May 2, 2022    AmericaPolitics

When Anti-American Becomes Pro-Dictatorship

In the current war, it is not clear if American support is an asset or liability for Ukraine because anti-American sentiment is fueling so much of the support for Russia. If Americans were not supporting Ukraine, perhaps, many other nations in Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America would vocally condemn Russia.

The US is certainly guilty of many self-serving, unjust “interventions.” Still, I must wonder how much of the anger towards America consists of the desire for a scapegoat because it is the most powerful nation in the world. “Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable” is a common practice in journalism, but I personally oppose this philosophy because it has a way of concealing the truth and further harming the “afflicted” in the long run. Regardless of how powerless we are, we should always see ourselves truthfully. Distortion of truth is a hindrance to progress and growth.

Because humans are fallible, no matter which country becomes the most powerful in the world, there will be an abuse of power. This is unavoidable. The US, therefore, needs to be judged not by the absolute but by the relative amount of abuse, proportionate to the power it has. To put it another way, what would Russia, Iran, China, or Brazil do if they were the most powerful nation in the world? What would the world be like?

Take Venezuela, for instance. Hugo Chávez’s intention sounded good at first. Unlike Saudi Arabia, he wanted the Venezuelan people to benefit from the oil money, but he just spent it all on buying people’s admiration. He had no consideration for how Venezuela could compete in the global economy without depending on oil. He even borrowed money from other countries. Predictably, as soon as the oil price fell, Venezuela went bankrupt. The result is a massive humanitarian disaster.

You might say at least his intention was good but was it really? It seems to me that he, too, was just another greedy, power-hungry leader. The only difference is that he preferred political capital over financial capital (money). Greed does not necessarily have to be for money. Chávez did what would give him the most power, not what was good for his country.

If power is what you ultimately want, becoming a dictator is more efficient than amassing money. In a democracy, the former is not an option, so power-hungry people resort to the latter. Bill Gates and Elon Musk do not have to worry about term limits. They can hold on to their power as long as they want. Politicians are more powerful, but their power is kept in check by the people and term limits.

Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro, still preaches the same ideologies but has become increasingly authoritarian, destroying the country’s democratic institutions. It is certainly the best strategy for megalomaniacs. Putin and Xi Jinping managed to achieve it. It is no surprise that the countries that voted in support of Maduro at the UN were authoritarian themselves. They have to legitimize each other.

If Venezuela were the most powerful nation, the world would be a horrible place. This isn’t specific to Maduro; if any authoritarian nation were to become the most powerful nation in the world, the stability of the whole world would depend on what one man thinks and values. No human being is perfect, and the longer someone remains a dictator, the more distorted his worldview will be. It’s only a matter of time before a disaster befalls all of us. Dictatorship is not sustainable.

This isn’t to say democracy is infallible. Not even close. But at least it is better than dictatorship. Many critics of the US would happily move to America if they were given the opportunity, but very few Americans wish to move to an authoritarian nation. People vote with their feet. We can see which system is more compelling and desirable by looking at the migration pattern. In fact, democracy is so clearly superior to dictatorship that even dictators like Putin would not admit that they are dictators and claim to represent the people’s will. We do not need to act as though authoritarian nations deserve the same respect democratic nations do.

In my view, the first order of business for any nation ruled by a dictator should be to remove him from power. If that country were to become the most powerful nation, the world would see devastating consequences sooner or later. Even if one dictator happens to be benevolent, the next one won’t be. Again, authoritarianism is not sustainable.

Even if an authoritarian nation does not cause any harm to other nations, it’s not because it doesn’t want to but because it can’t. Its neighbors are saved by the fact that it’s not powerful enough yet. It’s like a thief who stole a hundred dollars criticizing a thief who stole a million dollars, as if the amount is what determines right and wrong. The only reason the former didn’t steal a million dollars is not that he thought a million would be wrong but that he couldn’t. He would if he could get away with it.

To put this issue in a proper perspective, we should ask what nation is better suited to be the world’s most powerful nation. I’m Japanese, but I would not want Japan to be in that position. Japan is too much of a frog in a well. Although it is a stable and prosperous democracy, Japanese politicians have little understanding of how the rest of the world works. The vast majority have never lived anywhere else, don’t speak any other language, and have no real friends from other nations.

Since the US is a nation of immigrants, it attracts many intelligent and talented people from around the world, and they are able to influence American policies. This is not possible in, say, China, even if it was a democracy. They only care about their own people. Even if they tried to care about the rest of the world, they wouldn’t understand it for the same reasons that the Japanese cannot.

America is certainly not perfect. It’s full of flaws and corrupt, greedy politicians and entrepreneurs, but judging it with double standards ultimately hurts other nations. Could your country be better than the US if given the power? If the answer is no, blaming the US is a waste of energy because Americans can afford to ignore anything you say. Yes, it is unfair. It’s not like Americans worked hard to be in America. They were just lucky enough to be born there, and most of them squander that luck. But supporting dictators like Putin to spite Americans would only make your own life worse. In the end, Americans would be least impacted by the legitimization of dictators.

Perhaps the mistake is in seeing America as a person. America is not generous, magnanimous, or evil. You cannot anthropomorphize America because it’s a country where the institutions rule. There is nobody at the top. The American presidency is a position, not a person. A person can assume that position, but it’s not them who holds power; it’s the position. The people can always remove the person assuming that position of power. Obama or Trump cannot do much now because it wasn’t them who held power. So, you cannot expect the US, or any democracy, to consistently do the right thing. It will make many mistakes, abuse power, and inflict injustice on others, but history has proven that it is at least better than dictatorship. To hate the US so much that you are willing to empower dictators is self-defeating because Americans will not suffer its consequences as much as you will.