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Debate: Is the US harmful to world stability?

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Background and context

The USA has been described as ‘the world’s policeman’. But should we be that trusting of it? After all, the USA has notably failed in some areas to use its influence and resources for the common good, and its policy can fluctuate between isolationism and over-bearing intervention. Should the USA be feared or welcomed by the international community? The proposition should note that this isn’t about disliking Americans as individuals. This debate, when approached from a range of angles, can combine arguments about the USA’s political and military interventions in global affairs and arguments about its cultural influence around the world.

Contents

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Argument #1

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Yes

The US is primarily an isolationist country. This is a disastrous tendency to be held by a power as large and as influential as America. This is because America’s sheer size means that it cannot simply ‘withdraw’ from international events; it’s support is always noticeable by its absence if it fails to come. With power comes responsibilities, and these have not been met by America. George W. Bush’s recent repudiation of the Kyoto treaty to concentrate on domestic power production is a recent example of how America harms the world in this way; other examples include the problems various presidents have faced in passing international legislation such as the ban on chemical weapons through the Senate.

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No

This is unfair. Other countries routinely put their own interests before international ones, and act unilaterally. In these circumstances what is more striking is not America’s failure to be a force for good in the world, but rather the way in which it has acted to promote peace and justice. The Kosovo war, in which America acted to halt a genocide being perpetrated on the inhabitants of Kosovo by Serbs, and the Iraqi war, in which American force was crucial in stopping the illegal invasion of Kuwait, are both examples of this force for good Others include its continuing protection of the right of self-determination of the Taiwanese, and its intervention in the Bosnian war of 1996. The US is perhaps the only force that can broker a peace deal in the Middle East, and its attempts to do so must be commended.

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Argument #2

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Yes

The Opposition’s arguments are laughably naive. Surely what is most evident in America’s foreign policy is not the desire to be a ‘force for good’ but a flagrant self-interest, and an amazing domination of foreign policy by domestic policy interests. The intervention in Kuwait was governed more by the desire to secure valuable oil supplies than to protect liberty. Indeed, a large proportion of Iraq’s arms were American imported, during the phase when America was seeking to counterbalance Iran. America’s support for Israel is one of the main factors that has ensured its survival in an area where many observers suggest it should not exist at all. History provides a litany of occasions that the US has acted self-interestedly, for example its aggression towards Cuba.

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No

Granted, America may sometimes act in a self-interested fashion, but what country does not ? The ‘self-interest’ the Proposition has claimed America embodies has prevented protected liberty before - if American’s intervened to save Kuwaitis and Kosovans, and lives were saved, who can complain ? What do the underlying motives matter in a field where no action is ‘pure’ ? American commitment towards liberty, freedom and justice has been an overwhelming force for the good. As long as these ideals are upheld, America must be considered a friend.

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Argument #3

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Yes

America aggressively markets its culture around the world, serving to homogenise different and vibrant unique local traditions and individual national styles with a bland standardised American export. A traveller can go virtually nowhere now without finding Starbuck’s coffee, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Marlboro cigarettes being consumed in place of local products. American films now eclipse all other countries film-making efforts, leading to the domination of Hollywood that has created the current vacuousness in cinema. This is cultural imperialism of the first order.

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No

This argument is completely spurious. There is no secret ‘masterplan’ to turn the entire world into a subset of the USA. All there is is the natural desire of companies to expand and make profit, and to condemn American companies alone for this is absurd. No-one forces people who live in Delhi to eat a Big Mac, or Parisians to visit EuroDisney. They do so because they want to, and surely this is not the fault of the USA.

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