November 21, 2003

Reader Feedback David Adesnik, responding

Reader Feedback

David Adesnik, responding to this post, E-mails in:

"Btw, let me take issue with something in your post on the Jiang/Putin/Mugabe/Assad visits to London. The real issue isn't hyperpuissance. This isn't about the balance of power or realpolitik. It is about a misguided leftist ideology that considers a controversial pre-emptive war far worse than massive human rights violations. Or at least pretends that it does because it knows that it will get much more of a rise out of American democrats than Russian or Chinese or Zimbabwean or Syrian thugs."

He makes a good point. Regardless, the reason for all the anti-Bush vitriole isn't monocausal (I certainly didn't mean to suggest that it was). There are many variables involved. But I still think a mixture of fear, envy, fascination, and generalized resentment of the U.S. hegemon fans the anti-Bush fires more than any specific policy quibbles [ed. note: Than why wasn't Clinton as detested when U.S. power was, pretty much, just as strong with the Soviet Union already no longer?]

First off, it's worth noting that the transatlantic storms were already brewing then. Also important? There was much abdication of an American leadership role through the Clinton years (with notable, if belated, exceptions like Dick Holbrooke and Bosnia), so we appeared less threatening.

Sure, we've occasionally been a bit arrogant in our diplomacy recently (see handling of Mexico, Turks). It reminds me of a flight I was on where an American couple described Mexico as being a little "uppity" too (France was the other country mentioned) regarding not voting alongside the U.S. at the UNSC.

We have to persuade other countries on the merits--not, like Chirac's treatment of Eastern Europe, treat recalcitrant allies like unruly schoolchildren to be scolded and upbraided for being "uppity."

And, to be sure, 9/11 forced the need for a more muscular foreign policy that spooked some--in terms of creating overwrought fears that the war in Iraq would scuttle the entire gamut of the post-war international security architecture. And that, per Adesnik's note, helps contribute to the fact that a preemptive war fought against a genocidal thug is registering so much more protest than the gross human rights violations of the likes of Putin, Jiang Zemin, Mugabe etc.

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