Some time ago, I started referring to the USA as a Rogue Nation: the label that Western Nations apply to undemocratic nations which behave badly. Countries that have been called
Rogue Nations include North Korea, Iran, Russia, Libya, Venezuela, Syria and Turkey. Here is a summary of the main reasons why I consider this label appropriate.
The USA is one of the most undemocratic nations in the world, after excluding the out and out dictatorships. The influence of money on the results of elections is enormous, and
there are regular examples of campaigns breaking election financing rules. The scandal of possible Russian meddling in the last US presidential election, is still going on. In the
past we have seen court cases about the results of presidential elections. The electoral college system means that, often, the person with the most votes is not the one who wins.
There are issues with the built-in bias in the American electoral system towards rural voters
(see this article in the Economist).
Voting in Congress is very strongly influenced by
lobbying (mainly by rich companies). Most Congress members hardly ever attend sessions, even to vote; only if a bill has local influence on their constituencies do they vote; most
voting is on straight party lines.
- Poor human-rights:
America’s human rights record is abominable, both within the country and overseas. The scandals of torture and mistreatment in prisons in Iraq
(see this Wikipedia entry about the
Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse), and of extraordinary rendition of terrorist suspects
(see this Wikipedia entry), highlight the overseas side of this. The way that prisoners,
including people awaiting trial, and people in
ICE custody (e.g. the separation of parents from their children),
are treated show that the same attitude to people and their rights
exists at home. The use of the death penalty, no longer used/legal in virtually all western nations, is another example of the inhuman treatment of criminals (some of whom
continue to be identified as not guilty after execution). The USA has recently quit the UN Human Rights Council
(see this BBC report), thus removing one of the few ways that
other nations can put pressure on the USA regarding human rights.
- Failure to honour treaties and commitments:
Another mark of Rogue Nations is their failure to honour their treaties and commitments, and here, the USA looks very bad. They have unilaterally pulled out of the Iran nuclear
deal, with no attempt to renegotiate, and against the advice of the other signatory nations, and are re-imposing sanctions. They have pulled out of the
Paris Climate Accord,
apparently because it is “unfair” to the USA. They have a poor record of paying their UN dues (and, as mentioned above, pulled out if the UN Human Rights Council). They are
insulting their NATO allies, and suggesting that they may not honour Article 5 of the NATO Founding Treaty (which guarantees mutual defence). Despite being one of the architects
of the World Trade Organisation, the USA are now breaking WTO rules by imposing import tariffs on many of their trading partners and allies (Canada, Mexico, the EU and China).
- Trade wars:
The USA are in the midst of starting a worldwide trade war, with the unilateral imposition of import tariffs on steel and aluminium, now escalating to ever widening tit for
tat tariffs on all sides. This kind of selfish tantrum will damage world trade for everyone, and reduce economic growth for every nation.
- State sponsored terrorism:
One of the things for which the USA is quick to blame other nations is state sponsorship of terrorism. This is a crime in which America is a world leader. Well known examples
in which the USA broke the embargo on arms sales to Iran in order to launder money to support the Contras (terrorists) in Nicaragua. The CIA
were also sponsors of the Muslim Brotherhood and many other terrorist groups (most recently sponsoring a number of anti-Assad fighting groups in Syria).
The USA are specialists in extra-territorial legislation. There is the
which penalises foreign companies who deal with Cuba; this means that any foreign company
having a presence in the USA can their assets seized if parts of the company (even outside of the USA) trade with Cuba in breach of US sanctions (which prompted a complaint by the
EU at the WTO), and legislation in the EU and Britain making the enforcement of the act in the EU and Britain illegal). There is the on-going programme by the DEA (US Drug
Enforcement Agency) to destroy drug crops (primarily marijuana and cocaine) in South America, using methods such as napalm bombing. There is the CIA, conducting spying and
counter-espionage actions, including murders, across the world in breach of local legislation. There are also the US tax regulations, requiring all US citizens, wherever they
live and pay tax, to file tax returns to the IRS, and also to the US Treasury; since the introduction of the
FATCA, non-US financial institutions are now required to report on the
finances of their US citizen customers, which has led to most French banks unilaterally closing the bank accounts of US citizens, and in other countries (e.g. Germany) causing
the banks and credit card companies to contact their US citizen customers to get permission to share their data with the US Treasury (or have their accounts closed).
If I were to actually marry my US citizen fiancée, I would also be required to report my income to the IRS, despite me being a British citizen and never having resided in the USA.
- Environmental record:
One of the most polluting countries in the world (per capita, second only to Australia) is America. Their cars are some of the least efficient in the world, and Americans
drive everywhere. Their household energy consumption is extraordinarily huge (for heating, air-conditioning and household appliances) due to poor building insulation, the
widespread over-use of air-conditioning and low efficiency appliances. The nation consumes an enormous quantity of oil, and their oil exports are increasing, despite a desperate
worldwide need to reduce fossil fuel use. On top of all this, President Donald Trump wants to revitalise the US coal industry.
- Bullying and blackmailing of other nations:
The USA is a bully in international circles. This spring The United States threatened nations in an effort to blunt a World Health Assembly resolution supporting breastfeeding;
they threatened more than a dozen participants from various countries. The USA regularly vetoes UN Security Council motions that it doesn’t like, including anything that
criticises Israel or the USA itself; any attempt to take these motions to the General Assembly results in more blackmail. They also regularly try to blackmail the
EU in regard to trade, because they don’t want to comply with EU health and labeling laws (GM foods, use of growth hormones, washing chicken carcases in chlorine, listing
of contents, etc.) for foods exported to the EU. Also, just look at how President Trump treats other world leaders at meetings, manhandling people out of his way so that he can
be in prime position in photos.
