Tuesday, October 26, 2004

America On The World Stage

There's been a lot of press this past year, particularly tied to the the Presidential race, about America's status in the world. There are some bad impressions out there. Democrats want to put the blame on Bush. They always want to blame Republicans. And Republicans like to blame Democrats, too. But as one who travels a lot and interacts with other cultures, I can tell you that I think there is a real mixed impression out there.

America is the richest, most blessed, most successful nation in world history. While a few of our Western "allies" might dispute that, for the rest of the world it is known fact. We have more wealth and power and influence on every level than any nation in the world. So even the most vocal critics I have met, I often suspect, would be the first ones on the boat or plane to come over if they could. America is the "land of opportunity," and, especially in the Third World, they see it as the only path to true escape from their poverty and struggles. So America is still a place where a lot of people want to be.

Additionally, the list of nations we provide economic support to is endless. We have the money everyone is depending on to feed their people and fight AIDS and other problems. And even though the need is increasing daily for aid, without our aid, they would be making no progress. So they have to have it. And they all know that. So they are all indebted and grateful for the help.

But why do they have so many bad things to say about it?

American foreign policy is a big problem. We have been bullying other nations for a long time, Republicans and Democrats. America and American businesses use their wealth and influence to dominate on the world stage, inevitably to the disadvantage of Third World and other nations. But this is especially true with nations who have a hard time fending for themselves. They are desperate for the American aid that is so often tied to these other policies. They surrender because, in the end, they can help more people. But leaders and citizens of these nations grow more and more frustrated with such American bullying. I mean, if you were in need and someone was giving you large amounts of money that could really make a difference, you wouldn't want to give that up, either, but what if that donor started making demands that you paid higher tariffs to import goods to that country or that the donor would get goods for less than market value? How would you feel then?

I am not saying that America should never enjoy the benefits of its prestige, success and wealth. But I am saying that we should treat the benefits and influence with respect and act accordingly, and I don't think we have been very good at doing that. America is often a bully while pretending it's a big brother, and that needs to stop. We really could do much more to feed the hungry, fight the AIDS crisis, and help developing nations succeed. And in the end, it would benefit our nation, because they would provide more and need less. And they would look more favorably upon our partnership. Personally, I think a whole lot of elites out there like things status quo. They like to dominate and don't want to take any chance of losing that power. But I think that is a crime, because people are dying and suffering every day. And we, who have the wealth and resources to do something about it, do nothing.

No wonder so many people out there hate America and love it at the same time. Okay, this is an oversimplification of the problem, but I just wanted to touch on it briefly, because I think it's something a lot of Americans want to forget about or never think about. I think we need to think about it. President Bush is not the one to blame for America's position in the world and/or loss of prestige. We are all to blame, going back decades. And we will continue to be worthy of that blame until we demand more of our leaders in both business and government and do something about it.

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