Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The dark side of Clinton's American exceptionalism

Hillary Clinton is an imperialist and hawkcomfortable with the use of American force abroad.

Though perhaps not as strongly as others, she embraces American exceptionalism, defined either as America's superiority over other nations, or as America's unique ability or charge to change the world.

Great empires the world over have viewed themselves as exceptional--from Imperial China to Britain. That re-purposed narrative rings tired to me. America's foundation and rise in influence are perhaps singular, but to take that as a divine mandate is folly*.

In our nation's history, this view has resulted in such conflicts as Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

As Secretary of State, Clinton supported the United States-Colombia Free Trade Agreement--passed by Congress in 2011 and set in motion during President Bush's second term in 2007. Her stance on trade has of course changed over time. In 2008 she opposed it, citing "the history of violence against trade unionists in Colombia," which is turning out to be a very real concern.

The agreement is meant to:
"...expand U.S. goods exports alone by more than $1.1 billion and give key U.S. goods and services duty free access in sectors from manufacturing to agriculture. It will increase U.S. GDP by $2.5 billion and support thousands of additional U.S. jobs."
While it hasn't been covered in great depth by mainstream news sources, Daniel J. Camacho, a scholar at Duke (and Calvin grad) who I follow on Twitter, has been an outspoken critic of the Free Trade Agreement and Clinton's involvement:

In a well-reported piece by the Nation, Michael Norby and Brian Fitzpatrick delve into the internal refugee crisis in rural Colombia, exacerbated by the agreement. The country is one of the most dangerous in the world for union members, with ITUC reporting:
"that thirty-five unionists were murdered in Colombia in 2012, solidifying the country’s status as the most dangerous place on earth to be a union member. Between 3,000 and 4,000 Colombian unionists have been killed since the late 1980s."
Criticism of American exceptionalism is clearly not popular. It's even touted in the first line of the 2016 GOP Platform: "We believe in American exceptionalism."

But that doesn't make it right, and that doesn't make us, as a nation, above reproach.

The reason this hasn't seen more coverage is that both major parties are complicit. The U-CFTA has been a bipartisan effort, passed under the Obama administration, but since it benefits American exports, no one is saying anything.

Clinton deserves criticism on this. We are better than this. If we truly are exceptional, we can show it by engaging in trade agreements that are fair and just to both nations, and that don't leave the poor in a state of dire marginalization and violence.

I'll leave you with one of Daniel's tweets:

*I'm proud to be an American, but to say that we are inherently different from other nations is hubris.

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