Did you ever consider that the slippage America seems to have suffered in its role as a leader among nations and as a powerful force in the politics of nations around the world may have domestic roots? When the President of the United States is sidelined by the American Congress, when Congress sneers at every move our President makes, it is irrational to expect that this behavior will have no effect on the way he, and therefore we, are perceived abroad.
It was pretty clear when Obama was elected that America wanted to end our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our image as a nation that backs human rights even in the arena of war had been tarnished by the crass behavior of some of our troops (how did that even happen) and the information leaks that described torture techniques in use during interrogation of suspected terrorists and enemy combatants. Is this the first time America has used torture? We are lead to believe that America avoided the use of these techniques usually associated with authoritarian governance, but the use of these methods in the present calls into question our pride in the integrity resulting from our dedication to respecting human rights even during past wars.
Foreign governments seem just as shocked and demoralized by our war time behavior as the American people are. Although any country that gets itself involved in another nation’s business, which sends in troops and fights on soil it doesn’t own for outcomes that affect the politics of that “occupied” nation, is bound to generate hate from some or all of the sides in that war or conflict. We have a situation in America right now where people blame our President for the hostility with which America is viewed abroad. They claim that he has a meek and apologetic approach to bad actors around the world. Our recent war time behavior points a finger at other possible sources for the disregard we are experiencing around the world.
In addition we have the advent of the drone era which enables us to intervene in foreign locations without a physical presence on their soil. Reaction to drones has been extreme since they were developed. They have a sort of futuristic feel, a sort of “Star Wars” feel that we have definitely not grown into yet. We associate mechanized, high tech weapons with the bad guys in the “Empire” rather than the good guys in “the rebel alliance”. Drones seem un-American. And yet drones save American lives, at least right now when we are the only country that uses drones. Drones allow us to pursue enemies of America into terrain that was previously inaccessible. Drones do nothing to improve our image in foreign nations. Even Americans cannot decide if it is cowardly for Obama to rely on drones, or if it is a bold move that gives us that technological edge that nuclear missiles once gave us.
Maybe we have to take some of this animosity on the chin. Maybe we can’t expect to intervene in foreign nations when we perceive that it is necessary to American interests or to world peace and expect to be beloved at the same time. Calling our President weak and vacillating every time he does not take us to the brink of war is not at all helpful. Commentators seem to feel that Obama is too slow to offer the American reaction to violence and instability in foreign nations. Labeling our President as weak gives foreign nations permission to treat him and us with disrespect. Every action America takes with respect to foreign nations must be designed to have maximum impact while keeping war off the table. When the world can see how divided America’s internal politics is right now that also adds to the perception of weakness. If we were truly threatened by outside enemies I assume that Americans would set aside our differences and fight as a united America. I hope I am not wrong about this. Meanwhile, if you want a President who appears strong and invincible before the nations of the world, then those who consistently disrespect our President need to find a way to tone down this destructive rhetoric and behavior. I think our own bad actors are addicted to anger and see no way back into a more constructive and flexile mode.
We are all saddened when blood is being shed anywhere on earth. We don’t like it, we don’t want it and we think it benefits no one. Watching events in Egypt gives us no satisfaction. We want to see a strong Egypt, an Egypt that has found the proper government to fit its needs. We do not want to intervene in Egypt. Americans feel that by continuing to send military aid to Egypt, now that the military has resumed bloody control of the Egyptian government, is essentially putting us on the side of the military as our continued aid keeps the military strong. Harassing our President may seem to be the only way we can express outrage at the behavior of the Egyptian military and our support of the Egyptian people, but it is really counterproductive. We want to show the world that Egypt will jump if America speaks and that we will not help any country that is not showing us that its internal violence is pointed at establishing a democracy. We are upset that Egypt is so involved in its internal struggle that it cannot even hear the voice of America. Is there even a frontrunner for leadership in Egypt right now? We can’t see what will happen in Egypt now that Morsi has been unseated because there has been no clear set of preferences offered by the Egyptian people. We can see what Egyptians don’t want but not what they do want. This unsettles us. We want to know right now what is next for Egypt, in fact we would like to reach in and determine what is next for Egypt.
Can we use our influence to steer events in Egypt? The advice from those who are being interviewed on news channels is being offered up as I write and this advice puts pressure on the President to do something, but all the advisors do not agree about what should be done. With 24/7 news we will be seeing lots of blood flowing all over our TV screens. We cannot react in knee jerk fashion every time we see blood no matter how heartbreaking it is. We have to use our logic and use our words and we have to have a policy that says how much we will get involved in the politics and wars of other nations. Unfortunately, I guess I cannot reasonably expect that our American Congress will show more respect for our President. I, however, will continue to respect that his responses are measured and global rather than strictly chauvinistic.Can also be read at www.brissioni.com