December 08, 2002
More Bush-bashing

Today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a guest editorial from University of Washington computer analyst Russ Kevin Childers that is just one more screed against Bush and the Republican Party in general.

Throughout his eight years in office, President Ronald Reagan, in his efforts to restore luster to a downtrodden citadel America, did more to turn foreigners against this country than most people realize. President George W. Bush is now, perhaps equally unwittingly, on the verge of taking this to a new level.

Yes, the Europeans do seem to have a dislike of American presidents who chose to follow a path of what is best for this country, rather than what the rest of the world would have us do.

On the whole, Americans do not understand (and all too often do not seem to care) how our actions are interpreted outside our borders. This is true in particular of those presidential actions that are meant to make us feel proud and strong. By exhibiting so little interest in other countries and cultures, we all but ensure we will continue to shock, frighten and anger people around the world.

Most ordinary people worldwide don't care how their country's actions are perceived outside the borders of their countries. And this certainly applies to the war against terrorism, and by extension, Iraq.

The United States cannot be accused of exhibiting little interest in the cultures of other countries; it is an obsession amongst many in our schools, universities, museums, and in the government. The continuing support for multiculturalism is ample proof.

Sadly, most of these instances could and should have been easily foreseen and avoided, if only we had cared enough to think about it and showed even moderate respect for how others view the world and choose to live their lives.

Mr. Childers forgets that the other side declared war (jihad) upon us, not the other way around. They have no respect for how we view the world and choose to live OUR lives. If not for the heinous attacks of September 11th, the Taliban would still be running Afghanistan (and killing scores of Afghans through their policies) and Iraq would still be defying the United Nations. Osama bin Laden would still be carrying out relatively low-profile terorist attacks against the United States, and the US would continue to "deplore" terrorism, while doing nothing to eradicate it.

In Western Europe during the Reagan era, this was manifested in ever larger membership in the mass movements for peace and nuclear disarmament. As his saber rattling increased, even conservative older Germans, who had long been staunchly pro-American and completely unwilling to criticize or accept criticism of the United States, began to speak openly against U.S. foreign policy.

The Green movement in Europe was terrified by the Reagan military buildup, because it flew in the face of the anti-war movement's growing success since the end of the Vietnam debacle. The socialist movements in Europe (nurtured and funded by the Soviet Union) were dismayed by the appearance of an American president who did not share their views.

When Reagan joked at a meeting of evangelicals about outlawing the Soviet Union, adding that the bombing would commence in 15 minutes, there was an uproar in Germany. This was the cover story for numerous national magazines in Germany, the likely stage for any war between the United States and the former Soviet Union. It was considered very poor taste, indeed.

The joke may or may not have been in poor taste (I personally thought it was amusing). It is certainly less tasteless and tactless than the French and Canadian ministers' ridicule of Bush as a moron, or the German minister's comparison of Bush with Hitler (which poisoned American opinion against Germany more than any event since the end of World War II).

The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, which were portrayed in the U.S. media as a chance to show the world what a great country we are, produced a far different effect.
The flag waving and "U.S.A." chants alarmed many Europeans, with older Germans saying, "This is how it began in the 1930s," a reference to the mass rallies held by the Nazis after they attained power.
The potential dangers inherent in such fervent displays of nationalism were not to be overlooked by those "lucky" enough to have lived through Hitler's reign.

Godwin's law, anyone? Pride in one's country (also known as patriotism) is not the same as the fascism that presided over Germany in the 1930s.

Europeans have their own problems with nationalism; France has language police, the Basques in Spain have been waging a war for decades, the whole Ireland/Britain debate is largely nationalism (with religion as an additional catalyst), and look at Greece's idiotic obsession over the country to the north (offically known as the "Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia", due to Greek objections that the name "Macedonia" somehow belongs to Greece).

After the 9/11 attacks, the United States enjoyed an enormous wellspring of sympathy from people around the world. Bush has squandered this support by projecting an unfortunately all-too-typically arrogant attitude toward the world.

I assume that he is referring to Kyoto, the ICC, and the ABM treaty. The first was totally unacceptable to the United States, the second contravenes our constitution, and the third is a relic of the cold war. The other nation that was a signatory to the ABM treaty no longer exists, and the march of technology, coupled with threats from rogue nations and terrorist groups, made it a moral imperative to develop anti-missile technology, prohibited under the treaty.

It now looks as though Bush might finally have heard the message from the streets, both in the United States and abroad, and he may be looking for a way to soften his stance at the United Nations. But with his recent bullying at the United Nations, saying that he wanted to work with other nations in dealing with Iraq, while threatening unilateral war against Iraq if he did not get his way, he has only made certain that we will have a difficult time garnering popular support if we go to war, even if he can coerce enough support for a U.N. resolution to his liking.

I wonder how the whole situation would look if the attacks had occurred during the Clinton administration, Clinton was beloved by the European elites, but I somehow suspect that he would run into the same iron-willed opposition to war that Bush has encountered.

Should we end up attacking Iraq unilaterally (aside from the bombs we have been dropping on them weekly for years) or with token support from reliable allies such as Great Britain (where several hundred thousand people recently turned out to tell their prime minister not to support any U.S. military action that does not have the support of the United Nations), the answer down the road to the question of "why do they hate us?" will be easily traceable to this episode.

First, there is a factual error in the above—the demonstrators in Britain were against ANY MILITARY ACTION AT ALL, not just that which did not have UN approval. The "Not in our name" and Socialist International organizers are against any war, except those against Israel and against the US.

Secondly, September 11th was only a short respite from the America-bashing that has been going on for the last 25 years; even if we had not responded to the attacks at all, the European elites would be still be slandering Bush. In fact, I'd bet that there would be a higher level of bashing, since inaction would have been an invitation to further attacks, and then the bashers could bash Bush for being weak. Remember how Bush's father went from "wimp" to "bully" without a pause in 1990? How would this time be any different?

We can only hope that sanity will prevail, even if it is barely visible now.

Yes, perhaps the Europeans come to their senses. Don't count on it, though.

posted on December 08, 2002 02:57 PM


Brilliant! Good post.

posted by Brent on December 8, 2002 09:44 PM

Hey, you and I are number three and four when you Google Russ Kevin Childers!! I hope he's vain.

posted by Matt Drachenberg on December 10, 2002 07:15 PM

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