How can the world best gang up on America?

The US has many fine qualities, but in the field of international relations the US is becoming one of the single worst nations on Earth.  Here is just one example:

  • President Donald Trump’s administration announced Monday that buyers of Iranian oil must stop purchases by May 1 or face sanctions. 

  • The move, which took many market participants by surprise, ends six months of waivers which had allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers of crude to continue to import limited volumes.

It’s bad enough that the US refuses to buy oil from Iran; we insist that every other country in the world follow our lead. And in this case we cannot even cite support from allies such as the UK, France and Germany, all of which oppose this move.

Of course there are numerous other examples I could cite. We punish other countries for being tax havens, while the US is perhaps the world’s biggest tax haven. It’s easy to set up secret shell corporations in the US in order to hide wealth.

We also threaten sanctions against foreign multinational companies that do business with Iran. Because of the size of the US, and the fact that it is difficult to do international business without using US dollars, we are able intimidate foreign companies into avoiding Iran.

Trump frequently praises evil leaders like Orban, Kim Jong-un, MBS, Putin, Duterte, while trashing the more respectable leaders of our allies. We are now a part of the “dark side” of authoritarian nationalism. The axis of evil.

We launch trade wars against one country after another, on the flimsiest of justifications. And one could cite dozens of other examples. Some of this predates Trump, but it’s become far worse over the past two years.

So what is to be done? The purpose of this post is to look for ideas as to how the rest of the world can fight back against American bullying.

Consider that the behavior of Russia and Saudi Arabia is at least as bad as Iran’s behavior, if not worse. So why don’t we ban other countries from buying oil from Russia or Saudi Arabia? The answer is clear; they are too big for us to pick on. We know that a cutoff of oil from either of those two countries would push the global economy into recession. We pick on the weak. This suggests a path forward.

It seems to me that it would be in the interest of the major European nations to join up with China, Japan, Russia, Turkey, India and other major powers in an anti-American alliance. That way the US could not pick them off one country at a time. Yes, the Europeans are not completely happy with the behavior of China, but right now the US is the biggest threat to Europe. (Something Angela Merkel seems to understand.) By joining together in an anti-American alliance, it will make it harder for the US to achieve its goals. We can sanction one country for doing business with Iran, but do we dare sanction the entire world? I doubt it.

Perhaps there could be an international effort to replace the dollar with the euro as the dominant currency in global trade and investment. It would not be easy, but the leverage of US policymakers would be reduced if the US banking system did not occupy such a central role in the global economy. Or perhaps the EU could fine American companies doing business in Europe every time we fined a European firm for doing something that was perfectly legal under European law.

The US is a big country, but it generates only about 20% of global GDP. If the rest of the world worked together they ought to be able to put an end to American bullying. Bullies are usually cowards, and tend to back down when they meet actual resistance.

If you have any good ideas, please add them to the comment section.

PS. The recent US ultimatum given to Iran reminds me of the old days when countries like Germany would deliver a ridiculous set of demands to a weaker country in the hope they would be rejected and offer a pretext for war. (I suspect the actual US goal is regime change, not denuclearization.) My favorite example was the US insistence that Iran not intervene in Yemen. Pot, kettle.

Update: Although this Foreign Affairs piece ends up (sort of) defending Trump, it’s still the best thing I’ve read on the Mueller investigation. Highly recommended.



36 Responses to “How can the world best gang up on America?”

  1. Gravatar of Amaury Amaury
    21. May 2019 at 12:10

    I do not know if have ever seen the movie “Funny Games.”

    I wrote this recently.

    “Funny Games” by Michael Haneke. One of my favorite movies. Funny enough it reflects our predicament with someone like Trump. We have elected a pathological liar and moral transgressor to run the country. He’s white and rich so what harm can there be? He enters the stage by pretending to reveal that “the emperor has no clothes” while selling “America First” and nationalistic sloganeering; exhibiting the instincts of an alpha animal in the jungle of capitalism. The criminals in Haneke’s film interestingly enough wear white and seem harmless while our typical domesticated family man is playing by the rules of civilization and cannot comprehend the meaningless violence of the two intruders. Our civilized man even uses the language of apologies (“please”) and justice (“arbitration”) in trying to extricate the psychopaths from his house.

