Thursday, October 10, 2013

US Exceptionalism : 10 things the US is exceptional at

In his speech on 24th September 2013, President Obama endeavoured to remind the world of America's exceptionalism conveying some of the most pressing issues facing the US today. Obama contextualised the shift from 20th century warfare to the modern political paradigm of using diplomacy in order to deal with a hostile political environment in the Middle East. In his words "I believe such disengagement would be a mistake. I believe America must remain engaged for our own security, but I also believe the world is better for it. Some may disagree. But I believe America is exceptional. In part because we have shown a willingness through the sacrifice of blood and treasure to stand up not only for our own narrow self-interest, but for the interest of all." [1] The speech addressed the current US position on Syria, the US viewpoint on Egypt, their relationship with Iran and emphasised their commitment to the democratisation of the Middle East.
Barack Obama emphasised America's exceptionalism – this is the belief that the United States is "qualitatively different" from other nations. Whilst the US stood as the global unipolar power since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, today America no longer enjoys exclusive political, economic or moral supremacy. What follows are 10 things the US truly is exceptional at:
1. Police State
In June this year a former CIA operative, Edward Snowden exposed US surveillance activities which revealed much about the inner workings of the US government. The revelations by Snowden uncovered PRISM, a clandestine electronic surveillance program that allowed the NSA to access email, web searches and real-time internet traffic. It involved collecting millions of emails and content from social media and was effectively spying on its own citizens on an industrial scale. The NSA leaks also claimed that the US hacked Chinese mobile phone companies to collect millions of text messages as well the Asian fibre-optic network operator Pacnet. These revelations caused international embarrassment for the US and publicised hypocrisies and double standards. The US has always accused China of cyber espionage yet it has now come to surface that they are guilty of hacking and are of the best hackers in the world. All of this shows that spying rather than the freedoms is how social cohesion is maintained in America.
2. Rendition
The Open Society Justice Initiative's (OSJI) 213-page report into the CIA's global rendition program has revealed that nearly a quarter of the world's governments were involved in the covert movement, detention and subsequent torture of dozens of people during the post 9/11 'War on Terror'. It has become clear that without the co-operation of the global community the US would have been unable to carry out its rendition program, making all those involved complicit. It has always been known that other countries were involved as the American sub-contracted the torture to countries such as Syria, Libya and Uzbekistan. In truth the United States runs what is akin to an organised mafia cartel that goes around the globe for nothing more than colonial and economic interests. The talk of human rights, international law and organisations such as the International Criminal Court are just a smoke screen to fool the world. On the one hand the US pushes for freedom, democracy and the implementation of their ideology in the Muslim world, whilst on the other they use this same ideology to render innocent individuals for torture. [2]
3. Nuclear Holocaust
It took a lot of exceptional Americans to develop the atomic bomb. But when just two of those weapons of mass destruction were dropped on Japan, it's estimated that 220,000 men, women and children were killed by those blasts. That's a heavy cost to bear by the only nation to use such a weapon -- a country that routinely questions whether other nations can be trusted with its destructive power. It is also estimated that since 1945, the United States has produced more than 70,000 Nuclear Warheads, which is more than all other nuclear states combined.
4. Napalm
Napalm, another deadly development of US exceptionalism, was invented by a Harvard University professor. When a napalm bomb explodes, a flaming gel spatters indiscriminately in every direction. It clings to anything it touches with flames that reach up to 5,000 degrees. As a weapon of mass destruction, napalm is unique in the destruction it can create. No other country has used napalm more than the US
5. Pornography
US entertainment dominates the global media, but it is also exceptional in that it also possess the world's largest pornographic industry. Valued at $13 billion America's pornographic industry is an industry in its own right. Earlier this year pornographic production was suspended temporarily due to the growing number of HIV cases where actors and actresses were tested HIV-Positive but it was no surprise when it quickly restarted after a week of investigations [3] The pornographic industry is the occupation of about 20,000 people in the US who rely on selling their bodies for an income. There is indeed no difference in the illegal prostitution of women which in some parts of the USA is legal
