Thursday, January 30, 2014

The power of denigration

I guess that many of you reading this weren't around during the Cold War, when the United States was the protector from communism we all loved to hate, although not entirely without reason. Yes, they were a  tad overbearing at times, I can remember the Reagan years, and being a teenager throughout most of that time, thought that the Americans were a bit too imperialistic.

Fast forward to now, I still think that they were a bit pushy then, but the rest of the world also said and did a lot of things about America and Americans that they should not have, and I believe that, going back ten years, it culminated in American foreign policy when they invaded Iraq and the toxic atmosphere in international relations that was created. The U.S. seemed to be reacting to all the trash-talk that it took from abroad for decades by returning all the insults it had previously seemed to take in stride, and much of the American conservative movement still seems to operate on this mindset, fighting a new Cold War against anyone who questions them, at home and abroad.

During this time, it was the Europeans, the French in particular, who took the brunt of the Americans' seemingly hostile new attitude toward anyone who did not support whatever they did. Whatever France's reasons were for not entering into the second Gulf War (most likely Jacques Chirac's general loathing of all things English-speaking), overnight, they were America's newest enemies, all things French are bad and needed to be changed (remember 'Freedom Fries'?), and their war record in the past century was cited over and over again, accusing them of cowardice in battle (surrendered to the Nazis after five days as one example).

Back to the present, France seems to have picked up the slack that the U.S. has left in being "the world's policeman" (which they seem very unwilling or unable to do at the moment), taking the lead on things like the ouster of Col. Khdaffy as one example. I do believe that this is a direct response to all the bashing that it took due to the Iraq invasion and they are trying to prove them wrong at every turn. It's quite understandable, as was the Americans' hyperdefensiveness during that war. It seemed that the entire American conservative movement was reacting to being beaten and held down for so long, but they have yet to get it entirely out of their system.

Some lessons here:
  1. People are fickle. For example, one day everyone's hating on the Americans, now they're not.
  2. National pride can be a fragile thing, even a superpower like the United States.
  3. Trash-talk in politics (particularly at the international level) ultimately leads to irrational decision-making and festering ill-feeling, even if it's delayed. 

This is a link I was looking for, just found it now. Apparently the U.S. is not disengaging from the world, and frankly I'm glad they're not. I do believe that the U.S. and what it stands for is a force for good in the world, but the Iraq war just exemplified doing it the wrong way with the wrong attitude.

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