Sunday, December 26, 2004

Again, what would you do if you lived in another country?

George W. Bush's policy makes it clear to the rest of the world that American lives are just more important than anyone elses. It's only natural that governments defend their citizens preferentially, but Bush goes further than this, making explicit his belief that we Americans have more intrinsic value than citizens of other countries (presumably by divine providence).

If you lived elsewhere in the world, how would you react when we Americans tell you that the life of any American is worth more than that of your son or daughter? Or when we Americans imprison people without due process, torture said prisoners, claim immunity from international law and then criticise your country's human rights record?

Is Bush's policy deliberate? Or is it just that the Bush team's personal bigotries can't help but show themselves in their dealings with other countries?

I think that the answer is that their policies are driven by their worldview. George Lakoff explains the right-wing view from the perspective of the "strict father" family values model. Bush sees America as strict father to the rest of the world, and the strict father's role is to tell other countries what to do and punish them when they misbehave.

Throughout the 1990's, the right-wingers were frustrated by Clinton's negotiations with other countries. The Republucans didn't think that it made sense to negotiate if you held all of the cards. They just don't understand diplomacy. I can see how Republicans who come from a business background might treat other countries like competitors in a marketplace. What surprises me is how they simultaneously fail to see those countries and their citizens as business customers. Diplomacy is the international relations analogue of customer service in business. Good customer service makes the customer feel good about themselves and about the business transaction. Due to our total lack of diplomacy, the nations of the world are turning away from the United States. They look to the European Union or to Asia. Today, America is K-Mart circa 1995, ripe for supplantation by a corporation with decent customer service.

As expected, the world wants as little as possible to do with us. Two cases in point, the first from an article by Daniel Gross at

Our financial markets have long been the envy of the world, despite their many flaws. But foreign companies now want out of them...

In other words, it may not be simply that the U.S. is getting stupider when it comes to our engagement in the world's economy—although there's plenty of evidence of our stupid decisions. It's also that the rest of the world, powered in part by our operating system, is getting smarter.

And, from a posting at the The Road To Surfdom blog:

Last night I had an interesting conversation with a friend who works on Capitol Hill. He was recently part of a Congressional delegation that went to India. The delegation was mainly Republicans.

They spoke to a lot of Indian government people and the message from them was very clear, and in a nutshell it was this: We don't much care about America. He said they were very polite but almost indifferent. Maybe matter-of-fact is a better description.

All of this is lost on the Bushites who insist that humiliating everyone else in the world is the best approach. Even those countries that joined the so-called "coalition" in Iraq have been humiliated because they were unable to extract any significant concessions from us after the war.

In the end though, it is we who are humiliated. Bush & Co, through their disgraceful behavior, have dishonored every American citizen, and until Americans start taking this disgrace personally, nothing's going to change.

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