Friday, October 14, 2005

Going the way of Rome?

There's a brilliant opinion piece in the International Herald Tribune written by Zbigniew Brzezinski that does a great job assessing what he calls our government's "suicidal statecraft."

Isn't this statement a riot--"Flaying away with a stick at a hornets' nest while loudly proclaiming 'I will stay the course' is an exercise in catastrophic leadership."

Here's a bit more:

It is a self-delusion for Americans to be told that the terrorists are
motivated mainly by an abstract "hatred of freedom" and that their
acts are a reflection of a profound cultural hostility. If that were so,
Stockholm or Rio de Janeiro would be as much at risk as New York.

Yet in addition to New Yorkers, the principal victims of serious
terrorist attacks have been Australians in Bali, Spaniards in Madrid,
Israelis in Tel Aviv, Egyptians in the Sinai and Britons in London.
There is an obvious political thread connecting these events: The
targets are America's allies and client states in the deepening U.S.
military intervention in the Middle East.

Terrorists are not born but shaped by events, experiences, impressions,
hatreds, ethnic myths, historical memories, religious fanaticism and
deliberate brainwashing. They are also shaped by images of what they see
on television, and especially by their feelings of outrage at what they
perceive to be a brutalizing denigration of their religious kin's dignity by
heavily armed foreigners. An intense political hatred for America, Britain
and Israel is drawing recruits for terrorism not only from the Middle East
but from as far away as Ethiopia, Morocco, Pakistan, Indonesia and even
the Caribbean.

After the war in Iraq began, when I was living in Jordan, I definitely noticed a shift in opinion toward regular Americans living or working there. In all the years before, after answering every taxi driver I came into contact with (all of them I ever met asked me) that I was indeed from the U.S., the standard reply I'd get was was something like, "America's great. We love Americans here, but we don't like your government." Then, they would usually go on to tell me about a relative or relatives they have living in the States, talk about U.S. cities, etc.

This differentiation between government and citizen doesn't quite seem to be the same anymore, though. America's increased engagement in the Middle East and the anger it is provoking has made a huge negative impact. So when Bush won in 2004, the sense of dread I felt was definitely connected to my fear of the way perceptions would change of me/us in the Middle East. Bush won for real this time, the idea goes, and he didn't get there without most of the U.S. voting for him. And, I have to say, it's pretty understandable for one to think that our country as a whole prefers that he and his policies prevail. I, for one, was certainly shocked he managed to find so many people to vote for him.

It's not a huge shift, mind you. Or maybe it's hard for me to detect, because Jordanians are amazingly hospitable and that takes precedence over politics. Since the election, when people in Jordan ask me where I'm from, I've often felt the need to toy with the idea of saying, "Canadian" (how cool to be Canadian and not have to worry about these things.) I never have, though, and it's probably because I can claim a bit of camaraderie with anyone who asks by saying I'm an American married to a Jordanian. That's definitely an option close enough to being Canadian.

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