America the Evil

The following is from the Economist’s review of Dilip Hiro’s new book After Empire: The Birth of a Multipolar World, an unapologetic criticism of the abuses of a declining American power and endorsement of, well, just about everything else.  I keep up a pretty steady library of lefty, anti-American works for fun, but this one appears to preach to the choir rather than evangelize to win over a new audience.  Think of Hiro as Fareek Zakaria and Slavoj Žižek’s twisted love child.  (emphasis below is mine)

Yet Mr Hiro’s analysis is marred by gaps and inconsistencies. It is inevitably hard to encapsulate the modern world in barely 350 pages, but this account skates over too much. Russia was not simply the victim of Georgian aggression when it went to war in 2008. To be told only that Saddam Hussein waged campaigns against disloyal Kurds in the north of Iraq and fugitive Shiites in the southern marshes is to miss the dictator’s chemical-gas attacks on Kurdish villages and the strangulation of the ancient civilisation of the Marsh Arabs. In that context, Western intervention is easier to understand. Mr Hiro lauds Mao for his unparalleled contribution to history and the Chinese Communist Party for “quantitatively advancing economic freedom like no other country in history so far”. Those judgments would be less secure if Mr Hiro were willing to devote more than one sentence to the famine Mao caused that killed between 16m and 27m people.

Mr Hiro devotes whole pages to what he sees as America’s sins evenas he glosses over others’. America’s political system has itsfaults–which country’s does not? Yet the behaviour for which Mr Hirochides it is shaped not just by its own interests but also by a visionof universal human rights that took root, though he does notacknowledge it, after the genocide in Rwanda. America’s global hegemonyhas been strikingly more benign than that of its predecessors.

For Mr Hiro, though, the proof that America has erred lies in itswaning power. Here he makes two mistakes. If he (rightly) denies thatAmerican might made America right, how can he claim that Americandecline makes America wrong? Secondly, American decline is easy tooverstate. Militarily, technologically and economically, the game stillbelongs to America, even if, these days, it has to share.