    Haneke’s characters are not the typical Hollywood cartoon evil characters of depravity and violence, they are not muscled or tatooted, they are skinny and meek looking, our Trump is overweight and has the benign look of a typical corrupt CEO; yes but he’s our corrupt misanthropic CEO. Haneke’s thugs even use the weapons of our refined civilization; golf clubs. In the beginning of the movie our innocent civilized family even plays Opera en route to their summer home. Haneke’s characters are not only psychopaths, they are self-reflective psychopaths, they are creating their misanthropy for the camera; they are showmen like Trump. Now we are all part of Trump’s show; WWF wrestling or “The Apprentice.” We Americans are now in a show created by Trump; he sells his misanthropy and racism because we now believe our civilized laws and our universal values are not enough for America to succeed in the international jungle. We have elected someone that skirts our values and laws in order for us to become apprentices in the jungle of civilization.

  2. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    21. May 2019 at 13:12

    Consider that the behavior of Russia and Saudi Arabia is at least as bad as Iran’s behavior, if not worse. So why don’t we ban other countries from buying oil from Russia or Saudi Arabia? The answer is clear; they are too big for us to pick on. We know that a cutoff of oil from either of those two countries would push the global economy into recession. We pick on the weak. This suggests a path forward.

    Yes, the path forward is to eliminate the weak first. That’s the usual strategy, you attack the weak spots first.

    Russia is indeed too big. Saudi Arabia is not as bad as Iran imho. Sanctions against Iran make a lot of sense.

    I do not understand your argument at all. Unfortunately, Russia has become very big and very powerful indeed, and unfortunately we can not defeat Russia at the moment. Putin is a thug, a thug, who can not be beaten right now. So far we agree.

    But Putin being a thug, who can’t be beaten right now, is honestly your argument why the US should leave all other thugs alone? Seriously??? What’s the idea? Sorry Scott, I just don’t get it.

    I’d like to see how you turn your ideas into a coherent argument. I try to follow reason, but then please bring reasonable arguments.

  3. Gravatar of Joseph Joseph
    21. May 2019 at 13:35

    Scott, how about giving an example of Saudi Arabia’s leadership claiming some other country should be removed from the map?
    SA is not a country I would want to live in but comparing it with Iran sounds ridiculous to me.

    And your argument is really weak overall. Is China big enough for you? Doesn’t Trump “pick up a fight” with it as well?

    With regards to Russia, doesn’t US “encourage” Europe to build liquid gas terminals to try and lower the dependency on Russian gas? Yes, dealing with a problem of such a massive scale takes time, who would have thought.

    TDS affects the best of minds, unfortunately.

  4. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    21. May 2019 at 14:45

    Amaury, I did see one Haneke film, but not Funny Games.

    Joseph, Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses in Yemen are worse than anything Iran is doing.

  5. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    21. May 2019 at 14:48

    Christian, One can debate whether we should have sanctions against Iran, my point here was that we should not tell other countries that they must adopt America’s policy on Iran, especially when most of our friends don’t even agree with us. The previous agreement was working fine, why end it?

  6. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    21. May 2019 at 15:26


    Thought provoking, but aren’t we always going to have geo-political jockeying, and aren’t economic sanctions better than shooting wars. Other countries are free not to trade with the U.S., and they are also free to band together as you suggest, but I doubt they will because they know ultimately that their continued freedom and prosperity depends on the protection provided by the U.S.

    The U.S. is not perfect, but better a pax Americana than constant conflict or domination by countries who have less regard for human life and liberty

  7. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    21. May 2019 at 16:25

    Stephen Kotkin is an excellent historian of contemporary Russia, so it is not surprising his essay is so good.

    The failing around of The Donald’s Administration’s foreign policy (if it can be so dignified by the coherence the term implies) is partly to be expected when a real estate hustler is elected President but is also partly a symptom of wider cultural dislocations.

    And the US has done better at managing the world system (to the extent it does) than the Europeans did from 1914-1945. A low benchmark to be sure, but still a much better performance by the US.

