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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Politics Of Unpopularity

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On the morning after the latest series of presidential primaries I was watching one of the cable news networks and saw a bunch of students at an Ohio university being interviewed about the results of the previous evening's voting; what they liked about the candidates, what they were hoping they'd do in office, etc. In amongst the by-now expected "I want change " and "He gives me hope" banalities and concerns about the war, the economy, etc., another concern was voiced a number of times: the students were upset about how the rest of the world now views the US. This distress about America not being respected or liked abroad is frequently voiced when Americans talk about what they think is wrong with the country's direction. And it got me thinking.

Being liked is something we all want I guess, but the more I thought about it the more I realized I really don't want to be liked by everybody. I mean I don't want to be liked by bad people, by people I don't respect. I don't care if cruel people, loud, uncaring people don't like me. Well exactly who is it that so many Americans are worried about not liking us? Who is it that they feel should be more favorably disposed towards us?

There is much in the press about Europe's dissatisfaction with the US. It would make sense if Americans would like them to like us, right? According to a 2007 World Public Opinion poll 57% of Britons view US world influence negatively. In France, 69% feel the same. In Russia, 59%. Hmm. I have a question, though before I'm going to get all flustered about these results. What exactly is going on in these countries, what are their policies like that their judgment of us should be so troubling to us? Are the run in such an way admirable that maybe we should be following their lead? In a word: hardly.

Although very displeased with our influence, over the last few decades Britain has allowed itself to become one of the largest staging grounds for terrorism in the world. Many of the most infamous acts of terrorism in recent years were at least partially planned in London, literally under the noses of British Intelligence. Demographically it is now in a death spiral, its marriage and birth rate pointing towards a not too distant future where there will be a Britain without Britons. Culturally it is becoming weaker and less confident with each passing year. Anti-semitism is surging. Its many immigrants are largely angry and hostile.

France, still unhappy with us although recently electing the pro-US Nikolas Sarkozy to the presidency remains a socialist mess, with a faltering economy and its own immigration nightmare where Middle Eastern immigrant youths have taken over large areas where they periodically riot and ignore French national authority. Here, too anti-semitism is flourishing.

Russia is known more for its corruption, lack of freedoms and periodically poisoning dissenters than for any moral purity.

All three of these countries and more have been implicated in the notorious UN Oil-For-Food scandal.

How about countries in the rest of the world? 71% of Indonesians think US influence in the world is negative. It is a corruption-ridden hotbed of instability. The UN had actually called the recently deceased dictator, General Suharto the most corrupt dictator in the world. North Korea? Cuba? China? Mexico? Poverty. Oppression. Corruption. Somalia. Sudan. Genocide. Civil wars. Disease. Starvation. Pakistan? Syria? Iran? Terrorist shelter. Terrorist sponsors. Human rights abusers all. In Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to be out in public with a man who is not their husband. It is actually a crime to do so. The punishment can be quite severe.

Well, what about the UN itself? It represents the hopes and aspirations of the world, doesn't it? We want everyone there to like us right? Sadly it is nothing more than a collection of the previously named states and more of the same. It is generally helpless to prevent or stop wars it impotently and not very convincingly decries. Deeply involved in the aforementioned Oil-For-Food scandal, Paul A. Volcker, the head of the Independent Inquiry Committee said of it, "Our assignment has been to look for mis- or mal-administration in the oil-for-food program, and for evidence of corruption within the U.N. organization and by contractors. Unhappily, we found both."

It would be great if we lived in a world of decent nations, with fair democratic laws and traditions. We don't. Much of the world is ugly and brutal and that part which isn't is often at best misguided and incompetent. It is not surprising that they should look to us with our high standard of living, rule of law and all the "advantages" we enjoy and envy us and look at their own sad conditions and blame us. It is easier to blame someone else than to shoulder responsibility yourself. The tyrants and dictators who make up much of the world's "leadership" are always in the market for a scapegoat.

Which is not to say that America is above criticism and that we should ignore it when it comes. Constructive self analysis is one of our strengths. But such criticism should be evaluated on the merits, in the full light of all the facts and in context. When we've made mistakes, we should correct them. But the fact that we're "unpopular" is no guarantee that we're wrong.

The US need allies. It needs partners in a thousand different ventures and it would be easier to deal with those potential partners if they "liked" us. But the fact that they may not does not, by itself mean that we are doing something wrong. We can and do still get things done based on our reliability and our strength. Being liked isn't everything. It may not even be a terribly important thing. So maybe those college students could find something else to worry about. The world is surely filled with better reasons to worry than that.


Anonymous said...

I got kick out of a survey that showed the french hate themselevs....,2933,269139,00.html

Nocomme1 said...

LOL FINALLY...something to agree with the French about!