When I have posted particularly anti-Bush or partisan views, many people have complained in the comments or by email. Some of the most intelligent comments on my blog have come from conservatives and some of the most stupid from liberals. In order to keep some of the more intelligent conservatives involved in the dialog, I've tried to generally steer clear taking strong stands on the war in Iraq and on the presidential election.

I thought about it and I've decided that this is stupid. I don't want Bush to be re-elected and I think going into Iraq was wrong. I will try to be thoughtful about how I make my assertions, but I'm going to stop pretending that I'm non-partisan. I hope that Republicans or people who do not agree with me will continue to read this blog and disagree openly with me. I have just decided that it's getting too close to the election and there is too much at risk for me to just sit here and act neutral.

44 Comments

bravo!

just because you are a public figure shouldnt make you afraid to speak up what you think!

Right on! How can one have a well-rounded point of view without intelligent discussion with the other side? Debates and conflicts of opinion should be embraced, not avoided.

That's a very sensible decision. Why, after all, do we have free speech and freedom of expression? To make use of it. It's a civil right and duty.

God forbid you should express an opinion.

Seriously, I guess partisans like to find some neutral ground in their web travels, a place free from the usual ideological combat.

I encountered the inverse of this on billmon's blog, where some people started bashing Macs with particularly trollish arguments...

Very Good decision!
As you said this matter is too important to stay neutral.
I believe that I read somewhere that electing the US president is something to important for the world to be left to US citizens!

Of course, nobody is going to make the foolish mistake of saying 'Bad decision! Non-partisan people like me think you should remain independent!' , lest they be labelled Republican.

As to Eric's remark about the US election being too important to be left to US citizens - well, unfortunately non US citizens don't get a vote. But there is a saying that democracy is the system whereby the voters get what they deserve. (Unfortunately in many cases, the rest of the world get the same.)

What makes me worry is that it looks like Kerry would most likely have made the same mistakes as Bush...

Of course, nobody is going to make the foolish mistake of saying 'Bad decision! Non-partisan people like me think you should remain independent!' , lest they be labelled Republican.

As to Eric's remark about the US election being too important to be left to US citizens - well, unfortunately non US citizens don't get a vote. But there is a saying that democracy is the system whereby the voters get what they deserve. (Unfortunately in many cases, the rest of the world get the same.)

What makes me worry is that it looks like Kerry would most likely have made the same mistakes as Bush...

Good decision! Though I am pro-Bush. I feel that the more people that participate in the discussion the better off we will all be. The Problem is that we as a nation have become less and less active in our own government and don't voice our opinions enough.

Sorry for the multiple trackbacks.

I've found on my own blog that you can write partisan things and still have thoughtful dialogue with people who disagree -- as long as they see that your opinion was formed from thought, and not from knee-jerk reaction. You may lose some of the knee-jerkers from the other side of the issue, but you probably don't want them hanging around anyway :-)

Bravo!

I want to see Bush defeated more than anything else. This is a very important election where we can take back our country and once again earn the rest of the world's respect.

I am often confused by our need for the world's respect. I hope that we never reach the point where world opinion holds tremendous sway over how we govern ourselves.

Politics per se isn't a bad thing; it's the way the discussion is carried out that counts. The reason many of us read this blog is for the unique and wonderful perspective Joi Ito offers, based on his first-hand experiences in areas that many of us will never be able to experience ourselves.
I hope any comments on politics will also be done from these perspectives, based on first-hand experience, rather than just rehashing opinions that have already been made a million different ways in other forums.

I realize that this will be a bit more difficult and maybe less immediately satisfying than just saying "let's take back the country" but the results would also be more worthwhile.

Good move! It is *your* weblog after all, home to your opinions -- and your right to speak them.

Just don't think of it with the dirty word "partisan" -- accept that everyone has a cultural and ideological bias to a certain degree, and this is unavoidable.

Continually attempting to be neutral and never taking a "partisan" position results in "the sky is purple" absurdity that Aaron talks about here: http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/001173

As one of your conservative readers, I don't care if you take a position on the war. I imagine a lot of the readers of Andrew Sullivan don't go there to hear his insight on Gay Marriage.

The only blogs I delete from the bookmarks are those that get shrill, like many of the Bush-hater blogs (note: not the anti-Bush blogs, just the ones who have gone visceral). Reading the blogs of those with open mouths and closed minds is just a waste of time.

