In the United States, we teach our history repeatedly in primary and secondary school. The courses were invariably nationalistic almost to the extreme of propaganda. We were taught that the brave men who overthrew the tyranny of the British government are heroes who’s thoughts on the nature of government are final. People call upon the words or interpretations of the words of the founding fathers with a nearly religious reverence. To say that we stray from their intentions is considered unpatriotic. We are also taught that our “democratic” system is superior and that developing nations look up to us and strive to make our model apply to their country. Checks and balances, after all, are so brilliant and flawless that change will never be necessary.
We are raised to prize democracy by the people, liberty, justice and equality higher than our own lives (although few since the revolution have died for it) and yet seem to be torn on whether or not anyone but the American people is worthy of such ideals. Our politicians justify military intervention through this doctrine, while rarely achieving it. On the other hand, we twice as often intervene on the side of authoritarian governments or take down democratic ones. Why? Because the political system is corrupt in the United States.
As I have shared my discoveries of US intervention in Latin America, the response of those I’m speaking to about 90% of the time is, “what US intervention?” People simply don’t know. Others who do know accept it as a flawed status quo. Others who do know help keep the system in place. There is a terrifically effective illusion of the United States to its people. The illusion is that of the moral superiority I mentioned earlier; the US doesn’t torture, the US is the shiny city on a hill, the US supports democracy. Moral superiority is easy to succumb to. Who doesn’t want to believe that by means of their birth they have automatic entrance to a heritage of liberty, and justice for all? The truth is much harder to face. For example, in a conversation with my parents about US involvement in Ukraine a few weeks ago, my dad countered that you can’t trust the media (meaning the source that had leaked an ambassador talking about who the US was promoting to assume office after the rebellion) and that the US does the best that it can to help democracy. This blind trust, and the subsequent tacit refusal to scrutinize foreign polices, is what enables those in power to continue with little resistance from the general population.
In our country, there is no single thing that drives politics more than money. With campaigns costing millions of dollars, politicians cannot afford to be independent. Many of them wouldn’t want to if they could. The main source of funding is not lower and middle class Americans, but rather corporations, the very rich, and those with leverage.
Let’s take a theoretical example. Country A has a very right-wing authoritarian government with a good trade relationship with the US. Their people form a left-ist rebel group to demand free elections. The group leans towards keeping their exports in their country for their people to enjoy, and dividing up the land for the poor. Those US corporations making bank off of cheap labor and poor regulations immediately send massive amounts of money towards politicians in the US, urging them to step in and perhaps threaten to move their business elsewhere if they cannot comply. Politicians know that the best thing to get them kicked out of office is a poor economy. They choose the route of keeping their positions of power, and making a lot of money while doing it, and either open doors for US intervention or don’t stop it. The American military complex, on the other hand, could use the intervention. It would give troops a chance to get experience in low risk situations, and try out new tactics or arms. The people with military contracts also buy politicians because they will make money off of intervention. Finally, the authoritarian government offers whatever they can to the US in exchange for intervention.
Simply, the US government, when left unattended by a disinterest populace, runs on money. There are no rewards in the political sphere for idealism or protecting human rights of poor, voiceless rebels. Those who are in power can only benefit from suppressing democracy in most countries, and can only lose by supporting it. If a policy creates our national ideals for another country, politicians rejoice, as it allows them to gain popular support by using rhetoric to pacify the American people to better take the next decision that may have more adverse effects. However, revolution is not a priority, but rather a nice added byproduct of some decisions. We see the consistent contradiction in US policy, one moment touting democracy in order to intervene, the next sacrificing it on the alter, because it simply doesn’t benefit the political elite and their supporters as much as money. The liberal shift to the left is easily explained. When under the yoke of tyranny, people are dissatisfied and rebel, once freed, they subjugate other peoples, because it provides comfort, and they cannot feel the pain of the yoke on someone else’s back.