  8. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    21. May 2019 at 17:50


    not sure if this is grounds for optimism, but a lot of megatrends we now see playing out hinge around basic facts of size, demographics and economics. The rise of the US after WWII had to do with its superior size, geographical unity and isolation from other powers. Later, the US was able to do its post-WWI empire building for three main reasons, one was its economic and military superiority, two was its disproportionate size in the world economy, three was that it presented positive externalities to the world: while pursuing its self interest, it created accidental benefits to third parties through order, trade, law etc. – so its lead was followed by unconcerned third parties too.

    These days, the above factors are all eroding. The US is often, but no more always, in the technology lead (and 5G must sting in particular, what else can explain the hysterical witch hunt after Huawei). The US is proportionally much less overweight in the world economy, although the size of its consumer market still allows it to blackmail other countries by restricting access to it. But I’ve said it before – once China’s consumer market equals the importance of the US’s, for importers, the US will have lost significant power to blackmail. Finally, on externalities, this is purely an US-led own goal. Obama understood that any nascent US-led rules based order in the world would be a positive externality to the rest of the world, who wold willingly follow. The Trumpsters don’t understand this, and squandered US power without any need or advantage to the US.

    So in the end, all we have to do is wait 10 to 15 years. Or, and heavens forbid, this could all go faster if the US sticks with its bizarre Middle East addiction and picks a war with Iran. Then it would get massively distracted for another 5 years, same way it got distracted by Iraq in the 2000’s. I still remember grumblings about the need to contain China in the early 2000’s, and when Iraq came along I thought, the only positive thing here is that China will have a chance to develop a little longer before the US stomps its boot on it, and that’s indeed what happened.

    The US btw at the time thought it could take on Afghanistan and Iraq at the same time, well it could, but barley so, and geopolitically it neglected Russia and China for the next 10-15 years. Now, the Trumpsters may think they can take on Iran and China at the same time. Well… color me skeptical.

    All the above are the ultimate reason why the EU is so important for Europe – to create massive scale out of small countries. And I suspect Trump’s antipathy to the EU is based on an instinctive understanding that the sheer size of the EU (and China) is the thing that threatens US supremacy. The nationalists are useful idiots to Russia and Trump in that respect, they destroy a potential for Europe to play a larger geopolitical role, while doing it for personally corrupt and petty reasons, as we just saw in Austria.

  9. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    22. May 2019 at 04:24

    I think more tariffs and other trade restrictions that target Trump’s base are called for. I support 100% free trade, except when refusing to support an evil, actively outwardly harmful regime, like Nazi Germany. Trump is evil and is actively harming institutions that facilitate international peace and free enterprise, so his base should be targeted.

  10. Gravatar of Ewan Ewan
    22. May 2019 at 07:04

    President Putin “evil”? Russia at least as bad as Iran? What is either Russia or Iran doing that is so bad it warrants comparing them to Saudi Arabia and its ally the US, who are currently deliberately starving 20 million or so Yemenis?

  11. Gravatar of BC BC
    22. May 2019 at 07:31

    Preventing a nuclear Iran generates positive externalities for all countries. If every country tried to free-ride on other countries’ sanctions, gaining the benefit of other countries’ sanctions without sacrificing by following the sanctions themselves, then no country would impose sanctions and we would end up with a nuclear Iran.

    Also, actual Middle East countries, like Saudi Arabia and Israel, seem to favor the tougher line on Iran. That the US seems to take more seriously than the Europeans do the security concerns of Middle Eastern, non-European nations would seem to be a point in favor of the US rather than the Europeans.

    The best way for other nations to challenge US hegemony would be to aspire to become the world’s leading proponent of global liberty and the Liberal World Order. Such competition would be welcome.

  12. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    22. May 2019 at 08:25

    In the long run, it seems that the only solution will be economic development of poor countries.

    In the short run, countries should enforce antitrust laws and remove any state action or lobbying defense. If all global banks agreed to stop doing business with Iran on their own initiative, that would be a cartel boycott which would be illegal in most countries. Similarly, I doubt many countries would allow Google to stop service to Huawei to promote its own phones. It should be equally illegal for a foreign government to do these things. A company that has market dominance in a foreign country should be prosecuted under that country’s antitrust laws if it lobbies the US government to take actions that hobble its competitors in that country.

    BC, Iraq is against the Iran sanctions and it has more reason to fear Iran than anyone.

  13. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    22. May 2019 at 12:30

    Your strategy might backfire. Trump’s base might encourage him to push back harder if they believe other countries are ganging up on us.

