Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Pol Pot's Favorite MIT Prof, and other items
1. Who stole whose land?
2. Shilling for Terror; No Condolences for murdered Jews in Sderot:
3. More from Pol Pot's favorite MIT Professor:
5. Jewish anti-Semitism:
6. What are the odds that "Tamara" is an ex-Israeli?
7. June 21, 2006
On Hating America
By ROBERT KAGAN
The Washington Post
June 21, 2006
I recently took part in a panel discussion in London about civil conflict
and "failed states" around the world, centered on the interesting work of
the British economist Paul Collier. The panelists included the son of a
famous African liberation-leader-turned-dictator, the former leader of a
South American guerrilla group, a Pakistani journalist, a U.N. official
and the head of a nongovernmental humanitarian organization. Naturally,
our reasoned and learned discussion quickly transmogrified into an
extended round-robin denunciation of American foreign policy.
The interesting thing was that the Iraq war was far from the main topic.
George W. Bush hardly came up. The panelists focused instead on a long
list of grievances against the U.S. stretching back over six decades.
There was much discussion of the "colonial legacy" and "neo-colonialism,"
especially in the Middle East and Africa. And even though the colonies in
question had been ruled by Europeans, panelists insisted that this
colonial past was the source of most of the world's resentment toward the
U.S. There was much criticism of American policy during the Cold War for
imposing evil regimes, causing poverty and suffering throughout the world,
and blocking national liberation movements as a service to oil companies
and multinational corporations. When the moderator brought up nuclear
weapons proliferation and Iran, the panelists talked about Hiroshima and
As for "failed states" and civil conflict, several panelists agreed that
they were always and everywhere the fault of the U.S. The African insisted
that Bosnia and Kosovo were destroyed by American military interventions,
not by Slobodan Milosevic, and that Somalia was a failed state because of
American policy. The Pakistani insisted the U.S. was to blame for
Afghanistan's descent into anarchy in the 1990s. The former guerrilla
leader insisted that most if not all problems in the Western Hemisphere
were the product of over a century of American imperialism.
Some of these charges had more merit than others, but even the moderator
became exasperated by the general refusal to place any responsibility on
the peoples and leaders of countries plagued by civil conflict. Yet the
panelists held their ground. When someone pointed out that the young boys
fighting in African tribal and ethnic wars could hardly be fighting
against American "imperialism," the African dictator's son insisted they
were indeed. When the head of the NGO paused from gnashing his teeth at
American policy to suggest that perhaps the U.S. was not to blame for the
genocide in Rwanda, the African dictator's son argued that it was, because
it had failed to intervene. The U.S. was to blame both for the suffering
it caused and the suffering it did not alleviate.
The discussion was illuminating. There is no question that the Iraq war
has aroused hostility toward the U.S. around the world. And there are many
legitimate criticisms to be made about America's conduct of the war. But
it is worth keeping in mind that this anger against America also has deep
The Iraq war has rekindled myriad old resentments toward the U.S., a
thousand different complaints, each one specific to a time and place far
removed from the present conflict. It has united a diverse spectrum of
anti-American views in common solidarity -- the Marxist Africans still
angry over American policy in the 1960s and '70s, the Pakistanis still
furious at America's (bipartisan) support for the dictator Gen. Mohammed
Zia ul-Haq in the 1970s and '80s, the French theoreticians who started
railing against the American "hyperpower" in the 1990s, the Latin
ex-guerrillas still waging their decades-old struggle against North
American imperialism, the Arab activists still angry about 1948. At a
conference in the Middle East a few months ago, I heard a moderate Arab
scholar complaining bitterly about how American policy had alienated the
Arab peoples in recent years. A former Clinton official sitting next to
him was nodding vigorously but then suddenly stopped when the Arab scholar
made clear that by "recent years" he meant ever since 1967.
The Iraq war has also made anti-Americanism respectable again, as it was
during the Cold War but had not been since the demise of the Soviet Union.
People who a decade ago would not have been granted a platform to spout
the kind of arguments I heard on this panel are now given star treatment
in the Western and global media. Such people were always there, but no one
was listening to them. Today they dominate the airwaves, and this in turn
is helping produce an increasingly hostile global public opinion, as
evidenced in a recent Pew poll.
There are two lessons to be drawn from all this. One is that in time the
current tidal wave of anti-Americanism will ebb, just as in the past.
Smarter American diplomacy can help, of course, as can success in places
such as Iraq. But the other lesson is not to succumb to the illusion that
America was beloved until the spring of 2003 and will be beloved again
when George W. Bush leaves office. Some folks seem to believe that by
returning to the policies of Harry Truman, Dean Acheson and John F.
Kennedy, America will become popular around the world. I like those
policies, too, but let's not kid ourselves. They also sparked enormous
resentment among millions of peoples in many countries, resentments that
are now returning to the fore. The fact is, because America is the
dominant power in the world, it will always attract criticism and be
blamed both for what it does and what it does not do.
No one should lightly dismiss the current hostility toward the U.S.
International legitimacy matters. It is important in itself, and it
affects others' willingness to work with America. But neither should the
U.S. be paralyzed by the unavoidable resentments that its power creates.
If Americans refrained from action out of fear that others around the
world would be angry with them, then they would never act. And count on
it: They'd blame America for that, too.
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