Miami Herald readers got a dose of realpolitik instead of Hope and Change from Frida Ghitis yesterday. Many of Barack Obama’s supporters thought that he would usher in a new era where America was beloved across the globe simply because we had replaced George W. Bush after two terms in office. Ghitis points out what should have been obvious all along — which is that anti-Americanism didn’t start with George Bush, and it won’t end with Barack Obama, either (via Instapundit):
If you thought America would quickly regain the world’s love, admiration and — most important — it’s willingness to follow the U.S. lead once Barack Obama came to power, the news is disappointing. A useful guide to what has transpired comes from Venezuela’s president and his most peculiar sulfurometer. Hugo Chávez, it seems, can smell the Devil, especially when the Prince of Darkness takes up residence in the body of an American president.
Watching Chávez’s devil-spotting shows that efforts to turn America’s foes into friends will, in many cases, prove utterly useless. There is an important lesson there for everyone, including the resident of the White House. …
Some countries and politicians have goals and interests that conflict sharply with the United States. Regardless of how the man in the Oval Office speaks, regardless of how charming he is. And some nations and leaders will define themselves by their anti-Americanism.
Still, the conciliatory tone from President Obama does serve a useful purpose. When Bush was president, it was easy to believe that people like Chávez or regimes such as Iran’s acted the way they did because America spoke in tones they found offensive or overly confrontational. Now we know there was more.
Iran’s defiance of international demands on its nuclear program are not the product of poor table manners from the Bush administration. Iran behaves as it does because its regime has certain objectives, and its accelerated nuclear enrichment is key to achieving goals such as regional supremacy.
The idea that anti-Americanism exists or increased just because of Bush springs from an immature, self-centered view of the universe and international politics. We saw this in the weeks after 9/11 from the “Why do they hate us” crowd that attempted to blame the victim for the terrorism. It’s safer to think that we control everything in the world, and that therefore we have the power to change anything in the world. That’s nothing more than a fairy tale, and a dangerous one when taken seriously.
Each nation acts in its own interests, and dictatorships especially so. Blaming America for their ills suits dictators and kleptocrats because it keeps their oppressed people from blaming the real authors of their misery. These nations stoke anti-Americanism in order to give their subjects an external enemy on whom to focus rather than revolt against their own authority.
But even beyond that, nations act in their own interests. The collection of AGW hysterics in Copenhagen were not there to take action themselves against industrialization and wealth, but to extort a redistribution of that wealth from already-industrialized nations. Chavez’ speech, which prompted Ghitis’ column, demanded that the US take action in the form of massive payoffs to third-world countries, most of which are oppressive dictatorships. It was a lack of commitment along those lines, rather than a commitment to handcuff the American economy, which caused Chavez to smell sulfur at the podium again.
The only way for America to end anti-Americanism would be to stop acting in our own interests. Not even Obama can pull that one off, at least not for long, and everyone knows it. The real problem with anti-Americanism is that Americans take it so seriously. We need to act in our own interests while treating our friends fairly and securing ourselves against our enemies. That’s what nations do, and only the unserious worry about whether they’re liked for doing so.