USA needs help. Let’s face it: our democratic institutions aren’t working well; our president is behaving like a depraved, spiteful monarch; our police, with almost 19,000 independent units nationwide, are unmanageable; our unprecedented social and economic divides are growing; the health of our citizens is declining; new digital platforms are sources of unprecedented hate and threats; our media is so polarized, we don’t know whom to believe. (Then there’s Covid-19.)
Across the globe, wherever a nation is in crisis—by hurricane or earthquake, mounting disease or plunging poverty, military attack or teetering government— whether requested or not, others are alerted and assistance from abroad mobilized. The U.S. (as projected by American media) is in the forefront of concern for others (except those on its sanctions list— e.g. North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, Yemen). Genuine humanitarian aid is dispatched from NGOs and private, religious and government agencies. Assistance flows in cash, in materials and advisors, observers and medical experts (along with military intelligence and troops where it’s determined to be advantageous to American policy).
Today America itself is a nation under internal threat and in dire need. Along with signs that the U.S.healthcare system and its leaders cannot control the Covid-19 disease, more examples of police brutality are exposed. Underpinning and exacerbating both ailments is political instability (although few would identify it as such).
If Americans will not admit that they’re engulfed by this unprecedented crisis, outside observers note it with growing alarm. Countries close their borders to Americans while the pandemic spirals out of control. Across the world, people are questioning the very idea of American democracy. Longtime U.S. allies are flummoxed by its unpredictable foreign policy. Even before these multiple crises emerged, commentators pondered our teetering democracy.
We’ve had flawed, embarrassing state primary elections in Georgia and Wisconsin; we had the Democratic National Committee interrupt the presidential primaries to install its preferred candidate Joe Biden. Public doubts are increasing about how November’s election can be legitimately conducted. Every week presents us with more fears about this democracy. Management of the pandemic is undermined when the CDC, one of America’s most highly regarded health agencies, is bypassed by a White House order to divert medical data to a branch of Homeland Security. Most recently we have unidentified paramilitaries circumventing state and local authorities to confront protesters, first in D.C. now in Portland, with threats of similar directives to other cities.
This slide towards greater political instability looks unstoppable.
Another country experiencing a similar crisis will surely be the object of outside assistance, or interference. There’ll be offers of economic assistance, dispatch of intelligence advisors; international peacekeepers might be sent; a U.N. Security Council resolution would be proposed.
But who will help America? Who could? In 2007 Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez donated heating oil to American families struggling through the winter months. Cuba’s offer to help early in the Covid-19 crisis was spurned, (while from its side Washington blocked Chinese assistance to Cuba, interfered with a shipment to France, and essentially commandeered a Chinese Covid-19 supplies meant for Canada).
I can think of just three states—Israel, Australia and the U.K.– who might offer assistance. Israel is a dependable training site for American police, and a highly valued intelligence service for the U.S. Australiamaintains an opaque but firm military alliance with America, readily falling in with the Pentagon’s needs. On intelligence sharing, the U.K is a solid partner. Although one wonders how much economic assistance England could offer, preoccupied with its own pandemic. Plans for new U.S-U.K. trade agreements to thwart the European Union are delayed. As for guidance from England on democracy, its parliamentary system differs markedly from U.S. federalism and few British understand America’s election processes. The White House occupant might reach out to Russia; but that would raise other problems, even among Republicans.
What about India? Historically beset by discord between two major ethnic groups, multi-cultural India might be a model. But the rise of Hindu nationalism under Modi has been fiercely uncompromising. Advice from India is out.
Maybe South Africa would step up to guide us. The U.S. backed the anti-apartheid struggle there, and South Africa’s victory established an exemplary racial reconciliation system.
Scanning the rest of Africa, the Middle East, and South America, we find few candidates who might help us.
But wait! We have billionaires, lots of them—609 out of 2,208 globally.
Billionaire Michael Bloomberg and his peer Apple’s Tim Cook responded to Governor Cuomo’s call for help during New York’s Covid-19 crisis, and George Soros promises more support for Black Americans’ struggle for justice. Some very wealthy Americans offer to pay more taxes.
The alternative to all these solutions is: people in the streets.
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B. Nimri Aziz is an anthropologist and journalist who’s worked in Nepal since 1970, and published widely on peoples of the Himalayas. A new book on Nepali rebel women is forthcoming.
Featured image is a file photo