    The Atlantic article you linked to on China was excellent until the author wandered off into Progressive solutions for worker displacement. The Foreign Affairs article was also excellent. Thanks for linking to those.

  14. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    22. May 2019 at 16:12

    “It seems to me that it would be in the interest of the major European nations to join up with China, Japan, Russia, Turkey, India and other major powers in an anti-American alliance. That way the US could not pick them off one country at a time.”

    I firmly agree, Sumner; it is wise.

    As to Kotkin, he always tells exactly half the truth, which makes him superior to 99% of so-called “Russia experts”.

    Neither Russia, Saudi Arabia (except apparently backing al-Qaeda in Syria, which is similar to Iran backing the Houthis in Yemen), or Iran are doing all that much wrong. As you correctly point out, the U.S. is doing much more wrong than any of these countries.

    “Or perhaps the EU could fine American companies doing business in Europe every time we fined a European firm for doing something that was perfectly legal under European law.”


    “Trump frequently praises evil leaders like Orban, Kim Jong-un, MBS, Putin, Duterte”

    You’re missing a couple: Erdogan and Bibi. And it is strange that Israel is missing from your post entirely. It is the skeleton key to Trump’s Iran policy.

    Interestingly, Sumner, you haven’t pointed to the one case on which the E.U. convinced Trump and a critical mass of Senate Republicans (but no congressional Democrats) to relent on sanctions hurting it: the case of Rusal.

  15. Gravatar of Ewan Ewan
    23. May 2019 at 00:59

    Your sanctions kill people. They are illegal. International treaties allow signatories to develop and use nuclear power. The US intelligence services have confirmed that Iran has had no nuclear weapons programme since at least 2003. “Actual” states like Israel and Saudi Arabia i.e those who do not want Iran to compete with them as a regional power, those with motive and skill to involve the US in their local wars. Ask Iraq, Syria, Lebanon… Iran is no threat to the US, maybe, but how dare it have its borders right up against all those US military bases. Such positive externalities we have all enjoyed from the destruction of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen. Why wouldn’t we all fall into line to reduce another country to chaos? What are a few million lives to the “rule based” (!) international order?

  16. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    23. May 2019 at 09:39

    dtoh, I supported sanctions on Russia after they annexed part of the Ukraine. But Iran has not done anything nearly that bad. (To be sure, Iran’s government is plenty bad in terms of human rights.) But my main point here is that even if US sanctions on Iran are defensible, we should not force the rest of the world to follow our lead. There is great uncertainty as to the best policy in international affairs. If most of our allies, and indeed most foreign policy experts in the US, think Trump’s Iran policy is unwise, what basis do we have for forcing it on the rest of the world? That’s hubris, arrogance.

    Dtoh and Lorenzo, I agree that the US has often (not always) been a force for good in the world, and I reject the Noam Chomsky view of the world. But Trump is not in that “internationalist” tradition, which was bipartisan in nature.

    mbka, Great comment. You should start your own blog so I could stop doing my mediocre posts on foreign affairs, and just point to yours.

    BC, You said:

    “Preventing a nuclear Iran generates positive externalities for all countries.”

    Iran was adhering to the agreement before Trump, now they’ve re-started the nuclear program. Happy?

  17. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    23. May 2019 at 09:42

    “I supported sanctions on Russia after they annexed part of the Ukraine. But Iran has not done anything nearly that bad. (To be sure, Iran’s government is plenty bad in terms of human rights.)”

    Incredibly dumb remark, Sumner. Look at Lebanon, Yemen, and Gaza.

    “But my main point here is that even if US sanctions on Iran are defensible, we should not force the rest of the world to follow our lead.”

    ??????????? What???? I certainly don’t think they’re defensible. But forcing the rest of the world to follow our lead is necessary if they’re defensible.

    I think Noam Chomsky is simply another American imperialist.

  18. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    23. May 2019 at 14:03

    I don’t really see how we are forcing our sanctions on others. The US policy (hugely over-simplified) is “We’re not going to trade with Iran and we’re not going to trade with anyone else who trades with Iran.” Other countries are free to decide whether or not they want to trade with the U.S.

  19. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    23. May 2019 at 14:08

    BTW – I’m not saying I agree with the U.S. policy of sanctions on Iran. The U.S. and Iran should be natural allies, but both countries are having a hard time figuring out how to get there.

