THE KLEAVEREST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD: THE UNITED STATES By Tecola W. Hagos
I often wonder how wonderful it would be to write on a piece of paper some statement of promise to pay at some later date and get the goods and services one wants from vendors and stores. This is not the same as using credit cards or bank issued checks. It is highly unlikely that any vendor or store owner would allow me to get goods and services on the basis of passing a simple statement on paper as my payment arrangement. I might even get arrested for trying or asking for such ludicrous business transactions. I might even be considered as someone mentally challenged and even worse as an economic terrorist, especially so at a time if one farts loud is a terrorist treat.
When I reflect upon how nations/states interact with each other promoting their economy, political goals, and hegemony, I find one country exceptionally proficient in pursuing such goals: the United States of America. If there is a second, it is a distant second by light years. My observation is based purely on my own way of understanding, I have identified the United States as the “Kleverest” State in the World. There is a play on the word “clever” in the superlative in my using it with a “K”. The Amharic translation of the word “clever” as “ብልጣ ብልጥ” would have been even closer to my meaning, but then most of its essence would be lost in transcribing in Geez Alphabet my translation.
There are two areas of activities, activities that truly matter, in international relations that the United States has distinguished itself without peers: 1) in projecting raw military power into the world, 2) in using other peoples’ wealth (managing economic wealth), and thereby creating acceptability and admiration warts and all, the envy of many.
Projection of Raw Power
Here in this section, I am not concerned just about the fire-power per se of the United States, but on the holistic strategy of the art of war. The great military strategist Sun Tzu (from ancient China) in Chapters 2 and 11 (the nine situations) states that fighting in one’s own territory is not a good strategy such that “[w]hen a chieftain is fighting in his own territory, it is dispersive ground situation.” In other words, it is least desirable and least advantageous to engage the enemy in one’s own territory. We may think such strategy to be commonsensical, but the reality on the ground in our modern world shows otherwise, in that it is only exceptional nations that have a good grasp of that strategic foundational concept.
The United States succeeded in moving the new battlefield with the USSR after the end of the Second World War to Western Europe and gradually to the former Soviet Bloc countries right under the nose of present day Russia. In fact, it is a documented fact that before the end of the Cold War in the 1980s, the USSR concentrated its resources to counter such imbalance of strategic advantage created by the United States, by developing highly accurate and fast moving intercontinental ballistic nuclear tipped/armed multiple targeted missile system based mainly in the USSR territory. Nevertheless, such USSR/Russian strategy still fails the test of the “nine strategies” from Sun Tzu. From public statements in research papers and books, the United States has far more sophisticated weapon systems and air command, and sea raw power than Russia can muster. I know that it is the people that fight wars and not so much weapon systems. But no one should undermine the military power of the United States.
According to the statement coming from the Defense and State Departments, the United States has military forces deployed in varying size in about one hundred fifty countries that are also members of the United Nations. And each deployment is a possible battle front far from the United States itself. For example, Russia, one of the main targeted enemy of the United States, is surrounded by the military might of the United States including nuclear weapon systems a few hundred miles from the Russian border. And this aggressive deployment is in addition to the nuclear submarines and warships that have infested the nearby seas whose tidal waves leak Russian coasts, such as the North Sea and the Black Sea, and a little further the Mediterranean Sea, and the North Atlantic Ocean. Any such nuclear missile launched from such submarines and warships could reach Moscow in matters of minutes. By contrast, Russian main force and most of its nuclear ballistic missiles are based within Russia and if triggered in time of war would take long time to reach the United States. This means the first strike by the Russians would necessarily be targets in Europe and not targets the United States. Of course, it is insane for any country to engage in nuclear war.
Do not read me wrong, for the United States Government has been making monumental mistakes in its international policies starting with its incredibly shortsighted error against the newly independent Haiti that just overthrew a primitive slave-plantation brutally oppressive system in 1804. To date, the United States Government has been on the wrong side of history in numerous occasions including its very recent monumental error siding with Ukraine Nazi oriented rebellion rather than working with Russia to bring about a degree of harmonious change through economic and social collaboration with Russia. The United States has also supported brutal regimes around the world such as that of Saudi Arabia, undermining the United States’ own national commitment to democratic form of government and respect and safeguarding of human rights. I could say a lot more on such policy failures, but the issue is on how the United States’ strategy of war is far superior to any other country’s military strategy.
