Sitting In Judgement

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It is, of course, easy to blame the occupant of the White House with everything that is wrong in the world. The President of the United States is arguably the most powerful person in the world. What is easy to forget is that the President is also a prisoner in many respects, of the office. Under the US constitution, the President is responsible for executing the laws that Congress passes. Including all the ones already on the books, not just new ones.

So, when it comes to criticizing the President for what is happening right this moment, it would probably be wise to consider how much of what is happening is really the fault of the person holding the office.

Attempts to explain the vehemence of anti-U.S. feeling abroad correctly home in on Iraq and other unpopular policies of the current administration. But over the past three decades the kudzu-like growth of another U.S. practice, used by Congress and by Democratic and Republican administrations alike, has nurtured seething resentment abroad.

This is what might be called "foreign policy by report card," the issuing of public assessments of the performance of other countries, with the threat of economic or political sanctions for those whose performance, in our view, doesn't make the grade. The overuse of these mandated reports makes us seem judgmental, moralistic and bullying.

The degree to which public reports accompanied by the threat of sanctions have been institutionalized in U.S. policy is stunning. A partial list:

Each year we issue detailed human rights reports on every country in the world, including those whose performance appears superior to our own. We judge whether other countries have provided sufficient cooperation in fighting illegal drugs. We place countries whose protection of intellectual property has been insufficient on "watch lists," threatening trade sanctions against those that do not improve. We judge respect for labor rights abroad through a public petition process set up under the System of Generalized (trade) Preferences. We publish annual reports on other countries' respect for religious freedom.

The author was a foreign service officer for 35 years. He also happens to be right on this one. If we are judging other countries on their labor practices – publicly – are we in the right? Probably not, I suspect. Go read the whole piece. The solutions he offers are a good start to actually improving relations with other counties.

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4 Responses to Sitting In Judgement

  1. Bukko in Australia says:

    Hey Crabby: Even in Australia, a country that modeled itself after the U.S. (once it stopped modeling itself after the Poms in the mid-60s) the U.S. is now viewed as creepy and deadly.

    I’m not talking just other lefties like me. As a hospital nurse, I’m exposed to a variety of patients and their families — everyone from ridgy-didge Anglo-stock ockers to the Greeks and Italians who immigrated here after World War II to wet-behind-the-ears Vietnamese and Muslim immigrants. As the token American on the staff, I get the comments on what they think of America. They find it to be a violent, impoverished and greedy place. That’s from the ones who have been there. The others just think it’s scary.

    But you Republicans like that, don’t you? “Better to be feared” and all that. Proves you’re strong, doesn’t it? Well, when the next attack on the U.S. comes, you won’t get any sympathy from the rest of the world. More like “you got what was coming to you.” But you don’t need the rest of the world, do you? As you drive your Japanese-made SUV with Arab oil through a country with debt financed by the Chinese…

  2. Blackhawk says:

    Gaius, check out Danniel Henniger’s OpEd in WSJ: ‘Can Bush Dodge Bullet Truman Took on Korea?’.

    Slightly off topic, but interesting comparisson.

  3. Pingback: Blue Crab Boulevard » Blog Archive » Explaining The War

  4. Matthew says:

    If your co-workers and patients that have been here find America a violent, impoverished and greedy place, then I really have to question their judgment. This is one of the world’s ten richest countries, per capita, with a low poverty rate, that has the highest rate of volunteerism and charitable giving in the world. This is the nation that funded the Marshall Plan, has given tens of billions to reconstructing Iraq, and has outspent the all of the world governments put together on the scourge of AIDS in Africa. (And, the murder rate has been falling for thirty years.) Maybe your co-workers, patients, and the other America-haters should open their eyes a little.

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