I'm glad to see a pro-Bush person respond to this as I think your decision is the right one, but not because we happen to agree about Bush. If a person blogs in a generally thoughtful manner, I don't need to agree with them on political views to be interested is what they have to say on both political and non-political views. I would hope most people are able to weigh one's comments generally without letting their political view color the discussion.

the brow-beating on both sides is deplorable (as well as in the "middle") I happen to support both Bush and the action in Iraq. But to allow one's self to be shouted down from any perspective does a disservice to intelligent discourse everywhere.

Bravo!

You should definitely express your opinion on your blog. That's presumably one of the reasons you have it. I'm definitely conservative, but I have no problem debating issues with people -- that's how we find the best approaches in the end.

I have posted on your site in the past though stating that I was upset with the tenor of the discussion because it had devolved into liberal back-patting. When you put all this stuff together (anti-bush, anti-war, anti-DRM, anti-Microsoft, anti-national-ID, anti-strong-copyright, pro-creative-commons, pro-anarcho-liberal-democratic-collaboration, starry-eyed-blog-talk), especially in the comments to one post, it starts to be a bit much to refute everything.

Then I just get tired and stop posting, not because I don't like to argue, but because I feel like you're just living in a _very_ different world and I can't always spend days explaining my take on things.

In that vein, I would suggest that you'd get a lot more balanced discussions if you stick to a limited set of issues in your posts. I can't comment on a wide-ranging manifesto because I just don't agree with much of it at all -- I'd have to write my own manifesto... hehe.

I appreciate what I read here. And I think convictions and opinions tend to have more meaning when they are stated plain and direct (as you have done at the end of this post). You're not a media organisation or a journalist writing hard news, therefore you are not responsible for writing from a non partisan viewpoint (nor would most readers want this, IMHO). I, for one, don't come by here to get a 'fair and balanced' point of view on the world, etc, from Joi Ito's Web. I come to hear what Joi's own take is on things. As for stupid comments - they come in all forms (although I'm not with you on the liberals make more stupid comments line... I tend to see the opposite pattern). Your readers shouldn't dictate your content. I think the main thing is being as responsible as you can for what you say. If you express your convictions with thoughtfulness and intelligence they should be valued even if they are not accepted.

Yeah baby!

Praise the good lord!

Prediction: Election of Kerry will not make much difference in how the U.S. pursues events in Iraq or in the "war on terrorism."

Eric Hoffer wrote: The intellectual's concern for the masses is as a rule a symptom of his uncertain status and his lack of an unquestionable sense of social usefulness. It is the activities of the chronically thwarted intellectual that make it possible for the masses to get their share of the good things of life. When the intellectual comes into his own, he becomes a pillar of stability and finds all kinds of lofty reasons for siding with the strong against the weak.

Hoffer continues: The advancement of the masses is a mere by-product of the uniquely human fact that discontent is at the root of the creative process: that the most gifted members of the human species are at their creative best when they cannot have their way, and must compensate for what they miss by realizing and cultivating their capacities and talents.

In other words, we the masses are better off for your discontent, Joi.

>I am often confused by our need for the world's
>respect. I hope that we never reach the point
>where world opinion holds tremendous sway
>over how we govern ourselves.

The rest of the world hardly cares about how US citizens govern themselves. It's US foreign policy that the rest of the world worries about.

Outside of the US it's rather disturbing to discover how vast numbers of people regard American interests as a threat - and I'm not just talking about Bush either.

There seems to be an assumption that Joi speaking against Bush means that he is for the Democrats. I can't speak for Joi personally, but to many other people outside the USA the differences between the two candiates, and the two parties, are seen as minor. Commentators are often critical not of the particular President, but of the way the American system as a whole affects people outside the US that don't get a chance to vote.

If you're inside the US and don't like it, there's always the possibility of leaving, but when you are already outside and the US comes to you, what can be done?

Joi, I hope you'll step up to the plate to bat for those who are outside the US as much as you do for those inside it who see politics as either picking Democrat or Republican.

