L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 279, July 11, 2004
We celebrate our Independence
A Survey of History
Exclusive to TLE
In the first two articles of this series, we discussed the history of undeclared wars in US history and also discussed whether we actually do live in a free country. Now, I realize that to many libertarians, these are relatively well-known and well-worn paths to take. However, we need to share these facts with the non-libertarians out there, too, which is why I am writing these articles.
This week, with all the focus on the war on terror, I decided to discuss just why so many nations hate, fear, despise or just plain don't like the United States. There are many simplistic answers out there, and all of them address some small aspect of the problem, but none of them answers all of this question.
One of the main problems is that Americans almost never see themselves as others in the world do. As a rule, Americans see themselves as kind, giving people, stretching themselves to the limit to help those less fortunate. And, to a degree this is true. Americans are the most charitable, giving people on earth. This has been proven, time and time again, by the response of individual Americans, and privately funded charities, whenever there is any form of natural disaster or catastrophe.
We see ourselves as the champion of freedom, having stepped in to save the rest of the world from tyranny, not just once, but several times. And again, to a degree, this is true. World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, America took the lead in all of these.
But! How do others throughout the world see us?
To many people and countries around the world, America represents an interfering busybody, insisting on "human rights", when we don't even do all we can to support basic human rights for all our own citizens. They see us as interfering with their internal matters, meddling in things that don't concern us at all. They see us as hypocrites, championing "free trade", then insisting on ruinous tariffs for some countries and items.
(Please note that I am not championing or endorsing any such view, merely stating what I have been told by many other peoples, from several different countries.)
They see an aggressive interloper, who will only stand up for basic rights when it is in our own selfish interests to do so. They see an imperialistic power that is only concerned with obtaining and maintaining supplies of resources to maintain a profligate lifestyle, resources such as petroleum. To many overseas, the whole war in Iraq and Afghanistan are all about oil, especially since many believe that the Afghani government was only overthrown to give "Big Oil" a compliant puppet to negotiate with for a pipeline from inland oil fields, and that the purpose of the Iraqi misadventure was to secure a cheap supply of crude oil.
There are many other elements in the miasma of hatred that engulfs Americans overseas. Let's address a few of these, just to cover all bases.
Imperialism: We have touched on this briefly, above. But let's look at the history, too. American troops fought in almost all of the Central/Latin American/Caribbean countries for decades in the early part of the last century. Honduras, Haiti, Panama, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, etc. America is the only major colonial power left in the world! Wait, you say, we are not a colonial power? We're not? Marianas Trust Territory, American Samoa, Guam, Wake Island, Midway, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. Every single one of those is a US territory, not a state, and even though many of them have voted to remain in that status, they were all granted to the US as a result of wars and conflict, the classic means of acquiring territory for a colonial power. While I agree that we don't fit the classical definition of a colonial power, this is how the rest of the world sees us.
Gratitude/Resentment: Many Americans have a hard time understanding how France can be so "ungrateful" to the US. Yes, it is true that we have gone to war twice, and twice have saved France, when it couldn't do it itself. In Stranger in a Strange Land, Jubal Harshaw, speaking to Gillian, talks about gratitude. He explains that the Japanese language has five different terms for gratitude, and every single one of them also translates as resentment. Think about it for a moment, and you'll see the logic of it: A country that considers itself the epitome of culture, the wellspring, if you will, is saved by an upstart nation from the far side of the world, whose people are un-cultured, rude, arrogant, crude, basically uncivilized, in the view of the people of this country. Can you imagine anything more humiliating and humbling for a proud people?
Remember Bill Murray's speech in Stripes? The one where he talks about Americans being mongrels and mutts? About our ancestors being kicked out of every decent country in the world? Well, to many Europeans, this is very true, and how they look at us. We are the rejects, the refuse, and then we had the incredible gall to take a wilderness and turn it into a paradise, the most powerful country on Earth. Then, on top of that, we have condescended to save them, not just once, but several times! To them, it looks like arrogance, a "payback", if you will, for their kicking our ancestors out. On top of that, and even more humiliating, is that our success is a damning indictment of their own political views and systems. Our strength, our success, our wealth, is all, in their eyes, being rubbed in their faces, every single day. Is it any wonder they hate us?
Envy and jealousy, to some degree, are responsible for the dislike with which America and Americans are viewed, world-wide. The United States has done more with it's resources and productivity than any other nation ever has, even though there are a few which are fast approaching that level. The average American has a standard of living that is so high, in comparison to the rest of the world, especially the so-called Third World nations, that it is almost unbelievable.
Then, when you add in the myriad of religious differences, and the fact that our success as a (relatively) secular nation, denigrates their own religions and religious traditions, and we have another cause of hatred. Many of these basically theocratic nations also look on the rise of the Religious Right in our political landscape, and see a threat. They have centuries of tradition of religious wars and persecutions, and now they see us engaged in what, to many of them, looks like a modern Crusade, and they fear us. They fear the influence of the Religious Right, the influence of fundamentalists seeking to bring about Armageddon, to spread Christianity all over the world. Whether they are right or not, makes absolutely no difference! Fear is not rational, and this view is a result of fear.
In fact, the European countries formed the European Union as a direct result and response to what they consider the threat and challenge of the US.
I am going to close this article for now. Think on what I've presented here. Look up and check it out. Form your own opinions.
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