Monday, June 19, 2006

Robert Kagan on Global Anti-American Hostility

Robert Kagan's a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment. A few years back he published "Power and Weakness," one of the most provocative foreign policy essays to come out during the first Bush administration (which later appeared in a thin book version). Kagan's got a piece in today's Washington Post on global anti-Americanism. He recently attended a public policy panel in London, during which the group's discussion broke out into unrelenting attacks on American foreign policy:

The interesting thing was that the Iraq war was far from the main topic. George W. Bush hardly came up. The panelists focused instead on a long list of grievances against the United States stretching back over six decades. There was much discussion of the "colonial legacy" and "neo-colonialism," especially in the Middle East and Africa. And even though the colonies in question had been ruled by Europeans, panelists insisted that this colonial past was the source of most of the world's resentment toward the United States. There was much criticism of American policy during the Cold War for imposing evil regimes, causing poverty and suffering throughout the world, and blocking national liberation movements as a service to oil companies and multinational corporations. When the moderator brought up nuclear weapons proliferation and Iran, the panelists talked about Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

As for "failed states" and civil conflict, several panelists agreed that they were always and everywhere the fault of the United States. The African insisted that Bosnia and Kosovo were destroyed by American military interventions, not by Slobodan Milosevic, and that Somalia was a failed state because of American policy. The Pakistani insisted the United States was to blame for Afghanistan's descent into anarchy in the 1990s. The former guerrilla leader insisted that most if not all problems in the Western Hemisphere were the product of over a century of American imperialism.

Some of these charges had more merit than others, but even the moderator became exasperated by the general refusal to place any responsibility on the peoples and leaders of countries plagued by civil conflict. Yet the panelists held their ground. When someone pointed out that the young boys fighting in African tribal and ethnic wars could hardly be fighting against American "imperialism," the African dictator's son insisted they were indeed. When the head of the NGO paused from gnashing his teeth at American policy to suggest that perhaps the United States was not to blame for the genocide in Rwanda, the African dictator's son argued that it was, because it had failed to intervene. The United States was to blame both for the suffering it caused and the suffering it did not alleviate.
Be sure to read the whole thing. In his concluding remarks, Kagan returns to his realist persuasions, concluding -- structurally -- that there's not a whole lot the U.S. can do about negative international reactions: "The fact is, because America is the dominant power in the world, it will always attract criticism and be blamed both for what it does and what it does not do. No one should lightly dismiss the current hostility toward the United States. International legitimacy matters. It is important in itself, and it affects others' willingness to work with us. But neither should we be paralyzed by the unavoidable resentments that our power creates."


The Matrix said...

Dear Mr. Douglas,
I reviewed your site and enjoyed it very much, even though it is a tad “neutral” for me. Not being an academic, I have the luxury of being as partisan as my heart (and brain) desire. However, I certainly respect the aura of neutrality given your responsibility as an academic. Unfortunately, there are far too many academics today who disregard their responsibility to avoid political proselytizing to an audience of impressionable young minds, a captive audience at that. Ward Churchill comes to mind. As for comments on Robert Kagan’s piece on Anti-Americanism, it has always been my observation that Anti-Americanism is a form of old fashion anti-Semitism. Resentment and jealousy of those perceived as “more successful,” seeing a conspiracy in everything America does or doesn’t do, reading the absolute worse into any development…etc…Perhaps it would be an interesting research assignment for your students: Anti-Americanism vs. Anti-Semitism, how are they similar, how are they different? My guess is that your students will find more similarities than differences. All the best,
Joe Gelman

Donald Douglas said...

Hi Joe:

Thanks for the comments. Apparently, my site's not neutral enough for the some of the antiwar left fanatics who have visited over the past couple months.

Take care.