Sunday, July 22, 2007

Recommended Reading

An insightful analysis on the factors that shape world opinion on America's foreign policy.

I recommend the entire article, but would like to highlight two specific parts that I thought were particularly intelligent and effectively communicated.

First, a brilliant analogy that attempts to explain the gap in understanding between Americans watching or reading the news and citizens of other countries that are often living it.

[A] major reason for anti-Americanism: the accreted residue of many years of U.S. foreign policies. These policies are unknown to most Americans. They form only minor footnotes in U.S. history. But they are the chapter titles of the histories of other countries, where they have had enormous consequences. America's strength has made it a sort of Gulliver in world affairs: By wiggling its toes it can, often inadvertently, break the arm of a Lilliputian.

The author follows this analogy with a compelling and specific example of U.S involvement and its impact on Pakistan over the last 30 years. Though people reading only this quoted paragraph could dismiss it as a common "blame America first" line, it is certainly not - quite the opposite.

The second part was a call to action.
Americans need to educate themselves, from elementary school onward, about
what their country has done abroad. And they need to play a more active role
in ensuring that what the United States does abroad is not merely in keeping
with a foreign policy elite's sense of realpolitik but also with the
American public's own sense of American values.

Most probably view this as an unrealistic aspiration. I will grant that it is extremely unlikely in the short term. But in the longer term, it is certainly not any more so than the aspirations of 17th and18th century political philosophers.

Their ideas, once doubtedlessly characterized as naive, politically unrealistic or simply impossible given human nature have a daily impact on the lives of hundreds of millions of people today.

Like Locke and Voltaire before him, Hamid is saying what needs to be said.

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