Why do we criticise the USA more than, say, China? Why does is more mud thrown at Israel than Sudan? Why do we emit a highly audible whine whenever someone mentions Guantanamo Bay, or Abu Graib, but barely a whisper when we hear of unjust detentions abroad, in Syria or Egypt?
Obviously (say the many) it is because we are The Self-Haters. We are anti-American. We are the militant Equivalistas, the über-Liberals, who wish to undermine everything that makes Western Civilisation great.
Incomplete. Lazy. Wrong…
We obsess about the USA because it is there that we find the people with whom we have the most in common. Much as we try to trumpet ideas of a shared humanity, One Big Team, these are difficult thoughts in practice. Instead, we seek out allies in those countries, those people, who are most similar to us. We find them in those countries with a shared history, a shared language, shared religious traditions… and we call it a shared culture. We feel so close that we call the Atlantic Ocean a ‘pond’.
And if you feel close to someone, or something, it matters to you that they are the best, the very best that they can be. We hold them to a higher standard. We do not wish to see any faults.
When we do see faults, it is far better that we point them out, than keep quiet out of some misplaced sense of loyalty. I am a critic of the United States government, not because I wish to see its power eroded, but because I wish to see its stature enhanced. That makes me more of a patriot than the person who has backed every action of the Dubya-led White House since 11th September 2001.
In the case of the UK, well, there is an added incentive to whine at every turn. Not only do I have an affinity for the country and the culture, but I am responsible for it too. No matter that our ends are so moral that they justify the means – The means have to be moral too, and when they are not (when sometimes they cannot be) we must complain at the top of our voices. I marched in London against a war in Iraq on 15th February 2003 not because I wanted to throw dust in Blair’s eyes for the sake of, but because our preparation, and the arguments for war were not to the high standard I expect of my country.
So too with our allies, especially Israel. The culture there is very ‘western’, one might say. This is unsurprising, as it was European immigrants who founded it. They are the ruling class now, and they are funded by Western dollars. We have a blood bond. We want the best for them too, and it breaks our hearts to see them lose their humanity, treating their neighbours like third-class citizens.
Notice how the criticisms of the USA, the UK and Israel are quite specific. Notice how the criticisms of other countries are so general. With the USA, I name: the shoddy 2000 Election; the PATRIOT ACT; rushed war planning in Iraq; Guantanamo Bay; NSA phone-tapping; Extra-ordinary Rendition; and this nagging itch (somewhere at the back of my head), concerning the previous employment of Condi, Dick and George. We have been dissecting these issues for six years and there is still more to say. But China? Well, that’s a homogenising dictatorship. Sudan? A desert pockmarked with genocide. Criticising these places for even five seconds seems to be overdoing it – You could make your point in four.
Why waste more breath on the USA, or Israel? Because we have a shared language, a shared culture, we believe their policy-makers will listen. We believe they will take into account the things we say. We must ensure our big brother, the mighty USA, or our kid brother, little Israel, always has the absolute moral high ground. That means scrutinising and challenging them at every step. Only then we can support them with a clear conscience when they take on a radioactive Iran, or any of the tin-pot dictators (Mugabe, oh please God Mugabe) that stain the earth.