Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Assessing the Current Crop of World Powers

Tom Friedman finds it "self-indulgent, knee-jerk and borderline silly" that so many of the world's people should dislike the United States, even in light of Russia's and China's shameful veto of a US-led UN resolution that would have imposed sanctions on Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe. Friedman sniffs:

Perfect we are not, but America still has some moral backbone. There are travesties we will not tolerate. The U.N. vote on Zimbabwe demonstrates that this is not true for these “popular” countries — called Russia or China or South Africa — that have no problem siding with a man who is pulverizing his own people.

So, yes, we’re not so popular in Europe and Asia anymore. I guess they would prefer a world in which America was weaker, where leaders with the values of Vladimir Putin and Thabo Mbeki had a greater say, and where the desperate voices for change in Zimbabwe would, well, just shut up.
I certainly agree with Friedman that there is "something truly filthy" about the vetoes issued by Russia and China, and that something, which Friedman can't quite bring himself to specify, is the callous abandonment of human rights.

This same abandonment is, I strongly suspect, behind the dislike of the United States. Glennzilla has a few suggestions by which Friedman might puzzle out the matter -- at least one instance involving Friedman himself, who is not innocent of the sort of tribalistic arrogance that people the world over tend not to like.

Contrary to Friedman's manner of framing the matter, this is not a matter of people picking a favorite large power, or even of ranking the large powers from most to least beloved. People are perfectly capable of giving each of the powers under discussion -- the United States, Russia, China, and for that matter, South Africa, Mugabe's regime, and the United Nations generally -- a dismal assessment. Each has its share of filth to answer for, and not only in connection with Zimbabwe.

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