Let me say first of all that I do not think the whole world hates America. I also do not think that the most ardent anti-American beliefs are focused on us as individual citizens of America.
Rather, they are focused on the size of America, the fact that it may now be the only global superpower, on its military history and the enviable success of its economy and its culture. America is now and has been many things to many people in this world. But unlike Great Britain and France and Spain, it is not now, nor has it ever been an empire, which controls and indeed subjugates the citizens of that empire’s colonies.
America is an easy target because of its dominance on the world’s stage. Its flag is instantly recognized by people around the globe. Its culture, its fashions, its dominance in movies, in music, in fashions, its automobiles and, yes, its fast foods are unmatched by those of other nations. And thus, it is a source of envy by people all over the world. And those who envy America can also hate us, particularly if prompted to do so by events or by the propaganda of their own governments.
America is the most dominant military power in the world and is a strong economic power as well. But there are other powerful countries in the world such as China. While many resent our military power, the events of the “Arab Spring” reveal among the dissidents a repeated desire to have America and not China use its power to support their aspirations for change. And when we do, the results are mixed.
There were many articles about anti-Americanism after events in Libya, where our ambassador was killed. It is significant that after his death there were many Libyans showing signs praising the ambassador and our country. They did not hate us.
We have not made a lot of friends in the world by putting American boots on the ground, first in Vietnam, then Iraq and then Afghanistan. Yet there is no reason to reduce our military capabilities.
Vladimir Putin’s state-directed anti-Americanism is transparent, banning adoption of Russian children being the latest example. He has blamed our country for his, and by extension Russian, problems. As observed in a recent op-ed piece by David Kramer and Arch Puddington, “The Putin regime demonizes the United States, heaps abuse on its officials, derides its democratic values and treats the humanitarian motives of its people as suspect, while backing the murderous Assad regime.”
Nothing our country does or has done will eliminate such anti-Americanism. Again, that fact is a direct result of the size and influence of this country.
America, therefore, should not seek to be less dominant, much less assume an apologetic tone for everything America does. To be sure, mistakes have been made in the foreign-policy decisions our leaders have made. And Americans and non-Americans have criticized them.
The world looks to America for leadership, and when our country leads, it will produce criticism, anti-Americanism, and, sadly, terrorist acts against our citizens. America should not shrink from its responsibilities, nor abandon its allies. Nor should we seek a “quick fix” for anti-Americanism, such as abandoning Israel, or becoming isolationist. Our position in the world is somewhat tenuous, but the fact that anti-Americanism exists is no reason to accept that our country is in decline. It is not.
One could write a paper on American hubris as a source of anti-Americanism. Indeed, Peter Beinhart wrote an entire book on the subject, “The Icaarus Syndrome.” He concluded with these words: “Now another generation of Americans must jettison our visions of invincibility. We should do so joyfully for the recognition that no collection of mortals can impose its will on an unruly globe is not a sign of decay, but of wisdom. And tempered by wisdom, American optimism is — and always will be . . . one of the great wonders of the world.”
To put this all in context, Jonathan Tepperman, a senior editor of foreign affairs, wrote in 2004: “A more conciliatory American tone in the years ahead might quiet the country’s critics somewhat. But nothing Washington could realistically do would be likely to change the minds of those determined, for their own reasons, to hate it. Anti-Americanism is something we are stuck with for at least as long as America remains pre-eminent.”
In conclusion, it is the fervent wish of this immigrant’s son that America does remain pre-eminent in this world.