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The rising cost of America-centricity

By Ross Buncle - posted Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Before I begin, let’s be REAL positive and assume that oil is not the major factor behind the US Iraq campaign. Let’s also dismiss the charges that Bush had a personal agenda to finish what Daddy started and “get” Saddam. Let’s disengage from the very concept of spin and indulge ourselves with the idea that America’s mission in Iraq really was, and is, a noble one - to bring democracy to the Middle East.

[Applause FX] Thank you ladies and gentlemen, thank you. Ahem …

I must declare from the outset that I am not an America-phobe. It is tediously fashionable to heap scorn on America - mandatory, in fact, for any leftie from the standard mould. I distance myself from these irritating ideological clones, though my politics lean left. And now to business …


While their motives may have been admirable, the American Government embarked on a Quixotic campaign to bring democracy to the Middle East without the slightest inkling, it seems, that the values they esteem as “right” with absolutist conviction may not always travel well.

In their crusading zeal, they seem unable to even contemplate the possibility that democracy is not necessarily the best system for all societies in all stages of development. Or that Iraqis who do not embrace democracy as a precious gift from America can be other than misguided rabble or evil enemies in the war against terror.

Frankly, were I not securely sheltered in my status as a very small poppy indeed - beneath the radar, as it were - I would feel isolated and apprehensive in outing this possibility. Why do I use the term “outing”? Because while a few brave commentators have expressed doubt about the portability of democracy as a system of government, none, to my knowledge, have gone a step further and challenged its very validity in some national contexts. To do so amounts to heresy in the “free-thinking” West and risks howling accusations of facism, or support thereof.

If I am to own up to heresy, I might as well make a full confession that at least cuts off the fascist charge at the pass. In my 60s counter-culture-influenced youth, I held a romantic torch for communism - not the Soviet totalitarian version, but a simplistic cartoonish brand of self-customised Marxism. I will spare myself the embarrassment of divulging further details. In any case, subsequent visits to communist East Berlin and Hungary (also part of the Eastern Bloc at the time) cured me of my folly.

Yet, I have a German friend who expresses great nostalgia for the sense of community he enjoyed growing up in Dresden under communism. Further, he claims that many other former East Germans are disillusioned with the reality of their deliverance from Marxist evil. These are people who have lived under both systems, and their views - doubtless astonishing to most Westerners, including me - cannot and should not be dismissed. To do so without investigating their reasoning and seeking an understanding of their attitude and related formative experiences would be blinkered and arrogant.

America-centricity does not even admit the need for investigating or understanding other national and cultural perspectives - and the obvious insularity that blinkers Bush may well be a national phenomenon.


When the Americans crashed their way into Iraq the plan was to excise the malignant cancer of the Saddam dictatorship as quickly and painlessly as possible, and to see the patient through a speedy rehabilitation. The gratitude of the Iraqi people was assumed. The liberators would leave as heroic benefactors, detracting from the credibility of al-Qaida and others who had painted them as monsters. Iraq in new blooming health would be the sudden envy of other Arab nations, a shining model that would pave the way for the spread of democracy throughout the Middle East.

This fairy tale is an expression of America-centricity, built on the conviction that democracy and American values are the way, the truth and the light, and that fighting the good fight in Iraq would prove it. Scratch an Arab, and an American complete with democratic values would be revealed beneath.

The reality as I see it is unpalatable, but here it is.

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About the Author

Ross Buncle is a freelance writer, copy-editor, T-shirt designer and ESL teacher. He is the main force behind - the most expansive history of first-wave Perth punk rock on the web - and publishes a blog, The Boomtown Rap, under the pseudonym Rolan Stein.

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