It can be easy to be sucked up into the domestic American news cycle about the events within the Democratic primary or the ongoing presidential impeachment inquiry. However, the world moves with or without American politics, which is why it is essential for Americans to understand the fluid complexity of the international realm. Perhaps by looking at the world stage, everyday Americans might be able to find answers for the questions we have at home.
As reported by many news outlets, including the Washington Post, protests are shaking the political climate in various parts of the world from Hong Kong to Chile, as people are taking to the streets to voice their concerns about different topics, from unjust laws to rising inequality and government corruption. However, while protests occur due to various reasons, the theme of many (but not all) current anti-government protests can be attributed to the failing structure of the neoliberal world order.
Neoliberalism, the idea that free-market policies or reforms can bring economic stability and which has gripped the world since the end of World War II, is failing for working-class people across the globe. Protesters in Lebanon, Iraq and Chile have called out the political elite who have long benefited from neoliberalism, and who are frankly sick of the rising inequality, corruption and endless austerity cuts which have plagued these countries for decades.
The protestors in these three countries have had undeniably great success in calling out their democratically-elected kleptocracies and in winning great concessions from the ruling political elite. The New York Times reports that the Lebanese prime minister resigned after two weeks of paralyzing protests, that in Chile eight cabinet members were fired and the protesters in Iraq have won the support of influential religious clerics who have given their backing to the protests.
Why should Americans care? As globalization increasingly strengthens its foothold on the global economy, what happens in these countries can certainly have an impact on the U.S. However, Americans must also realize that the woes found in Lebanon, and especially in Iraq and Chile, can stem from years of American intervention. For example, according to The New York Times, Chile’s rising inequality can be attributed to three decades back when the American-backed Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, implemented radical anti-labor laws and privatized much of the economy. In Iraq, much of the economic strife can be rightfully traced back to egregious U.S. invasion of Iraq and the following occupation which destabilized the country and laid down the foundation for years of corruption.
The fact is this: these protests are important to the world and especially to America, because working people are standing up against a world order that they feel has left them behind – something that is analogous to the rise of American populism during the 2016 election. Uncertainty and unintended effects come with changing world politics. For example, the protests in Iraq and Lebanon may reflect power change in a region in which America has been entrenched in. The protests in Chile reflect growing discontent in the Western Hemisphere, a region which America has held a tight grip on, and where any changes can alter the status-quo. Especially in 2019, one should not be advocating for America’s involvement in these countries, but should know that Americans need to pay close attention to this issue. Given everything that is happening in the world, and the contagious effect of these protests, the foundations of the status quo of neoliberalism are shaking – in America and around the world.