The Obama administration maintains a gulag archipelago of secret CIA prisons around the world, and automatically as a matter of policy classifies as "enemy combatants" any adolescent or adult-male civilians who are killed in its military operations on the logic that if they were killed, they must have been combatants.
Non-Americans who applaud the Obama administration on the very limited basis that it hasn't invaded any other countries (yet) might consider these facts before forming their opinions. For a balanced view of the American foreign-policy consensus, one need only listen to the October 22, 2012, third US presidential debate. Democrats are no doves.
And then there are the Republicans
If Democrats are no doves, Republicans are virtual velociraptors -- and proud of it. Mitt Romney was considered a "moderate" Republican and easily the least right-wing of the major contenders for the Republican nomination. In fact, his "moderateness" was the main charge made against him in the Republican primaries.
Nonetheless, Romney's official electoral platform called for a trade war with China, the privatization of old-age pensions, the elimination of inheritance taxes, further expansion in US military spending, and of course the deunionization of public employees.
Romney planned to create 12 million jobs by building oil pipelines, expanding offshore oil drilling, and working to "eliminate regulations destroying the coal industry." Offshore oil drilling alone would supposedly employ an additional 1.2 million Americans -- the population of Dallas -- in some New Atlantis floated on oil. In the immortal words of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin: "drill, baby, drill."
The official Republican party platform for the 2012 elections called for a return to the gold standard, the complete outlawing of all abortions, the disenfranchisement of the (mainly black) residents of the District of Columbia, the vitiation of food and drug regulation, "consumer choice" in education, a flat income tax, and the building of a nationwide missile defence system. It had an entire 26-point section on "American Exceptionalism" based on "the conviction that our country holds a unique place and role in human history."
The most loathsome of Republican policies, however, is not listed on any party platform. It is the wholesale use of voter suppression as a strategy for electoral victory. Far from being mandatory, in the US voting is a minority activity, governed by state-by-state rules and procedures. Less than 60% of the adult population votes in presidential elections, far less in congressional and local elections. Every American government is a minority government.
With its pro-rich tax policies, demonization of Spanish-speaking immigrants, opposition to all things feminist, anti-idealism that turns off young voters, and outright racism, the Republican party simply can't win a fair national election. There just aren't enough rich middle-aged white male racists to win a majority. So it tries to suppress the vote of everyone else.
Republicans have made proof of citizenship (and, more importantly, mailing address) a major campaign issue, despite the fact that only 10 (yes, ten) cases of in-person voter fraud have been identified over the five federal elections between 2000 and 2010. The real purpose of these Republican-sponsored voter-ID laws is to disenfranchise those who move frequently or have no fixed address: the young, the homeless, the very old, and the poor. In other words, Democrats.
Even more frightening, Republican state administrations around the country have vigorously pursued the installation of computerized voting machines made by companies that are controlled by activist Republican campaign contributors. These are not machines made by IBM or Apple or some other monolithic multinational firm (scary as that might be). These are voting machines made by -- among others -- companies in which the Romney family are investors.
In 2003 Diebold CEO (and major Bush fundraiser) Walden O'Dell infamously declared, ''I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." In 2004 Ohio's Republican government duly reported a late-evening change in voting patterns that swung Ohio (and the presidency) from John Kerry to George Bush. Ohio used Diebold voting machines.
In a country where voting is voluntary, however, it doesn't take a computer conspiracy to swing the vote. The Ohio state government overstaffed voting stations in Republican areas and understaffed them in Democratic ones. As a result white suburbanites could vote in two minutes while some black inner-city dwellers waited in line for up to 10 hours. Waits of 2 to 3 hours or more were reported as commonplace in black districts.
Sadly, in the democratic United States of America such shenanigans aren't even illegal. For the Republican party they're just part of the game. Voter suppression works. Where suppression isn't enough, outright fraud is possible. It may be happening already. With unencrypted, paperless electronic voting machines that can't be audited and a lack of exit polling to verify results, we'll never know.
The end, or at least the ending
Why are the only two choices in US politics the responsible center-right and the barbarian nationalist extreme? It wasn't always this way. Though social scientists have long investigated / bemoaned the non-existence of a socialist alternative in the United States, the Democratic party of the 1930s through 1960s was at least as progressive as any social-democratic party in western Europe. Even the 1950s Republican party of Dwight Eisenhower maintained Roosevelt's New Deal reforms, including a 90% top marginal tax rate.