Friday, 17 November 2017

“Benign America?” | SCMP

The illustration at the article below.  Hmmmm.... leftie, but sure, I'll grant
an element of truth, though another reading is:
to maintain freedom you need strength 
This article (*) by Jean-Pierre Lehmann really annoyed me.  Sure, make the case in the online headline ("Why fears over a malign China replacing a benign America are a gross distortion of history").
No good to be in thrall to America and unduly suspicious of China.
But it's wrong to go to the other extreme, equating the US to the Soviet Union and China purely as a victim of the west's perfidy.  American has indeed been the guarantor of post-war wealth creation.  And China has indeed remained a Leninist dictatorship, despite all the economic growth.  People voting with their feet still prefer the US to China.

Specific things that annoyed me:

"Harping on US leadership through "western values" is to delve into mythology".
Western values in scare quotes and some kind of "mythology"??  This is west-bashing lunacy of the first order. I'm not sure I can even be bothered to counter it, it's so absurd. Since the Renaissance, there has been a growing set of values, that summed up can be called "western values".  They include tolerance, open enquiry, the scientific method, freedom of speech, of thought and of conscience.  Of course, they're often followed in the breach.  But as a set of understood values (that's what values are, "understood", not set out) they are still the driving force in the west.  They are set out  most clearly in the US Declaration of Independence, in its Constitution and in its Bill of Rights. All of which is mockingly dismissed by Lehmann as "extolling a gospel of freedom".

"Britain's rise to wealth and power depended initially on the slave trade...".
It's arguable, but let's concede and move on to the point that at the time slavery was common throughout the world and Britain was the first country in the world to abolish it.

"Ta-Nehisi Coates has pointed out [that] America is a nation founded by slaveholders...".
Same point as above. Slavery was common then, as it had been throughout history, and the US fought a Civil War to end it.  No acknowledgement of that.  Coates has been taken to task by other African Americans who find his negativity about America corrosive and unhelpful.  See professor Jason D. Hill for example, in "An Open Letter to Ta-Nehisi Coates".  Sam Harris has called his writing the "pornography of anger".  I've now come to think that quoting Coates is pretty much like quoting Noam Chomsky.  You know it's going to be virulent anti-Americanism.  (yet they choose to stay).
So: America followed the UK in abolishing the slave trade.  In short: it was the WEST that abolished the slave trade.  A trade that continues to this day in numerous Islamic and Asian countries.

"It was never really expected that Trump might .. apologise on behalf of the US  for all the appalling suffering caused to the Vietnamese...".
This assumes that it was the US that went into Vietnam to cause suffering to the Vietnamese.  Forgotten, or not mentioned, that the US went into Vietnam with the Vietnamese.  Those in the South who were fighting against the Viet Communists.  It was not American vs Vietnamese, but some Vietnamese vs some other Vietnamese who had the US on their side.  But enough of that; it's been litigated again and again.  Just that Lehmann's wording is misleading and the Vietnamese of today would not be expecting an apology.

"China was treated abysmally, from the opium wars to the liberation."
Yes, indeed it was.  But "liberation"? From what? From would-be democrats, that's what. And what followed?  Over 100 million deaths, that's what.  Chinese killing Chinese.  Does Lehmann ignore that because they were "only" Chinese killing Chinese, and doing so in China?
The fact remains that in terms of democide the US the UK and the West don't hold a candle to what the Chinese have done to themselves.

(*) The online headline is "Why fears over a malign China replacing a benign America are a gross distortion of history".  (Why do they do that?? Have different print and online headlines?)