.sometimes in our lives we do the right thing
nothing cleans the soul more than doing what is universally right
life is just too short to sit by in silence and not express what we truthfully believe in
there is so much phonyiness out there in world
freedom is found in truth
know the truth
and the truth shall set you free
"no woman no cry"
bob marley

A subsequent investigation showed that Israeli troops had knowingly shot down innocent civilians, killed a female nurse and driven a vehicle over a paraplegic in a wheelchair [in Jenin]. "Blood libel!" Cooney screamed. TV3 immediately dissociated themselves from this libel. And of course, I got the message. Shut up. Don't criticise Israel.


24 April 2004


Behold Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, would-be graduation commencement speaker at Emory University in the United States. She has made a big mistake. She dared to criticise Israel. She suggested - horror of horrors - that "the root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict is the occupation". Now whoah there a moment, Mary! "Occupation"? Isn't that a little bit anti-Israeli?

Are you really suggesting that the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip by Israel, its use of extrajudicial executions against Palestinian gunmen, the Israeli gunning down of schoolboy stone-throwers, the wholesale theft of Arab land to build homes for Jews, is in some way wrong?

Maybe I misheard you. Sure I did. Because your response to these scurrilous libels, to these slurs upon your right to free speech, to these slanderous attacks on your integrity, was a pussy-cat's whimper. You were "very hurt and dismayed". It is, you told The Irish Times, "distressing that allegations are being made that are completely unfounded".

You should have threatened your accusers with legal action. When I warn those who claim in their vicious postcards that my mother was Eichmann's daughter that they will receive a solicitor's letter - Peggy Fisk was in the RAF in the Second World War, but no matter - they fall silent at once.

But no, you are "hurt". You are "dismayed". And you allow Professor Kenneth Stein of Emory University to announce that he is "troubled by the apparent absence of due diligence on the part of decision makers who invited her [Mary Robinson] to speak". I love the "due diligence" bit. But seriously, how can you allow this twisted version of your integrity to go unpunished?

Dismayed. Ah, Mary, you poor diddums.

I tried to check the spelling of "diddums" in Webster's, America's inspiring, foremost dictionary. No luck. But then, what's the point when Webster's Third New International Dictionary defines "anti-Semitism" as "opposition to Zionism: sympathy with opponents of the state of Israel".

Come again? If you or I suggest - or, indeed, if poor wee Mary suggests - that the Palestinians are getting a raw deal under Israeli occupation, then we are "anti-Semitic". It is only fair, of course, to quote the pitiful response of the Webster's official publicist, Mr Arthur Bicknell, who was asked to account for this grotesque definition.

"Our job," he responded, "is to accurately reflect English as it is actually being used. We don't make judgement calls; we're not political." Even more hysterically funny and revolting, he says that the dictionary's editors tabulate "citational evidence" about anti-Semitism published in "carefully written prose-like books and magazines". Preposterous as it is, this Janus-like remark is worthy of the hollowest of laughs.

Even the Malaprops of American English are now on their knees to those who will censor critics of Israel's Middle East policy off the air.

And I mean "off the air". I've just received a justifiably outraged note from Bathsheba Ratskoff, a producer and editor at the American Media Education Foundation (MEF), who says that their new documentary on "the shutting-down of debate around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict" - in reality a film about Israel's public relations outfits in America - has been targeted by the "Jewish Action (sic) Task Force". The movie Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land was to be shown at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

So what happened? The "JAT" demanded an apology to the Jewish community and a "pledge (for) greater sensitivity (sic) when tackling Israel and the Middle East conflict in the future". JAT members "may want to consider threatening to cancel their memberships and to withhold contributions".

In due course, a certain Susan Longhenry of the Museum of Fine Arts wrote a creepy letter to Sut Jhally of the MEF, referring to the concerns of "many members of the Boston community" - otherwise, of course, unidentified - suggesting a rescheduled screening (because the original screening would have fallen on the Jewish Sabbath) and a discussion that would have allowed critics to condemn the film. The letter ended - and here I urge you to learn the weasel words of power - that "we have gone to great lengths to avoid cancelling altogether screenings of this film; however, if you are not able to support the revised approach, then I'm afraid we'll have no choice but to do just that".

Does Ms Longhenry want to be a mouse? Or does she want to have the verb "to longhenry" appear in Webster's? Or at least in the Oxford? Fear not, Ms Longhenry's boss overrode her pusillanimous letter. For the moment, at least.

