My Take

If nothing else, at least Trump understands the folly of ‘empire’

The Republican candidate may not be everyone’s pick for US president, but he does know that adventurism only ends in tears – for America and the world

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 July, 2016, 1:11am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 September, 2016, 3:08pm

Donald Trump gets a lot of things wrong, but there is at least one thing much of the rest of the world can agree on with him: the United States is in no position to lecture other countries about civil liberties or human rights.

“When it comes to civil liberties, our country has a lot of problems, and I think it’s very hard for us to get involved in other countries when we don’t know what we are doing and we can’t see straight in our own country,” the US Republican presidential nominee said recently in an interview with The New York Times.

How refreshing – and honest! Sometimes, it takes a con man to spot a real big con.

He went on: “We have tremendous problems when you have policemen being shot in the streets, when you have riots, when you have Ferguson [and] Baltimore.

“When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger ... don’t know that we have a right to lecture. We have to fix our own mess.”

Donald Trump: Saviour or simply unstable?

America loves to tell other people how to do things, and if they don’t meet its approval, it sometimes intervenes militarily – all for their own good.

That’s what empires and hegemons have done throughout history. But the US denies it’s an empire, even if it sometimes prides itself on being the hegemon.

It doesn’t use that word, of course. Instead, it uses phrases like “the unipolar moment”.

The problem with the US is that it doesn’t just lecture, as Trump says, it intervenes.

And the post-war history of US interventions has been one of continuous disasters: from Vietnam and Cambodia, in Palestine and throughout the Middle East and South America, to Iraq and Afghanistan; from its war on drugs to its war on terror and its worldwide drone assassination programme.

Now it threatens to intervene in the South China Sea.

Such interventions have brought death and suffering to the peoples and countries affected; they have also caused instability to the regions and the world at large.

That’s, of course, what empires do. They make terrible mistakes and other people pay the price.

Trump may not be so bad a president if he can bring some restraint to America’s actions overseas.