  20. Gravatar of BC BC
    24. May 2019 at 00:49

    “The U.S. and Iran should be natural allies, but both countries are having a hard time figuring out how to get there.”

    If one country can’t take another country’s embassy hostage and commemorate the event annually by burning that country’s flag without getting in the way of the two countries’ natural alliance, then what hope is there for world peace?

  21. Gravatar of Ewan Ewan
    24. May 2019 at 02:48

    If one country can’t organise the overthrow of the duly elected leader of another country (with the help of us Brits) – remember 1953, at all? If one country can’t help invade another country (to the extent of supplying chemicals) – remember our (then) great friend Saddam Hussein? History isn’t as selective as we are.

  22. Gravatar of Ewan Ewan
    24. May 2019 at 02:57

    Prof. Sumner
    I’m not sure whether the return of Crimea to Russia is as clearly illegal as the cessation of Kosovo after the illegal bombing of Serbia and NATO cooperation with KLA terrorists. I do know that 90% plus of Crimeans supported the move before, during, and after. Were I one of them, and had observed the massacre in Odessa and read the bloodthirsty statements of senior members of the coup regime in Kiev, I too would have voted to return to Russia and been mighty relieved I could. Likewise, if I lived in Eastern Ukraine and experienced the coup regime in Kiev and its response to peaceful protest against the coup (it involved artillery, as it still does), I would be grateful for the “voentorg” from Russia that helps the militias resist. And were I Russian, I would wonder by what right a serial breaker of international law like the US sanctions Russia.

  23. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    25. May 2019 at 12:46

    dtoh, I agree that we are natural allies.

    Ewan. So can I assume you approve of Hitler’s decision to take the (majority German) Sudetenland?

    Seriously, Russia was trying to bring war to the Ukraine, whereas we were trying to bring peace to the former Yugoslavia, where a war was already underway. Big difference.

  24. Gravatar of Ewan Ewan
    26. May 2019 at 05:22

    Prof. Sumner
    Clearly, I would not approve of Hitler taking Sudetenland, just as I do not approve of NATO bombing Serbia (illegally and at the cost of civilian lives) to prise part of it away to form an autonomous hellhole, help terrorists in ethnic cleansing, help them install a gangster government with a sideline in organ trafficking, build a massive US military base, allow umpteen retired US military officers to go into business to profit from Kosovo’s resources…

    As I said, were I Crimean, I would, like 90% plus of the population, be mightily relieved that Russia could save me from the truly vile forces that came to power in the 2014 coup (with the help, by the way, of the US).

    Your comments on Russia’s intentions with regard to Ukraine, and European, US and NATO intentions towards Yugoslavia, are, I’m sorry, ignorant. War in Ukraine is the very last thing Russia wants. As Russia and Ukraine and anyone else briefed by knowledgeable military analysts will know, if Russia wanted war, it would have won it long since and in the space of a week (with a great deal more efficiency and fewer civilian casualties than the US of A in trying to capture its former capo, Noriega, in Panama), would not have wasted time trying to get the regime in Kiev to meets its obligations under Minsk 2 etc.etc. As for the US trying to “bring peace” (!) – pretty much as Tacitus said of Rome.

    Seriously, it’s long since time people in the US stopped assuming they’re the Good Guys.

  25. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    26. May 2019 at 13:22

    “Seriously, Russia was trying to bring war to the Ukraine, whereas we were trying to bring peace to the former Yugoslavia, where a war was already underway. Big difference.”

    My goodness, Sumner, you can’t deny context to this extent. It was the Lviv Ukrainian nationalists who were trying to bring war to Ukraine. The coup resulted in their premature victory, which caused the rebellion of the other areas. For Russia not to have supported those rebellions would have meant admitting defeat and accepting the legitimacy of the coup. What was Russia supposed to do, prepare the way for a coup within Russia like Washington wanted? That would have been (in the long run) unacceptable to the vast majority of Russians.

    Your context denial re: Yugoslavia is similarly bad.

  26. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    26. May 2019 at 18:35


    one person’s coup is another person’s uprising… and to push the context a little farther down the line, the Ukraine uprising(s) happened for a reason too, including the violence that led to the fall of the government, and the eventual sordid developments.

