Monday, June 25, 2007

Do They hate US 02-02-15

Do 'they' really hate U.S.?

Written, Feb. 15, 2002

Birmingham Post Herald
June 3, 2002

Do "they" really hate us?

Fortunately the answer is, "they" do not hate us in a narrow, visceral sense. Everybody in the world has a view of America, often a narrow view or many discrete narrow views simultaneously, as we have of some of "them".

Very few, around the world, understand American democracy; a majority of us do not fully understand it, either. The system is not perfect, but checks and balances in our Constitution keep us on an even keel. When we make major mistakes, being a democracy, corrections are often painfully slow.

Hardly anybody in the world, including us, knows Bhutan, Botswana, Uruguay or Slovenia. They do not love or hate them, they simply do not know, or care. Britain and France in their heyday were world powers, largely hated, at times even in the United States. Now, irrespective of foreign policy, they are mostly ignored and considered second-tier powers.

At the end of World War II, America was the only power left standing. Americans had money and power to make a difference. Destitute Europeans felt imposed upon. The phrase "Ugly Americans" was born notwithstanding the Marshall Plan and defense against the Soviet Union. It was a dichotomous view of America. They liked and disliked us at the same time.

Thoughtful American movies do not do well in domestic or international markets. Hollywood makes a lot of money selling sex and violence. People around the world enjoy them, therefore more trash is produced, projecting America as a morally bankrupt and violent society. We lament the effect it has on our children, add to that the effect on six billion people around the world.

The most resentful view of America stems from the foreign policy designed to serve our narrow national interests, often held hostage to domestic pressure groups. At different times in the last 100 years, we viewed the world through somebody else's prism. Before World War I, we confined our interest to the Western Hemisphere. The Monroe Doctrine was our wall to keep the European colonial powers out. We fancied ourselves to be anti-colonial but ended up gaining possession of the Philippines.

Between the two world wars, we looked at the world through a pro-European prism. We supported European colonialism, and paid lip service to the idea of freedom and self-determination for the colonized people.

After World War II, good and bad were defined by anti-communism, and in the Middle East by the Israeli view. No matter how despicable the dictator, if he cloaked himself in anticommunist rhetoric, we supported him to the detriment of the people bearing the brunt of oppression.

In the Middle East, countries that had oil or were less anti-Israeli were classified as moderate no matter how undemocratic or oppressive, and those that were more pro- Palestinian were classified as extremist. This is our policy even now.

Often nationalistic movements against colonialism were viewed as communistic. Our opposition to them sometimes became a self-fulfilling prophecy, and we drove some of them into the arms of the Soviet Union.

Now we are the sole superpower with a global reach unparalleled in history. Practically everybody on the globe is affected by our actions. We can defeat any foe, but our power to help people to achieve what we have is limited.

When we try to help protect people against tyranny, the dictators affected lash out through controlled media to blame us for all the evil they do. If we do not help people fight tyranny of governments, those affected, with some justification, perceive this to be our support for the dictator by default, or for our narrow interests.

America through the United Nations should strive to resolve most of the contentious problems around the world that are the legacy of colonialism or the colonial attitude of those who suffered colonialism but now are imposing it on others.

We have had some remarkable successes with only half-hearted efforts. Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor are shining examples. The spread of democracy in Latin America happened because we withdrew our support from the dictators.

We like being a superpower. We cannot do much about Hollywood, unless our tastes improve. American foreign policy should reflect our creed enshrined in our constitution. We need to spread it more boldly, with greater conviction.

In this age of information, if we ignore all others and at best have a narrow view of "them," how can we expect them to understand and know us in full measure? Let us add to the election motto from 1992: "It is the economy stupid," another phrase: "It is the foreign policy stupid."

"They," the tyrants, dislike America, but "they," the downtrodden of the world, like us. They would like to be like us but do not have a voice. We often see only the demonstrations whipped up for television news and a few terrorists who get a great bang for very little buck.

Mirza A. Beg can be contacted at

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