We may never know what exactly President Trump said during a meeting on immigration, but many Americans – including popular media figures such as Tomi Lahren – overwhelmingly relished the use of the word “sh*ithole” to describe poor nations. Whether viewed through the perspective of diplomacy, Christianity or common decency, such a sentiment is obviously wrong. However, there are many people who seem to only understand the language of money and self-interest. They also seem to believe that America is the center of the world, and they don’t comprehend how the US is extremely dependent on the rest of the world.
Haiti and Congo
Take, for example, Haiti and Congo – two sh*thole countries. These two countries can quickly threaten America’s economic and national security. Haiti can cut ties with the US and strike a deal with Russia to create a military base or a missile defense system. It will be a sweet revenge for Putin who’s threatened by US missile systems in Eastern Europe.
As for Congo, it’s a major producer of many valuable minerals such as copper, tin, gold, diamond as well as a humble metal called cobalt. What is not widely known is that cobalt is an essential component – comprising 30% – of all the rechargeable batteries used in smartphones, tablets, laptops, electric cars, etc. Cobalt has become one of the most coveted commodities in the world and its price has quadrupled in the last two years. Guess who controls 60% of global production of cobalt? Congo, in sh*thole Africa! Needless to say, even a temporary disruption of Congo’s cobalt supply to the US will crash our stock market; and a sustained disruption will wreck our economy.
But They take Our Money!
Many Americans bring up the fact the US gives aid to the poor countries. First of all, giving aid doesn’t mean we have the right to abuse and humiliate them. Moreover, people should read or listen to John Perkins to understand how foreign aid really works. Most of the aid goes straight to US corporations – for example, to buy US weapons, or pay one US firm to build roads that will benefit another US firm (such as a mining company). The rest of the money goes to bribe a corrupt leader whose job is to assure continuous supply of raw materials or cheap labor.
Now, let’s take a quick look at how the US depends on under-developed nations.
Natural Resources: Since the 1980s, mining activities in the US have dropped significantly. Now we import about 100 critical minerals/metals from other nations. These are raw materials without which we can’t produce cars, planes, satellites, military jets, electronics, medical instruments and so on. For 20 of those minerals/metals, the US is totally (100%) dependent on other countries. For example, China supplies 100% of indium that the US consumes. Without indium, there won’t be any touchscreens (on smartphones, tablets and kiosks). We also depend on our rival, Russia, for critical minerals such as palladium and titanium, without which there won’t be any Boeing planes or US fighter jets.
Trump is trying to reduce some of these dependencies, but it will take a decade or more to make a dent. Let’s not forget that mining activities are extremely toxic to the environment. We should be grateful that sh*thole countries are shouldering the burden of pollution so that we can enjoy clean water and air.
Imports and Exports: The US imports almost $1 trillion of goods from Latin America and Asia. In case people haven’t noticed it, we don’t manufacture a lot of things these days. US exports also sustain millions of jobs. Without trade, there’s no economy. Also, let’s not forget tourism: 73 million foreigners visited the US last year and spent $250 billion!
Supermarkets in the US are full of grains, vegetables, fruits and oil from developing nations. Coffee and cocoa are almost exclusively from Africa and Latin America. Imagine what will happen to Starbucks’ market cap of $85 billion if coffee bean growers from sh*thole countries boycott the US.
Revenues from other nations: More than half of the revenues of S&P 500 US corporations comes from outside the US. General Motors, for example, gets almost 2/3rd of its revenue from overseas. In fact, GM sells more cars in China than in the US! Also, think about the tens of thousands of Starbucks, McDonald’s and other US retail stores located around the world.
Emerging Markets Becoming Powerful
Although the average individual in developing nations is not wealthy, collectively those nations have a $31 trillion GDP, and that’s a lot of economic power. More than 70% of the growth in global GDP comes from developing nations (the US accounts for 18% and the EU 8%). If we want to benefit from their prosperity, we need to learn to be polite and friendly.
Labor from Poor Nations: People in poor countries work for $1 an hour so that US corporations such as Nike, Walmart, Macy’s and Apple can make billions of dollars. Without people in Africa working in mines in horrible conditions, we wouldn’t have shiny smartphones. We get to enjoy a high living standard only because someone else lives in a sh*thole. Perhaps our feelings should be gratitude or empathy rather than disdain.
UN Votes: We need more allies and real partners to support us in the UN. Although many Americans look down upon the UN, the US cannot succeed without diplomatic cooperation from other nations. When Trump announced the move of US embassy to Jerusalem, 128 countries voted against us. Only seven countries supported the US and Israel, and those included tiny islands like Palau with a whopping population of 20,000. Let’s hope there aren’t more such diplomatic fiascos.
US Military Bases and Special Forces: The US has military bases in every corner of the earth; and the US Special Forces operate in 140 countries. Insulting other countries only puts our soldiers in danger. Although it would be nice to shrink the American Empire, it should be a voluntary and a diplomatic move, instead of getting unceremoniously kicked out.
Dollar Hegemony: One of the pillars of American strength is the Petrodollar, whereby other nations agree to buy/sell commodities in US dollar. This is why our currency is so valuable and why we can impose sanctions on other countries. However, if enough sh*thole countries start using gold, Chinese Yuan or cryptocurrency, the value of US dollar will plunge, the interest rates – for US treasury bonds, mortgages, etc. – will spike, and the the US economy will suffer a great deal.
America’s soft power is more effective than dollars and bombs. However, thanks to Trump’s callous attitude, America’s standing in the world has plunged. As a recent Gallup poll revealed, 43% of the world disapproves America’s leadership now, putting the US below Russia (36%) and China (30%). Our net approval rate has gone from +20 to -13 in a single year! Americans must also realize that their words on social media are seen by people all around the world. We can have prudent immigration policies, while being kind and diplomatic. America’s prosperity and security are greatly dependent on the goodwill and cooperation of other nations, developed and emerging markets alike.
Top image credit: Anthony Freda Art
Chris Kanthan is the author of a new book, Syria – War of Deception. It’s available in a condensed as well as a longer version. Chris lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, has traveled to 35 countries, and writes about world affairs, politics, economy and health. His other book is Deconstructing Monsanto.