    The exact same is true for Yugoslavia. The bombing of Serbia to support Kosovo independence can’t be separated from the preceding assorted massacres in the civil war. Yes, it is a bit ironic that no one intervened when Slovenia and Croatia seceded initially, and Serb-dominated rump-Yugoslavia attacked them. The republics had the right to secede enshrined in the constitution, so intervention in their favor was perfectly justifiable at that point in time. But no one wanted to do that, due to some remaining feelings for Tito’s support for their partisan allies in WWII (and Mitterrand in particular had been chummy with the non-aligned Yugoslav socialist model). So why bomb Serbia over Kosovo then? That was only justifiable as a humanitarian intervention. As it happened, the way Serbia behaved itself during the whole Yugoslav wars, made another massacre in Kosovo all but predictable. Hence, Serbia was prevented from “pacifying” Kosovo. On humanitarian grounds.

  27. Gravatar of Jeff Jeff
    27. May 2019 at 05:15

    From the Kotkin article in Foreign Affairs you linked to:
    Owing to the Department of Justice’s long-standing internal opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted, Mueller decided that he did not have the legal authority to charge the president.

    Attorney General Barr has stated under oath that he specifically asked Mueller three times whether or not that Justice Department opinion had any bearing on his decision not to charge the President with obstruction, and all three times Mueller said it did not. No one in a position to know has said anything to the contrary. Furthermore, Barr said that same opinion played no role in his own decision not to charge obstruction. He’s said this in writing and in testimony under oath. Again, no one has contradicted him.

    But you and Kotkin know better. TDS strikes again.

  28. Gravatar of Ewan Ewan
    28. May 2019 at 06:08

    The coup in Kiev happened for many reasons, of course. US interference is one, and US insistence its allies break an agreement to bring forward presidential elections, preferring a violent coup instead ( – note the evidence is that the violence was not committed by the government). EU disregard for Russian economic interests is another. Russia had requested negotiations with the EU and Ukraine because the proposed agreement between the EU and Ukraine directly affected Russia while giving it no say – President Yanukovych belatedly had second thoughts, under severe Russian pressure, which was one reason why the West decided President Yanukovych had to go and why a coup rather than elections. The natural wish of many in Western Ukraine to join the EU is another – hence the popular protests in Kiev. Neo-Nazi extreme nationalists another (unfortunately the less disreputable elements in the coup used the neo-Nazis as muscle). Oligarchs vying for priority at the trough were of course another main reason. The were against President Yanukovych’s corruption because they wanted the opportunity to be corrupt themselves. This form of government is why Ukraine went from the richest part of the Soviet Union to one of the poorest in the former Soviet Union. None of this justifies the slaughter of Ukrainians from the east of the country who dared protest against the coup, which the coup leaders made no secret was hostile to them.

    I’m sure you know your Croatian history. You will know why it was questionable for Germany, of all countries, to push for Croatian secession. (Arguably, the one person most to blame for the way Yugoslavia broke up was Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who thought he could manage the process, despite warnings.) You will also know that NATO provided air cover for Croatian cleansing of its Serbian citizens.

    You will also know that the US flew in jihadists from Afghanistan to fight the Bosnian Serbs.

    You will also know that the US helped finance, train. and arm the KLA. When the KLA attacked Serbs in Kosovo and Serbs retaliated, the US had its pretext for humanitarian bombing of Serbia and its civilian population. You will know that Gen. W. Clark confirmed afterwards that the killing in Kosovo only got started in earnest after NATO started bombing.

    The fighting in Yugoslavia, like any internecine strife, was complicated. Crimes were committed by all sides. Serbia was no more culpable (and no less) than any of the others. It just failed to be an ally of anyone in the EU or US. It paid grievously, as did the Serb civilian populations of Serbia (including its Kosovan region), Bosnia, Croatia…

    Humanitarian, indeed!

