Judge Brett Kavanaugh will now be Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh. The United States has proven once again in the eyes of the world it’s drifting far from the moral leadership it long clung to globally. In so many ways the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh is the culmination of a long drift toward overt moral hypocrisy and isolation for the United States as an international force for good in the world.
The rush by the majority political party to put on the highest court in the land, and the most influential court on the planet an alleged rapist and serial sexual harasser whose public appearance was one of indignant entitlement very well could be the final nail in this nation’s coffin in terms of global influence.
As we’ve talked about on these pages in the past, often US’ claims of moral leadership and being the world’s leading light were exaggerated and even embellished. For example during the Cold War, liberation movements among disaffected people’s often looked to the Soviet Union not the United States for inspiration thanks to the American nation-state’s long history of racism and continued indulgence of Jim Crow segregation into the 1960’s. In recent years, it has become convenient to either 1- ignore this reality or 2- blame it on the residual distrust of western powers thanks to British and French colonialism.
This is not the case though – the British and French had in many aspects of their foreign policy become more leftist and disconnected from their former colonies after the 1950’s. Additionally, it was the United States that showed greater trust of right-wing military juntas than of democracy (ironically the totalitarian Soviet Union appeared in many cases to trust popular movements on the ground more than the Democratic United States did) and also was more likely to subject parts of the developing world where people of color were of the majority to a new form of economic colonialism- worse in some ways than what those parts had experienced under direct western rule, because the United States exploited the population for economic gain while not investing in the institutions of governance the way previous colonial powers had.
However, the United States did have domestic institutions and well-educated reasoned activists who were powerful rhetorically with a professed idealism that did inspire those looking for freedom and opportunity abroad. Moreover, American culture or at least the non-commercial aspects that were exported appeared on the surface to be more egalitarian and diverse in its inspirations than what the British and French had previously brought. Aspects of western life such as secularism, less rigid clothing and greater respect for women began to permeate the developing world largely thanks to US economic and cultural influence.
The Iraq War is the point of reference most globally use when discussing the decline of American moral authority. It’s a logical starting point that represents a tipping point but by no means is not the entire picture. In fact Iraq, a war begun under flimsy premises by a President in George W. Bush that came to office under the cloud of incredible fortune if not outright fraud here in Florida showed the world the United States would as a nation seek to exploit any tragedy such as 9/11 for its own potential economic gain. The myth that the United States had a society where all persons were taken care of shattered by the government’s response to Katrina which was inferior in all forms to storms that had hit the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America in the same year and the Tsunami that had ravaged South Asia just months earlier.
American moral authority was further undermined by the Abu Ghraib tortures, the drone war in Pakistan, the failure of the United States to lead on countering global climate change and the election of Donald Trump, a wannabe Authoritarian who had failed miserably in business and whose only real success was in the form of masquerading as a TV celebrity for a number of years. Equally important was the United States economic policies particularly under George W. Bush led directly to the Great Recession.
The elevation of Kavanaugh however will have as lasting an impact, negatively on the perception of the United States abroad. At a time where religious fundamentalist movements that disrespect the rights of women are growing in influence in the developing world, the US’ could in fact begin to give aid and comfort to groups like Boko Haram, the Taliban and the RSS as well as nation-states like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran. Should Kavanaugh’s confirmation be used as justification to either 1) reject US cries of equality and fair treatment toward women or 2) be used as propaganda justifying rape and violence toward women in some countries, the US will truly lost any moral standing.
As I look at the nation of my fore-bearers, India, a place today so beset by violence against women, that it’s not safe for westerners to travel to certain parts of the country, I worry that any cries from the west or US-aligned groups to modify this behavior could lose any and all credibility. This loss of credibility from the United States and perhaps the west as a whole could leave women uniquely vulnerable globally to the growing scourge of male authoritarianism and radical religion that is making a strong comeback on every corner of the planet.
The United States has now left women, over half the world’s population even more vulnerable to the whims of dictators and religious zealots. The nation now could be giving aid and comfort to those who wish to once again enslave women and keep them under the thumb of male dominance. The Kavanaugh confirmation was seen through the narrow-prism of an upcoming election by Republican elites, but could in fact have some of the most drastic consequences for the planet and the relative position of the United States of any single act in recent memory.
On a personal note, I’d like to end this writing with a point of privilege. I’ve enjoyed providing cutting-edge commentary over the last many years be it here or on Twitter. However, the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh has opened my eyes to the reality of the work I have spent most of my life doing. I believe in accountability and egalitarianism as never dying principles. I have, unfortunately in wake of Kavanaugh’s confirmation, something I will freely admit I thought unthinkable three weeks ago, realize that I have failed to move the needle on opinion whatsoever outside of a few whispering elites in the chattering classes.
The exasperation I demonstrated toward this nomination and the subsequent process in the Senate was shared by those in the echo chamber in which I have placed myself – however I failed to convince a single individual I interacted with outside that echo chamber, those who believed differently than me (albeit they were almost universally males) of the merits of my position or the importance of accountability, processes and respect for women.
Therefore, I have failed in what is the bulk of my life work, I will refrain from further incendiary commentary for the foreseeable future on social media (I have deactivated my personal Facebook account and am trying to keep Twitter a little more “newsy” and less “edgy.” though given my historical lack of discipline for which so many have rightly taken me to task, I cannot guarantee that this will last) and on these pages. Posts and tweets will attempt to be informative or factual, no longer based solely on my opinions or personal preferences which clearly are not winning over converts at this stage, if they ever did. I will continue to try and bring perspectives that I believe matter, albeit in a less threatening manner. Thanks for your indulgence and continued support of our efforts at TFS.