Guest Post – Essence of Americanism: Self-Determination Serves as the Basis of Democracy

Today’s guest post is by James Chen. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section belowNatylie

The word “democracy” has been upheld as the holy grail of Americanism by contemporary American political practitioners and pundits. However, self-determination, which served as the corner stone of the nascent American republic established by our founding fathers nearly two-and-half centuries ago, is seldom mentioned in any of our governmental documents and main-stream-media publications.

Theoretically, on the political spectrum, the opposite of democracy is authoritarianism. Authoritarianism almost always leads to imperialism. And the only effective antidote against imperialism is faith in self-determination.

It is also worth noting that without self-determination, a democratic political system could hardly be cultivated in any political state striving for self-governance, let alone be implemented. In other words, when there’s no self-determination, there’s no self-governance. It could be recognized in Thomas Jefferson’s words:

Every man, and every body of men on earth, possesses the right of self-government. Every nation has a right to govern itself internally under what forms it pleases, and to change these forms at its own will.  Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.

An important historical aspect regarding self-determination that every American should know, is that it was enshrined as the basic mandate of the two most prominent American foreign policy proclamations of the 20th century: the Fourteen Points by President Woodrow Wilson and the Atlantic Charter by President Franklin Roosevelt. Both documents served as the foundation to build a peaceful world respectively after the two most destructive calamities in human history.

Without discussing the reasons why self-determination is omitted from our current political discussion by our politicians and main-stream-media, we can still easily identify many disastrous consequences that have arisen from its omission while our government has been involved in manipulating the world order since the end of WWII. Let’s just name several out of the long list in a reverse chronological order: 1. Current expansion of Chinese imperialism in the East Asia, 2. Current expansion of Turkish imperialism in the Middle East, 3. The Yemeni Civil War by proxies, 4. The Syrian Civil War by proxies, 5. The Ukrainian revolution with American involvement, 6. The regime change in Libya, 7. The regime change in Iraq, 8. The NATO bombing of Belgrade without UN authorization, 9. The dissolution of Yugoslavia without dissolution of Bosnia-Herzegovina, 10. The Kurdish genocide by the Turkish government with US support in Southeast Turkey, 11. The aggrandized expansion of the NATO war machine after dissolution of the Soviet Union, 12. The US interference of Russian presidential election in 1996, 13. the destruction of Afghanistan’s progressive society, 14. The Turkish invasion, occupation and colonization of Cyprus, 15. Multiple staged coup d’etats in Central and South America, 16. The regime change in Cambodia and consequent massacre, 17. The Vietnam War, 18. The 1965 regime change in Indonesia and consequent massacre, 19. The 1955 Istanbul pogrom, 20. The 1953 regime change in Iran and its consequences, 21. The Greek Civil War, etc..

The shameful thing is that in most of the cases listed above, not only was our government not on the side to promote or protect the principle of self-determination, but, on the contrary, it was on the side of the suppressors or perpetrators committing crimes against humanity with American taxpayer money.

By analyzing all the mistakes listed above, it should not be difficult for any fair-minded, rational American to appreciate the causal relationship between the reason, i.e., the total disregard of the world peoples’ will for self-determination and the obvious consequence, i.e., the American imperial power abused, the authoritarian regimes emboldened, many democracies suppressed and civilized societies destroyed, innocent populations massacred, wars and conflicts prolonged, and American interests severely curtailed.

There are several primary mechanisms taking places in the causal relationship leading to wars and serious conflicts:

  1. Staging military forces unnecessarily in the territory of any sovereign state could encroach on the right for self-determination of the people of that state.
  2. Establishing a permanent military organization consisting of multiple states with superior military and economic power over a targeted state could encroach on the right for self-determination of the people of all the states involved, forming a dependency-codependency conundrum.
  3. Providing military or financial support to any authoritarian state committing aggression against other states or distinct ethnic groups could embolden the authoritarian regime of that state and cause extreme harm to the victimized states and ethnic groups.
  4. Forming close business relations with any authoritarian state demonstrating total disrespect for the principle of self-determination could also encourage the authoritarian regime of that state to perpetuate its imperial actions, jeopardizing local and even world peace.
  5. Staging regime changes in other sovereign states to advance American imperial or business interests could cause tremendous harm to the people of the targeted states. The resulting states after the staged regime change are seldom democratic.
  6. Lastly, the suppressed people yearning for self-determination might not always be as silent as lambs.

Bearing in mind the importance of the principle of self-determination, the American politicians should try to relinquish our imperialist foreign policy and replace it with a commitment to supporting self-determination around the globe as the basis for democracy against authoritarianism. This was well understood by President John F. Kennedy more than half a century ago. He would have prevented the U.S. involvement in Vietnam had he not been assassinated five months after his last major speech, delivered on June 10, 1963, at American University, which clearly suggested a desire to end the meaningless cold war perpetuated by imperialism. The desire for genuine peace echoed the pledge he made in his inaugural speech less than three years before to uphold the same tenet for liberty, human rights and self-determination by our forebearers of the American Revolution.

Today, I urge all American politicians to finish what our fallen predecessors started and to continue safeguarding the principles upheld by our previous great leaders.  This is the direction that will lead to doing the right things as opposed to continuing to do the wrong things.

James J. Chen has had a life-long interest in history, politics, and the humanities. He has begun writing on these topics, with a particular emphasis on the the U.S.’s role in the evolution of the modern world.  He lives and practices medicine in the San Francisco Bay Area. His website address is:

2 thoughts on “Guest Post – Essence of Americanism: Self-Determination Serves as the Basis of Democracy”

  1. Good piece in support of national autonomy.

    The “John F Kennedy would have ended the war in Vietnam” claim in debatable at best. Kennedy created the Special Forces and sent them to Vietnam. He started Operation Ranch Hand (the defoliation of the countryside via Agent Orange). And he increased the number of US “advisors” there, though he did order a reduction in their numbers shortly before he was killed.

    If you listen to the audio of his American University speech, he doesn’t seem enthusiastic or even familiar with its content.

    Kennedy twice dragged the world to the brink of nuclear war – over Berlin and Cuba. His foreign policy was for the most part disastrous.

    1. Your comment is taken.
      However, the purpose for me to write the assay is not to idolize any of our politicians, but to point out a fundamental issue with our foreign policy since the end of WWII, with the solution to it provided.
      Just imagine if since the Truman administration, the US foreign policy could have aligned with the founding principle of our nation, how wonderful this world would have been, since none of our foreign policy blunders would have ever happened.

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