Ignatius Nails It… Mostly

3 comments November 25th, 2005at 01:27pm Posted by Eli

I seem to recall him saying some jerky things about war critics recently, but David Ignatius is almost completely spot-on in his latest WaPo column:

When I lived abroad, Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday. It was a chance to scrounge up a turkey, gather foreign and American friends, and celebrate what America represented to the world. I liked to give a sentimental toast when the turkey arrived at the table, and more than once I had my foreign guests in tears. They loved the American dream as much as I did.

(Okay, that’s laying it on a little thick, but stay with me here)

I don’t think Americans realize how much we have tarnished those ideals in the eyes of the rest of the world these past few years. The public opinion polls tell us that America isn’t just disliked or feared overseas — it is reviled. We are seen as hypocrites who boast of our democratic values but who behave lawlessly and with contempt for others. I hate this America-bashing, but when I try to defend the United States and its values in my travels abroad, I find foreigners increasingly are dismissive. How do you deny the reality of Abu Ghraib, they ask, when the vice president of the United States is actively lobbying against rules that would ban torture?

Of all the reversals the United States has suffered in recent years, this may be the worst. We are slowly shredding the fabric that defines what it means to be an American.

(I snipped some good stuff about how torturing and disappearing people used to be what other countries did)

The United States must begin to replenish this stock of support for America in the world. I would love to see the Bush administration take the lead, but its officials seem not to understand the problem. Even if they turned course, much of the world wouldn’t believe them. Sadly, when President Bush eloquently evokes our values, the world seems to tune out. So this task falls instead to the American public. It’s a job that involves traveling, sharing, living our values, encouraging our children to learn foreign languages and work and study abroad. In short, it means giving something back to the world.

(We’re screwed.)

We must stop behaving as if we are in a permanent state of war, in which any practice is justified by the exigencies of the moment. That’s my biggest problem with Vice President Cheney’s anything-goes jeremiads against terrorism. They suggest we will always be at war, and so it doesn’t matter what the world thinks of our behavior. That’s a dangerously mistaken view. We are in a long war but not an endless one, and we need to begin rebuilding the bridges to normal life.

Ignatius hones in perfectly on the mentality that has led to America’s flirtation with The Dark Side, but I’m skeptical about his prescription for what we, the people can do about it. Sure, raising our kids as world citizens wouldn’t hurt, but I don’t think it would be much of a counterweight against a malevolent, out-of-control government.

The only way it could solve the problem would be indirectly, by spawning a new generation of American voters raised with a global, big-picture, humanist perspective who would vote the crazies out. Of course, the rest of us have to hold the line against the nation-at-war-so-anything-goes mentality enough so that we still have meaningful elections by the time the new generation is old enough to vote.

Entry Filed under: Bush,Cheney,Iraq,Terrorism,Torture,War


  • 1. Horatio  |  November 25th, 2005 at 2:58 pm

    I saw this Op-Ed too. Pretty much sums it up for me. It’s sad really. But I think we can make it back. We have to.

  • 2. Kevin Wolf  |  November 26th, 2005 at 2:19 pm

    It’s a scary world and it’s only going to get scarier.

  • 3. Multi Medium » Cogn&hellip  |  February 3rd, 2007 at 8:16 pm

    […] A week after writing a great column about how our terrible foreign policy is making us hated around the world, David Ignatius returns to the wank mines with a rave review of Condi’s brilliant performance as Secretary of State. Oookay. […]

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