September 20, 2006

Hyperbole Reveals A Real Problem

Today, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that U.S. President George W. Bush was "the devil."

Mira, Señor Presidente, no estoy un big big fan of el Presidente del Norteño myself. But I think that may just be overstating the case just un poco.

While Chavez' breach of protocol at the U.N. is unseemly, of somewhat greater concern than the ravings of one guy is that a lot of world leaders are jockeying for positions near the center of what appears to be a coalescing anti-U.S. group of nations, who collectively have quite a bit of power and money behind them. They are currently called the non-aligned movement but they seem to be aligning themselves up against the U.S. and Israel, and to a lesser extent, the European Union and Japan. The NAM's recent summit in Havana resulted in Fidel Castro being named the President of the movement for the next several years -- a pointed slap in the face of the United States.

Perhaps this is a symbol of the tremendous loss of prestige the U.S. has suffered over the past several years. Perhaps it is a symbol of the resentment of the underdeveloped world of the wealth enjoyed by the West. Perhaps it is nothing more than geopolitical theater being played out for the political advantage of world leaders seeking advantages at home. No one in power wants to wind up like the Prime Minister of Thailand did yesterday.

But it's disturbing all the same. The U.S. cannot afford to continue blithely disregarding the rest of the world. That doesn't mean we disregard our own interests or we do self-destructive things or that we submit our own policy decisions to the United Nations. But it does mean that we should listen to our friends elsewhere in the world before acting, and think carefully and objectively about criticisms they levy at us. It also means that when we act on the global stage, we take the concerns and needs of our friends into account.

Maybe it's better to be feared than to be loved, but only if you have the stomach and the ability to follow through on the threats which inspire the fear in the first place. We won't please everyone, all the time. But if we at least show some other countries a little respect, maybe we wouldn't see so many countries doing their best to play the "I hate America even more than you" card, which is pretty much never going to be to our advantage.

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