But where does this end? Last Sunday, I was invited to talk on Irish television's TV3 lunchtime programme on Iraq and President Bush's support for Sharon's new wall on the West Bank. Towards the end of the programme, Tom Cooney, a law lecturer at University College, Dublin, suddenly claimed that I had called an Israeli army unit a "rabble" (absolutely correct - they are) and that I reported they had committed a massacre in Jenin in 2002.

I did not say they committed a massacre. But I should have. A subsequent investigation showed that Israeli troops had knowingly shot down innocent civilians, killed a female nurse and driven a vehicle over a paraplegic in a wheelchair. "Blood libel!" Cooney screamed. TV3 immediately - and correctly - dissociated themselves from this libel. Again, I noted the involvement of an eminent university - UCD is one of the finest academic institutions in Ireland and I can only hope that Cooney exercises a greater academic discipline with his young students than he did on TV3 - in this slander. And of course, I got the message. Shut up. Don't criticise Israel.

So let me end on a positive note. Just as Bathsheba is a Jewish American, British Jews are also prominent in an organisation called Deir Yassin Remembered, which commemorates the massacre of Arab Palestinians by Jewish militiamen outside Jerusalem in 1948. This year, they remembered the Arab victims of that massacre - 9 April - on the same day that Christians commemorated Good Friday.

The day also marked the fourth day of the eight-day Jewish Passover. It also fell on the anniversary of the 1945 execution by the Nazis of Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer at Flossenburg concentration camp. Jewish liberation 3,000 years ago, the death of a Palestinian Jew 2,000 years ago, the death of a German Christian 59 years ago and the massacre of more than 100 Palestinian men, women and children 56 years ago. Alas, Deir Yassin Remembered does not receive the publicity it merits.

Webster's dictionary would meretriciously brand its supporters "anti-Semitic", and "many members of the Boston community" would no doubt object. "Blood libel," UCD's eminent law lecturer would scream. We must wait to hear what UCD thinks. But let us not be "hurt" or "dismayed". Let's just keep on telling it how it is. Isn't that what American journalism school was meant to teach us?

So many interesting comments regarding this post.

I think it's reasonable that you should not refrain from making Anti-Bush comments if that is what you feel. It is your BLOG after all and disagreement is how the Consitution here in the US got made and I think it's pretty good despite the flaws of the people who use it to their own ends.

I suppose it would be fair to categorize me as a conservative, although I certainly don't vote a straight Republican ticket. As it turns out I didn't vote for Bush when he first ran for governor here in Texas. I voted for the democratic candidate, Ann Richards. I did vote for Bush in his second election for Governor and when he ran for President against Gore. It's an unfortunate characteristic of our system here in the US that we often only have two candidates to chose from and sometimes they aren't the people you really want in office. I'm also personally unable to make a decision based on one or two issues.

I've never travelled outside the USA so I don't really have a good perspective but I do have to say I am puzzled at those people who have very negative feelings toward America and Americans. I can't speak for anyone over here but myself, but I really don't derive an opinion about any individual based on their country of origin. I understand that we here in the USA are awefully flawed but I have yet to meet someone who isn't.

And just so you know, it's possible to be conservative and be against the war in Iraq. I was, and continue to be. against it. Unfortunately, we are there and now I fear leaving suddenly would only make things worse. So, it looks like we have to do what needs to be done to clean up the mess we made over there. I think more involvement of the UN and the international community is needed but I worry our current set of leadership will chose not to invvolve them as much as they should. Notice that even though I am against the war, and spoke out against it before it started, I am taking responsibility as part of this society.

My only problem with partisanship is that it tends to degrade to a screaming match where no one is listening to anyone and everyone just retreats into their own bunker of ideology and refuses to come out.

Joi, as long as you don't scream and don't retreat, this is one conservative who will keep reading.

P.S. Joi, since you've already stated you don't want Bush to be re-elected and you think it's awefully important, why not say why and how you think things will be better under Kerry?

Joi,

Skippy doesn't understand why you waste your time posting about the world condition. Don't you see, you should be spending your time balancing the books and helping out RSS, instead of these other silly issues. After all, you owe RSS, and Skippy suspects you haven't paid your HTML, Java, Javascript, or C++ bill either!

