The Leadership of the United States of America in the World

The Leadership of the United States of America in the World based on a scholarly article entitled Bully of The Free World by Gary Wills on the Foreign Affairs Journal Vol.78 No.2 March-April, 1999. pp.50-59.


This part introduces the position of ethics and the role of the United States of America in the World as presented by the author of the article. It goes ahead to state the position of the argument as far as this role is concerned.

Actions in the current world never cease to amaze. Almost everyone is doing something to someone with an aim of setting an example that is always positive to the rest of the world. The amazement is however not in the performance of that particular act. It is in what the person or the group performing the act does to itself or its place of origin or at home. It should not surprise anyone that in most cases it is always the opposite. It is a complete abuse of the proverb that charity begins at home. Then from there it moves out to the next door neighbor and then to the rest of the world if it will have maintained the required momentum to keep it rolling.

Based on what Gary Wills tells us in his article, the world as we know it today is being given instructions on what to do and what not to do by the United States of America. It is a good thing to be at the top and give instructions. The prestige is good and the image is powerful. But is it always deserved? Can you ethically defend that high pedestal? Can the history that is associated with you give you the moral pass and the ethical integrity to have that kind of position? These and so many other questions we can only answer by the use of our knowledge of our world as we know it today. We can only therefore defend the United States of America’s position as the leader of the free world or dismiss it as a bully of the free world based on what we know from its past and current undertakings at home and abroad.

After the Cold War, the Soviet Union was no more. The United States of America rose to the prestigious position of the sole world super power of the world. What we have seen since then is a series of interventions in a number of places in the world, with the excuse of trying to restore order, defend human rights, remove a tyrant from power and spread democracy. The story continues along the lines of ensuring that economic justice is done to the people of such and such a country and social justice is done to such and such a people. All these sound bites are sweet and really convincing and anyone who is out to do such things as the ones mentioned above should be allowed. But the United States of America does not have the moral and ethical high ground to go to any country and talk about such things. The following are the reasons for this stand.

The arguments on ethical grounds against this leadership

This part has all the arguments that are ethically against the leadership of the United states and any other nation that tries to guide the rest of the world when it does not do the same for its people.

First of all, the United States of America has had independence for more two centuries. During all this time, they kept on keeping a minority of the population as slaves. A number of explanations can be given as reasons as to why this sorry state of affairs was witnessed and why it went on for that long. But has it changed now? Evidence points in the negative. If African Americans are not suffering now, then a new minority group is now on the receiving end. Latino Americans are definitely now the next group of people on who prejudice and bigotry has been turned to.

It has obviously changed for African Americans with the election of the first black president who has confirmed that black people are as bright as anyone and they can also be anything but again this has to be taken with caution since it doesn’t mean that all bigotry against blacks is gone. If such a nation that is all over the world giving instructions to other leaders on what to do as far as human rights are concerned cannot be able to deal with the problem of racism in its own bedroom, what is the ethical back-up for all the noise it makes in the world?

The answer is that it makes no sense. It is comparable to the British High Commissioner giving a lecture to South African University students on the significance of treating non- blacks with respect when in the British soil is a political party called the British National Party (BNP)that prohibits Asians, Africans and Latinos from membership. It is strictly for White Europeans and party leader, Nick Griffin is not apologetic to anyone about this. What can such a leader or a commissioner be telling the students about racial respect when back at home things are as bleak as they can get for minorities?

Secondly, there is the aspect of economic justice. If the government of the United States cannot control people’s attitudes towards those who do not look like them, then atleast it can make legislation to ensure that everyone in society has a better shot at life. But have we seen this happening in the United States of America? The answer is no. Minorities are economically less empowered compared to the majority. The governments that have been coming and going since Abraham Lincoln came out and made the historic emancipation proclamation have paid little or no attention to the economic cries of minorities in the United States of America. And yet all America sings to the rest of the world leaders is: Ensure that all your citizens are given an opportunity to prosper. You cannot preach water while you are consuming wine. You cannot talk about what you do not do because you do not even know how it is done. Since America has never done economic justice to its people, especially the minorities, then it does not understand how this can be done for the benefit of the entire society. It should be the case of he who comes to equity must come with clean hands and therefore when your hands are dirty, do not talk about equity to anyone. Therefore from ethical grounds, the United States of America lacks the grounds for giving direction to the rest of the world on how they should run their affairs.

Thirdly, the United States has been involved in a number of conflicts with the rest of the world indirectly. In most of them, this country had the chance to show the way in solving them without the use of warfare. But what did the United States of America do? It went ahead and armed the side it was for as a way of silencing the side they hated. This did not end up solving any problem but instead made the defeated side take its time to rearm and the conflicts we are seeing around the world are as a result of that kind of irresponsible international intervention by the United States and other powerful nations. Yet all we see in areas of conflict around the world are leaders of the United States telling the leaders of the small countries that they need to cease hostilities and return to peace. It is not ethical to apply double standards in matters of war and peace. It can only be justifiable when you apply equal standards to every situation.

The other issue that is worth mentioning is that with all this military support that the united states is giving to some countries that are in war, the more humanitarian areas are unattended to. The question that comes to mind is: Why not commit these funds that go to these countries as weapons and other military aid in a different way such as educational support or medical support for AIDS victims? Here we have not mentioned the huge budget that goes to the defense department of the United States as well as other big countries like Russia and Britain and all they keep on saying to smaller countries of course under the leadership of the United States is that they should not spend resources on weapons. This is again a case of double standards whereby these countries say one thing and end up doing the complete opposite. It this case, the United States lacks the ethical ground to guide any nation on what to do.

The other issue that must not be left out when talking about world leadership and the United States of America is electoral integrity. There is the talk of being the most established democracy in the world. That may be true. But to what extent are all the doctrines of democracy followed in the electioneering process? What is the credibility of the elections that are carried in the United States of America from time to time? Are they beyond reproach or question? We all know that Caesar’s wife should be beyond reproach for the simple reason that she is Caesar’s wife. This is the case with the United States of America. It is supposed to be beyond question when it comes to principles of practical democracy as applied in elections. This is the only way to convince the petty dictators around the world that democracy is what wins and it benefits the people to have the government of their choice. But the elections of the year 2000 in a race that brought the former Vice president in President Clinton’s administration against George Bush left the world wondering what had happened to the modes democracy. The people had spoken but the powers that be were not willing to let go. And up todate, it is still not clear what actually happened. It is not clear to the world as to who really won the election. Is this a solid ground on which to stand when lecturing petty dictators who steal elections and silence the opposition with imprisonment and assassinations? The answer is no.

Lastly, cases of corruption are all over the United States. The world has heard about Governors selling senate seats, pyramid schemes taking so much money from unsuspecting Americans among other things. If the government of the United States of America cannot control corruption within its borders, where does it get the ethical superiority to admonish other corrupt governments around the world? Nowhere!

In conclusion, we can see how the area of ethics in international affairs as practiced by the United States if full of hypocrisy. They preach peace, avoidance of weapons and equality and fairness when they cannot apply the same rules to themselves. This scenario denies them the ethical standards required for giving a lecture to any nation on what to do especially in the areas covered in this paper. It would be better if it put its act together before going out to tell the rest of the world what to do and what not to do. It is the only way to be ethically justified and it applies to the other big countries too.

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