The State of the 2012 Union and the new New World Order

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Impact of the State of the Union Address on the Rest of the World
by Jamila Aisha Brown

The age of American exceptionalism is back! At least according to United States President Barack Obama during the State of the Union Address delivered on Tuesday, January 24. In his fiery speech, a clear precursor to his impending re-election campaign, he declared America an “indispensable nation” whose leadership extends “across the globe.” Although President Obama’s speech centered on domestic issues such as education, the economy, and taxes, he delivered a clear message that the United States of America would continue to exert or re-exert its economic, political, and military dominance throughout the world.

“Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn't know what they're talking about.”

While Obama openly scoffed at critics who doubt that the U.S. can compete globally in these changing times, he issued a strong warning to emerging economies and nations who challenge American economic comparative advantage. The President condemned subsidized industries for giving a “leg up” to foreign manufacturers, singled out China as a main offender in what he deemed to be unfair trade practices, and announced the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit in efforts to “level the playing field.”

In his statements regarding trade, Obama praised the passage of three new free trade agreements in Panama, Colombia, and South Korea proclaiming, “I will go anywhere in the world to open new markets for American products. And I will not stand by when our competitors don't play by the rules.”

The rules? The same rules that allow the United States to protect its heavily subsidized agricultural industries from Mexican corn and Dominican sugar? The same rules that flood American produce into emerging markets comprising small farms and pushing campesinos out of the countryside into urban areas and then across the U.S. border?

Since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, undocumented immigration has more than doubled, jumping from nearly 5 to 11.9 million. A reality that has led the Obama administration to simultaneously push Congress towards comprehensive immigration reform and increase the numbers “boots on the border,” but not spur greater analysis foreign policy or reformation.

Marked by the advent of global terrorism, U.S. foreign policy in the past decade has been largely defined by rising concerns of oil dependency and national security. Though President Obama, emboldened by the death of Osama bin Laden and the sweep of democracy across North Africa and the Middle East, dared to dream for the United States, “a future where we're in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren't so tied to unstable parts of the world.”

The President spoke of human dignity and his belief that the Assad regime in Syria will fall, however notably absent from his speech were Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Close allies in the United States’ War on Terror, Bahrain houses one of the United States’ largest Naval fleets and Saudi Arabia stands as America’s second largest oil supplier. Yet in regards to democracy and human rights the U.S. has publicly remained silent, as Bahraini citizens cries for democracy have been met by repression from its King and 1,000 Saudi forces and Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Bahrain, merely serves as a mirror of its own efforts to oppress Shia protestors demanding internal Saudi reforms.

Despite President Obama’s impassioned decry that “tyranny is no match for liberty,” it would appear this should not apply to human rights violations committed by the nation’s friends in the Middle East.

Though the State of the Union address is undoubtedly crafted to fuel American patriotism and strengthen the union itself, the discrepancies in President Obama’s speech make clear that American global leadership involves a tipping of the scales in the United States’ advantage.

This advantage, inextricably linked to the concept of American exceptionalism, merely follows a trajectory of U.S. policies from Manifest Destiny to the Monroe Doctrine to the Cold War’s quest for a “Free World.”

What President Obama’s address demonstrates is America is back. And that its desire, its belief, and its “right” to mold global policies as it wishes, are just as woven into the fabric of this nation as the 50 stars and 13 stripes of the American flag.

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