    I recall Secretary Baker trying to persuade the Yugoslavs not to break up. I’m ignorant of how the US went from this to bombing civilians to ensure a break-up took place. (You don’t have to like Mr. Baker, or others like him, or what they did in general, but the US at least used to appoint intelligent and educated people to public office

  29. Gravatar of More double standards – Econlib More double standards - Econlib
    28. May 2019 at 16:23

    […] done a number of posts (here and at MoneyIllusion) pointing to the increasing tendency of the US to bully smaller countries. One of the worst aspects […]

  30. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    28. May 2019 at 21:37


    You do provide a lot of details, but so selectively as to be totally misleading. That is especially apparent to me for the case of Yugoslavia, because I know more about it than I do about the Ukraine. I lived next door in Austria when the whole sordid spectacle started and I do not recognize the history of the Yugoslav civil war at all with your extreme cherry picking. To begin with, it all started with the lawful (!) secession of republics, followed by aerial bombing of Slovenia and Croatia by the Serb dominated Yugoslav army. In Croatia, the first events in my memory (before secession) are the murder of Croat policemen by nascent Serb militias, in some national park. Attack plans into the yet-to seceding republics by Serbian militias had been published in Belgrade political journals up to a year prior to secession and the start of the actual civil war. It was all out in the open, that if Serbia were to be deprived of the tax income of the richer republics, it would start a war. You didn’t even need a secret service for that. Serbia started this, and specifically its atrocities. Quite au contraire to your description, Germany was muted (though sympathetic to Croatia and Slovenia) and its European allies sort of favored the Serb / “rump-Yugoslav” narrative, because Croatia and Germany were an easily silenced as formerly fascist. The EU “Troika” did most of the foreign negotiating, but it proved useless. Mitterrand blocked all support for secession, but when Chirac came to power, the winds changed in favor of intervention in the civil war that had already started. The Americans hopped on board soon thereafter, and took the initiative off Chirac’s France.

    But – Serbia has had a habit of painting itself as the perennial innocent victim of history, destined to greatness, yet sadly prevented from it through no fault of its own. Hungary btw works off a similar narrative, but that has had far less consequences for its neighbors.

  31. Gravatar of More double standards, by Scott Sumner – CNB Reports More double standards, by Scott Sumner – CNB Reports
    29. May 2019 at 04:38

    […] done a number of posts (here and at MoneyIllusion) pointing to the increasing tendency of the US to bully smaller countries. One of the worst aspects […]

  32. Gravatar of Ewan Ewan
    31. May 2019 at 02:39

    My extreme cherry-picking is the briefest of summaries of the work of US academics, one of them a former intelligence officer who taught at the US Naval College. What they say is usually missing from discussions such as this. You do not need to fall back on the tendency (uniquely) of Serbians to paint themselves as anything. Perhaps sufficient time has passed and sufficient documents released for less reliance on memory and more on academic history. You will notice that I said that all parties to the internecine strife were guilty, which means Croatia and Bosnia – as well as Serbia.

    On Ukraine, I was mainly summarising a British academic, who also has an affiliation with Chatham House (i.e no cherry-picking radical).

    My main point is that the US (not uniquely) has a tendency to paint itself as the Good Guy defending peace and freedom. It is time for a more rounded analysis that tries to take account of the hundreds of thousands killed by US good deeds (which luckily for the US invariably relate to its own perceived interests).

  33. Gravatar of Ewan Ewan
    31. May 2019 at 02:56

    Having re-read the comment of yours I was responding to, your tut-tutting at my attempt to fill in some of the facts you omit (you don’t say they are not facts) seems a bit cheeky. But, hey-ho.

  34. Gravatar of Ewan Maclean Ewan Maclean
    31. May 2019 at 04:31

    Sorry, I’ll shut up in a minute!

    I’m Scottish and support Scottish independence, so I am naturally inclined to support independence for such as Croatia and Slovenia, and not to act as apologist for such as Yugoslavia.

    What I say about studying the history applies equally to me. My experience with other subjects is that the sources I quote will be challenged by others who will be challenged… Some clarity will emerge only gradually. I really ought not to pretend that the sources I quote are the truth, the whole truth etc. The point I intended is rather that your “Serbia – bad. US – humanitarian.” is definitely not the truth, the whole truth etc.

    I will now shut up.

  35. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    1. June 2019 at 09:10


    you leave me slightly confused. However, “US – humanitarian” is certainly NOT my main thrust here.

  36. Gravatar of Krzys Krzys
    9. June 2019 at 09:00

    Yes, the humanitarian coalition against US predation should be led by China: the country that puts a million of its citizens in concentration camps. Beyond parody.

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