6. Depression
In the pursuit for happiness, the USA has exceptionally failed. Anxiety disorders are the most common illness the USA faces, affecting 40 million adults (18% of the population) costing the US more than $42 billion per year almost a third of the country's $148 billion mental health bill [4]. America's and France jointly share the number one spot for the most people who have experiences depression. 1 in 5 people in the US are considered depressed.
7. Crime
It would be no surprise if Rockstar Games were inspired by America in their latest GTA 5 launch since America truly is a reflection of Grand Theft Auto with explosive crime rates. Murder, Forcible Rape, Robbery, Motor Vehicle Theft are daily occurrences in the States. The FBI Crime Clock revealed in 2011:
1 Violent Crime took place every 26.2 Seconds,
1 Murder took place every 36 minutes,
1 Burglary every 14.4 seconds,
1 motor vehicle theft every 44.1 seconds and,
1 rape every 6.3 minutes.
Whilst the 2012 Crime Clock is yet to be made available, the preliminary 2012 crime statistics have shown increases from the previous year [5].
8. Obesity
McDonalds is one of the most famous symbols of the US and a sign of economic success. Indeed the success of McDonalds led to a hyper-competitive food industry and a country that transformed a peoples from old fashioned cooked food to processed fast food. The colossal of food companies led to cheap, fast, unhealthy processed food inevitably leading to obesity. Obesity has been cited as a major health issue in recent decades and the obesity rates in the US are the highest in the world. Obesity has been contributing to approximately 100,000 -400,000 deaths in the US per year and has cost an estimated $117 billion in direct and indirect costs to the economy. This exceeds health care costs associated with smoking or drinking and accounts for 12% of national health care expenditures [7].
9. Military Spending
Whilst America's industry is able to produce state of the art technologies and platforms, where the US has been exceptional is in developing weapons to kill, maim and massacre. Indeed for the US to maintain its hegemony over the world it needs a prosperous military and perhaps the most exceptional phenomenon about the US is it's expenditure on military and foreign military sales to dictators. Nearly half of all of the world's military expenditure was by the USA until the effects of the global financial crises and the post-Iraq/Afghanistan operations led to a decline but still accounted for 39% of global spending in 2012 [8].
10. Debt
The global financial crisis has brought to the forefront how much the US lives beyond its means. The US generated nearly $14 trillion in 2007, however the national debt – this is money the central and federal governments owe to the US public and the world through the bonds they have sold - stands at $9.7 trillion. The US citizenry have a huge appetite for imports and real estate; as a result consumer debt stands at $11.4 trillion. The debts of US companies amounts to $18.4 trillion. This makes the US indebted to the tune of just under $40 trillion – nearly 75% of what the world produces. In a Harvard report it was calculated that 10% of the US population owned 71% of the nation's wealth, whilst the top 1% controlled 38%. On the other hand, the bottom 40% owned less than 1% of the nation's wealth, 5 this has created 37 million Americans who live below the poverty line. The US is only able to live in this way because it has the US dollar, which is the world's reserve currency, however this massive wealth fracture is not sustainable and the sustainability of living today and paying for the lifestyle tomorrow is becoming untenable. [11]
In conclusion America's precarious exceptionalism was summed up by a US writer:
"The United States is at the end of the period of global leadership and domination that we've enjoyed for the last 50 years or so. The country is bankrupt economically. We've lost our edge in terms of politics, economics, socially. We no longer compare well with other countries around the world, and we're not admired as we once were by countries around the world. And we're not viewed as a model for economic and political development, as we once were. So this really marks a global shift in world history, both for the United States and the rest of the world. It is a gloomy picture, and this wasn't an easy book to write for that reason. But I think the facts speak for themselves. If you look at the United States, both in terms of comparing us to 20 years ago or in comparing us to other developed countries in the world, the United States doesn't come out on top on almost any measure anymore. And this has long-term implications that are going to affect the way we live and the role we play in the world. So it is a gloomy picture, although I think there are ways in which the United States can eventually emerge from this in a solid position." David S Mason, 'The End of the American Century.'

article taken from