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Thesis & Antithesis

A critical perspective on energy, international politics & current affairs

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Location: Washington, D.C.

greekdefaultwatch@gmail.com Natural gas consultant by day, blogger on the Greek economy by night. Trained as an economist and political scientist. I believe in common sense and in data, and my aim is to offer insight written in language that is clear and convincing.

26 March 2006

Sensible anti-Americanism?

Jim Hoagland in the Washington Post: “In radical Islamic propaganda, the United States has graduated from being a mere Great Satan out to undermine Iran's ayatollahs to being depicted as a global monster responsible for virtually every crime and failing since the dawn of modern history. Meet the new Jews: the Americans.”

I sympathize with Hoagland’s observation that America is increasingly seen that way around the world; and I agree with him that this is a skewed and incomplete portrait of America. But I fear that America’s dialogue with the world is skewed by this distorted image: America’s supporters often dismiss their opposition because it assigns to America unreasonable ills. As a result, they overlook whatever legitimate complains others make about America foreign policy.

This is natural: when anger and reason mix (as they do in the discourse over America), anger is usually louder and more likely to provoke a defensive reaction. Polarization edges out policy disagreements—there is an underlying current of anti-Americanism that reflects the world’s anxiety about the buildup of American power, out of proportion both with what the rest of the world is doing and with the reasonable threats to American security; there is worry that America has the ambition to change the world but not the stamina to do so; and there is concern that America involves itself with insufficient attention to detail and locality, and when it finds things too complex, it either resorts to force or backs away.

The point is that there is a reasonable anti-Americanism out there; the perils of the “grand monster” depiction lie not in their inaccuracy but in their tendency to distort or overwhelm the accurate.

References:
Jim Hoagland, “America, the global target,” Washington Post, 26 Mar 06

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