Using Other Peoples’ Wealth
Debt driven economy is the hallmark of the United States’ economy (economic dynamo). The United States has perfected the art of using and consuming other nations’ wealth, goods and services through huge debts. No other country in the world is using the wealth of the world almost exclusively to benefit its own citizens at great cost to the rest of the world’s peoples as much as the United States does every single day, year in year out, with no end in sight. How does such a relatively young nation out smart nations much older than its mere two hundred years of international prominence? Almost all Asian and European countries and some African countries are much older than the United States.
The United States sells treasury bills/bonds worth billions of dollars each year to a number of long term customers such as Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, et cetera. To date the United States debt tops seventeen trillion dollars. It is quite logical for a country like Saudi Arabia, which has the worst political and social conditions since its birth as a country in the 1940s, to park its jackpot winnings (petrodollar) somewhere where the social and political condition is stable. Nations like Japan and China are too eager to find a huge market to sell their products that they failed to realize the absurd reality of holding to a stack of paper is not equivalent to sinking one’s teeth into real hamburger. In fact, it seems almost all countries in the world are export oriented. That is fine, for international trade promotes development and peace. But it has also a dark side of creating corruption and flight of hard currency out of the local economy to the detriment of the economic wellbeing of the local population.
In absolute terms, the fact is that at any particular date and time China and Japan have in their possession a pile of paper that states the United States owes those countries billions of dollars, but the intrinsic value of the paper itself is insignificant less than hundred dollars. Mind you that the reality of any such moment is the fact that the United States is benefiting its people in terms of real goods and services that one can find people in the United States driving fantastic cars, living in spacious well-appointed houses and apartments, in well maintained urban settlements where one finds stores overflowing with produces, where they have great buildings, great infrastructure all built by funds that is borrowed et cetera. Now, judge for yourself, who is the smarter one the one who is sitting on a stake of paper with intrinsic value of less than a hundred dollars or the one that is eating real food, drives real cars, lives in real homes etcetera?
One must reflect on such processes very carefully where a nation is drowning in foreign debts and still draws the political and economic strings of the nations of the world as if they are marionettes. What I find incredible and beyond my comprehension is the fact that billions of people given a choice would migrate to the United States. There must be something of great value in the United States that people from all over the world seek beyond or above mere monetary wealth.
Most human beings would choose even a life of suffering than no life at all. I am very pragmatic about life this late in my life. There are those who claim that perception is all that matters. Even though I appreciate the concern that such folks have when they reduced all of our human experience as sense induced or sense circumvented, I prefer to look a bit deeper than such surface phenomenon and see grooves and deeply cut trenches of the mind where something far more fundamental even foundational may be a reality that ties us all in a shared human imprinting. I see human beings acting even in the most remote situation in a markedly similar form. One such reality is that human life reinvents itself wherever threatened by deteriorating human social norms.
I find this to be true throughout recorded history all down to our own time. In my life time, I have seen or read about hundreds of such incidents of dynamic upsurge of human activities to invigorate our social life here and there a lot more often than most of us recognized the processes for we often consider such process as a struggle for political power. The current ISIS movement that is sweeping over the Middle East like wild forest-fire is a good example how our deeply seated human “nature” could force us to react with sweeping boldness to preserve such fundamental and foundational values. But the ISIS movement is “small potatoes” when we put things in perspective, for the whole world is undergoing subtle but profound sweeping change.
What is the moral of my essay, for it stands to reason that there are numerous analogies that we can draw for the benefit of an emerging Ethiopia by reflecting on the dynamic life of the United States and many other nations around the world. When confronted with absolutist arguments, as I am often accosted by some insipid Diasporas who seem to inhabit the subterranean world of poison tipped dart throwers hiding behind false names, I remember the fact that too is a form of struggle, but of diminished effectiveness. The Ethiopian Government and we the people of Ethiopia could learn a lot from the experiences of the United States. Huge debt is not a bad thing in all situations. And being Klever as the Government of the United States could easily transform the condition of poverty and underdevelopment in Ethiopia. Thus, we ought to be focusing on being Klever rather than focusing on acquiring ethnic based political power.
Viva National Public Debt!
Tecola W. Hagos
July 4, 2014