Monday, August 25, 2008

The United States and the world

As we begin the Democratic convention today, many are excited by the new attitude President Obama will bring to the world. Instead of the paranoid fantasies of the neo-cons, we will enter into cordial relations with all who wish it. Oh, we won't be pushed around, not the big dog. But we will see a new era of comity with people of other nations, and can move ahead with solutions to the big global problems.

Wow, this sounds great. But try talking to someone from another country sometime, and you'll retain just a touch of cynicism about this wonderful new land of hugs and kisses. Because, unlike us, the people of other nations don't necessarily perceive magical changes coming from a change of administration. We believe that a move from Bush to Obama will make big differences to the way the country is run (and you probably believe that regardless of whether you like it or not). Many people, however, simply see us as one nation, and are far more murky as to how a party change might affect relations with their country or their part of the world.

We're no different, of course. Does Italy have a premier, a prime minister, or a president? Who is it? Does he or she have different policies toward the U.S. than his or her predecessor?

I can't answer those questions, and I doubt that many Americans can either. In part, that's a reflection of our myopia toward the rest of the world. But, in no small measure, it's pretty natural. It's the height of arrogance to think that other people will understand the nature of changes to our government (though they are more likely to than we are, sadly). Simply electing a new president will not suffice to make changes; we'll still have some work to do.

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