be bound by the same rules as the smallest African nation. Life isn't like that."
George Kennan, Cold War Planner for the USA in 1948:
"We have 50% of the world's wealth, but only 6.3% of its population. In this situation, our real job in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which permit us to maintain this position of disparity. To do so, we have to dispense with all sentimentality...we should cease thinking about human rights, the raising of living standards and democratisation."
Madeleine Albright, former USA Secretary of State to the United Nations:
"[The USA will] behave, with others, multilaterally when we can and unilaterally as we must."
© 2004 KryssTal