WE make no apology for returning in these columns to the issue of parochialism in some of the mainstream US media at a time when so many parts of the outside world are in turmoil.
Their obsession with domestic news almost to the exclusion of international developments that can affect America’s interests is not new. But an added factor is the attempt of certain media outlets to secure the downfall of President Trump as being unfit for the highest office in the land.
Detailed examination of his every move in the search for ammunition against him results in their overall news coverage becoming even more unbalanced, and this has left many Americans who derive their information from the television as well as the press ignorant of what is going on globally. A noteworthy exception, however, is the One America News network which is beginning to fill that gap.
Knowledge of international affairs determines people’s attitudes towards the rest of the world. But lack of it can result in disinterest. It seems many Americans do not care much about sustaining the liberal international order that was created after the Second World War and which has been maintained up to now through US global leadership. They do not understand that people in democratic Western countries owe their prosperity, security and way of life to the success of this world order – together with the avoidance of major conflict among the great powers – and that in today’s interdependent world the threat to it is probably greater than at any time since the height of the Cold War.
Thus, the US’s continued engagement with the rest of the world - using its political, economic and military power together with its unmatched cultural influence - is essential in order to protect the security and prosperity of the West and also to meet new challenges and to take advantage of emerging opportunities.
Despite the extent of its existing involvement, including a military presence in some 150 countries, there is a danger of the US retreating into isolationism with a President who makes no bones about always putting America first and who even pulled out of the Paris Accord on climate change. So it is all the more important the American public should be aware of global issues that could become threats.
A brief tour d’horizon of current international developments shows a host of problems and trouble spots which could have widespread repercussions further afield, including the Caribbean given its close links to and reliance upon the USA.
The two Koreas have been in the headlines for some while and there is regular media coverage of the Brexit negotiations as the European Union and Britain struggle to agree terms for the latter’s withdrawal from the bloc. But how many people in the US are aware of the desperate Rohingya refugee and human rights crisis in Myanmar, including accusations of genocide, or the ethnic violence and humanitarian disaster currently affecting millions in the Congo or the situation in South Africa involving the forced resignation of the President of a country still vulnerable to dangerous political upheaval?
How much publicity has there been about the apparent military defeat of ISIS with the help of US Special Forces or the dangerous confrontation between Israel and Iran with the latter’s nuclear threat, as well as the danger of clashes on the ground in Syria between US and Russian forces?
And then there is the tragedy on America’s doorstep of the failed socialist state of Venezuela with hyperinflation and a major exodus of its citizens to neighbouring Colombia. Meanwhile, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, there is the ongoing threat of its further expansionism in Ukraine and in the Baltic and China’s aggressive activity amid conflicting maritime claims in areas of the South China Sea.
All these issues continue to cause major concern.
Both North and South Korea have been in the news most recently because of the Winter Olympics and Kim Jong-un’s charm offensive including joint participation in the Games and the visit of a high level delegation from Pyongyang followed by his call for further reconciliation. It is unclear whether there is any link between this thaw in relations and Mr Trump’s tough stance on denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and his warning of overwhelming military force. But the US should surely now talk directly to Kim Jong-un about stopping his nuclear programme and removing the threat of the use of nuclear weapons which would cause widespread and unthinkable devastation.
Since we in The Bahamas are dependent on others for our prosperity and security primarily through our financial services industry and tourism and our reliance on our American neighbour, we need to follow international developments that may affect both us and the US, especially when our interests do not necessarily coincide – for example, in relation to climate change and the rise of ocean levels which would be catastrophic for us as a small island state.
So, even if the US media tends to give less priority to global affairs than is advisable, we, for our part, should keep ourselves informed about what is going on in the rest of the world.