Sunday, July 16, 2017

An exceptional nation

My post on what happens when the United States chooses to withdraw its bulky, often imperious, weight from the world order ignited some discussion among friends on Facebook.

I thought it might be a useful followup to publish this catalogue of 20th century "American exceptionalism" from J.J. Goldberg, written in response to the Cheato's withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. The history of our evasion and circumvention when it comes to international agreements is long.

... numerous commentators were suggesting that America has put itself in unfamiliar and unseemly company [with Nicaragua and North Korea as climate deal refuseniks].

But that suggestion underestimates the depth of America’s exceptionalism. After all, the Paris withdrawal isn’t the first time we’ve joined forces with unsavory outliers to defy a global consensus. Lest we forget, we are one of just three nations that have refused to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, alongside Somalia and South Sudan. In case you’re wondering, this is primarily due to opposition from America’s religious right who object to the treaty’s language criticizing corporal punishment.

There’s more: We’re one of just four nations, together with Swaziland, Lesotho and Papua New Guinea, that don’t promise paid maternity leave to mothers of newborns. We’re one of seven nations that have refused to ratify the U.N. Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, alongside Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tonga, Palau and the Vatican. We’re one of 13 nations that reject the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, together with Iran, North Korea, Libya, El Salvador and a few others, including landlocked Afghanistan and Rwanda.

Still more: It took us fully 40 years to overcome Republican opposition in the Senate and join the civilized world in ratifying the U.N. Genocide Convention of 1948. We rank seventh in the world in executions of prisoners, trailing China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan and Egypt, but outstripping Somalia, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

We’ve refused for decades to ratify the landmark U.N. Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which translates the historic 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights into legal standards. Our objection is mainly to the convention’s definition of fundamental human rights as including, among others, “a decent living,” “adequate food, clothing and housing” and the right to form and join unions.

And, of course, we’re the only advanced industrial economy that doesn’t guarantee universal health coverage as a right.

Goldberg reached a tough conclusion:

Scholars and observers worldwide used to call us the indispensable nation. From now on they’ll be calling us the indefensible nation. We are indeed an exception.

The world is about to see where it goes without us.


George Waite said...

But we still have to be Plan B for the Third World, right?
Because you obviously don't think we're too horrible to take in the surplus population of Latin America.....

joared said...

This is an excellent review of matters we need to be reminded of -- that as a nation -- despite what we can be proud of -- we have lots of room for improvement -- even if some among us get too cocky ignoring our nation's shortcomings.

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