- Money over doing the right thing:
The prime example amongst the nations of the world, of money being more important than “doing the right thing” about any issue, is the USA. They support Israel under any
circumstances, despite the Israeli settlement programme and the latest Israeli law defining Israel as a Hebrew/Jewish nation, effectively downgrading the rights of their
Arab citizens. This is mainly because of the rich and powerful Jewish lobby in America. American support for China exists for different reasons (because of the size and growth
rate of trade with China, and also because no western nation actually knows how to negotiate with China), but it nevertheless gets China off the hook time and time again.
- Gun violence, crime, justice system, the size of the prison population:
The level of crime, the broken justice system, and the size and make-up of the prison population in the USA are international scandals. Gun crime and mass shootings are always in
the news. On top of that, there are constant shootings by police (mostly but not exclusively of African Americans) ; America is one of the easiest places in the world, apart from
war zones, to get shot by the police (just try getting out of your car at a police traffic stop, before being ordered by a police officer to do so). The level of injustice in
American courts is an outrage: not only are innocent people regularly convicted (in recent months there have been several cases of people whose convictions have been overturned due
to more modern DNA techniques, sometimes after decades behind bars); in civil court cases it is usually the side with the most money and therefore the best lawyers who wins.
There are the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance) courts, which hear applications for surveillance warrants in espionage cases, in secret. There is a huge bias in both
conviction rates and sentencing severity, depending on the ethnicity of the accused, meaning that there are few whites, but very many blacks and Hispanics behind bars.
The USA has the largest prison population, per capita, of any nation in the world.
- Anti-abortion stance:
Parts of the USA (Texas and the bible-belt) are strongly ant-abortion. Despite the landmark
Roe vs. Wade ruling in the US Supreme Court,
which basically says that a woman has
a constitutional right to an abortion, state legislators are constantly making local laws to restrict access to abortions, and the federal government is cutting off
government subsidies to organisations which support and promote abortions. In almost every other country in the world, the trend is in the opposite direction; even Ireland.
- Migrants and asylum, and the discriminatory rules, plus separation of parents from children:
The USA was built on immigration (Irish, Chinese, British, German, Scandinavian, to name but a few), but nowadays the national feeling seems to be very much against immigration.
The Trump administration made several attempts (the latest of which seems to have overcome legal opposition) to block Muslim immigration. The need for asylum no longer seems
to be a valid reason to get into the USA. This year there has been a huge scandal in America and around the world, about migrants being separated from their children,
and in many cases the authorities have not been able to put the families back together to comply with court orders. Some parents whose children are in ICE custody
have already been deported without their children, which seems to me to be state sponsored kidnapping.
- Wars and invasions:
America has a history of pretending to be reluctant to get involved in wars, but in fact is one of the most warlike nations on the planet. Since the end of WW II, the USA
has fought wars or more limited military actions in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Grenada (and we still don’t really know why this tiny Caribbean nation was invaded),
Somalia and Nicaragua. Donald Trump has been talking a lot recently (despite advice to the contrary from all his advisors) about invading Venezuela, and has made a lot of threats
of war against North Korea (once bitten, but apparently still not shy).
- Health insurance and the cost of health care:
My girlfriend’s family often talk about the high cost of health care in the USA. It is exorbitant, they get very little cover, every time that someone changes jobs, they
effectively have a 3 month gap in cover because they have to change insurers, and they have to pay the first $5000 of medical costs in any year before the insurance kicks in.
Health care is very expensive ($20,000 for a pregnancy/child-birth seems a little steep, even though there were complications), and often the insurer will pay only part of the
cost. On top of that, you can be fired for taking sick leave (our German friends simply do not believe this). Having a healthy workforce is a basic and sensible investment in
economic growth: people can work better and harder and retire later if they have good health care.
- The “it’s always someone else’s fault” attitude:
Many Americans seem to have the attitude that everything is always someone else’s fault. This, coupled with the ridiculous concept of punitive damages (fine, if you want
to boost the damages as an incentive not offend again, but the victim shouldn’t get the extra money), means that people sue for all sorts of trivial nonsense (e.g. the
infamous too hot coffee from McDonalds). This is not just an issue in private issues and US internal matters, but is also apparent in Donald Trump’s America First policies,
resulting in withdrawal from, cancellation of negotiations for, or renegotiation of several treaties:
TPP (the Trans-Pacific Partnership), the
TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), and
NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).
- Student debt:
The USA is not the only country to have introduced student loans for people attending college or university, but due to the incredibly high cost of education in America,
especially at the top universities, the amount of debt that students are left with after graduation is at crippling levels, taking decades to repay. This prevents them from
taking out loans for buying homes, and forces them to live as paupers for years. This, again, is an issue of investment in the future of the nation, and a better fairer balance
is needed. The whole system discriminates against poorer students (the richer parents can pay for the children’s education, or at least help with the cost and/or the
repayment of the student loans), and prevents poorer people from contributing as much as they could to economic growth. Contrast the US system with that in Germany, which
provides grants for foreigners to come to Germany to study (on the condition that they leave Germany after their studies).
You might not agree with all the above arguments, and may not agree that all of them qualify the USA as a Rogue Nation, but the list is long enough that (I hope)
you agree there is a case to be made. The question is, what to do? What the international community normally does to reign in Rogue Nations is to apply sanctions, to the
nation as a whole, and/or to individuals in government and business. Is it time to start applying sanctions to the USA? Most countries do not have the courage and economic
strength to take on America, at least not alone, but given the blossoming trade wars around the world, where nations are anyway starting to impose import tariffs on US goods
and services, it is no longer such a big step to ramp them up to punish the USA for its broader behaviour.
You know what you need to do: VOTE!