America is Not Losing the Free World

Financial Times columnist Gideon Rachman argues this week that “America is losing the free world.”

Rachman contends that the “latest example” of America losing the free world is President Obama’s failure to secure an agreement during the Copenhagen climate change meetings in late 2009, which indicates a much larger trend: that developing democracies such as Brazil, India, South Africa and Turkey are equally (if not more likely) to side with authoritative countries such as China on international issues.

If only it were the case.

Rachman continues, “[i]f climate change were an isolated example,” perhaps the notion that America is losing the free world could be dismissed. And yet Rachman fails to offer any other sufficient example of America “losing the free world” besides this solitary, open-and-shut issue: that developing countries will not sacrifice their sovereign right to industrialize and modernize because already-modernized countries ask — whether they are democracies or not.

“The US has been slow to pick up on this development, perhaps because it seems so surprising and unnatural.”

Rachman assumes that Americans are flabbergasted by the seeming contradiction that developing democracies would side against the US as a fellow democracy. To the contrary, Americans have gradually come to realize America’s uncertain place in a rapidly changing world over the course of two decades — with exclamation points coming in the forms of terrorist attacks on 9/11; the unwillingness of close American allies to support the forceful removal tyrant Saddam Hussein; and the spike of rabid anti-Americanism in both Western nations and across the globe that would soon follow.

“Most Americans assume that fellow democracies will share their values and opinions on international affairs…”

Rachman again fails to distinguish blind American naïveté with what is a fundamentally American principal and one that any free people willfully choose to believe: that all men and women are created equal and entitled by their simply being human to inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Americans do not ethnocentrically assume that every democratic people will share American values and opinions; we hope that all people might shall share our most sincere and fundamental beliefs about equality and freedom, upon which our country was founded.

“The answer is that Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and India are all countries whose identities as democracies are now being balanced – or even trumped – by their identities as developing nations that are not part of the white, rich, western world.”

Rachman’s conclusion is only half correct: any developing country, whether democratic or authoritarian, will refuse to submit to international demands (such as widespread environmental regulation) because it will necessarily hinder a developing country’s sovereignty — the country’s right to industrialize and economically develop to its fullest potential.

The disagreement is a matter of national sovereignty; it has little to do with national identity of “whiteness,” wealth, or being a part of the Western world (if it did, why would these developing countries side with the likes of the Chinese, with whom South Americans, Africans, Turks, and Indians have no racial or cultural connection?).

And when already-modernized Western countries who have exclusively caused the (assumed) major increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide make such demands, the degree of hypocrisy is certain to only offend developing democracies we wish to call our allies.

America is not losing the free world. But “small d” democrats — from America to Europe and beyond — whose diplomatic efforts are forged primarily on behalf of the global Green Movement will necessarily lose developing democracies like Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and India because they will never sacrifice their sovereign right to develop simply because it is asked.

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