To say Bush as a bad person is not a statement of opinion. It is not an expression of your own personal biasses. It is not an expression of politics. It does not reflect your own unique personality.

To say that Bush is a bad person is to say the truth.

To all the people who congratulated Joi Ito for expressing his opinions and beliefs: you have it wrong. That Bush is a dangerous fool is an objectively verifiable fact.

To those who say Kerry is not much of an improvement: you are wrong. Bush has an extremely radical agenda. Kerry does not. He may not be the best possible president, but he will at least not cause the USA to do something terminally destructive.

I'm conservative, but thanks to Bush, I often cross-dress as a liberal on the weekends.

I was to meet with Mayor Giuliani this morning and give a presentation for a commission at 10:00. They told me to come an hour early because of security so I was riding in a cab down Broadway at 8:45 when the first plane flew over. I couldn

Wow. Thanks for the support.

I didn't mean to imply that the liberals were stupid on my blog. I was just pointing out that many of the conservatives here say things that are smarter than some of the liberals. Which is counter intuitive to me. ;-p (Just kidding. ) But it's interesting to see that many of the active comment posters here are conservative. It's also interesting to see that many are the "I'm a conservative, but Bush is pushing me to the edge..."

My personal opinion is that I think Bush is a dangerous president for many reasons, but I also worry about Kerry. Having said that, I think that a strong staff behind Kerry could do more good than GW and his current team. IMHO.

I think even if I were a conservative, I would worry about what's happening to the US right now.

Just a note on why, i think, many "liberals" seem silly these days is because they are on the offensive and being "the attacker" seems to always require drawing from the deeply guttural, emotional well, clouding reason.

Just one of many "factors" I suppose, but that's something I am definitely seeing.

liberals: "the conservatives are killing us! we must rid ourselves of them! Raaargh!!"
conservatives: "pfffaaaahahahahaaaa"

I also think that much of what is going on in all this is so absurd, and so wishy washy, that it is genuinely hard to distinguish the truth/reality from the spin. Which of course adds to the difficulty of having a coherent discourse about it.

Joi -- I'm very glad you've taken a stand. It's all too easy to say that it doesn't matter, republican or democrat, "they're all the same". In this case I think you're right, even conservatives are getting scared because this administration is so far off course.

In terms of not having a vote -- it seems that you actually have a more important role. In a time when journalists are being fired for showing pictures of flag-draped coffins, it's important to have some points of reference from outside the country to let people (like the Texan poster above) know that their sense of something being askew is quite accurate. When americans ask "why do they hate us so much?" it's very useful to have a perspective from someone who understands the US so well, but also has the ability to stand apart from the absurdities (for example the pat answer "Because they hate our democracy").

What conservative readers? Idiots ike Jeff Jarvis?

Some of the most intelligent comments on my blog have come from conservatives and some of the most stupid from liberals.

The problem with conservatives is that they often:

- believed that Iraq had WMDs, casually brushing aside the serious doubts of the UN weapon inspectors who had been criss-crossing the country for years looking for them
- support Bush’s imprudent stance on the greenhouse gases issue, against the majority opinion of the world’s leading scientists investigating global warming
- see no problems with Bush rejecting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, possibly paving the way for the development of more “usable” tactical, theater nuceal weapons. Never mind the fact that one of the tenets of the Non-Proliferation Treaty is that nuclear powers are supposed to reduce their nuclear arsenal, in exchange for non-nuclear powers renouncing to develop such weapons.
- dismissed Salam Pax, the Baghdad blogger, as a “Baath agent,” unable to see the obvious ring of truth permeating from his writings
- ignore e.g. as “sour gripes” whatever criticism voiced by informed administration insiders like ex-Treasury secretary O’Neill. Never mind that Bush, once he steps out from the presidency, will be a fairly insignificant “has been” with financial assets and “insight” or conference marketability that will be negligible compared to O’Neill, who has been the CEO of one of the US’ largest companies after all
- are not troubled at all by the various elements surfacing about Bush’s record that cast doubt on his character and competence
- believe a US president with strong “Christian” beliefs and led by “God” is the best person to impose “solutions” to the issues faced by the Islamic populations of the Middle-East
- are unable to even see that thinkers like Paul Krugman are handing over their heads to them, when they proffer their feeble refutation to his perceptive analyses.

I, for one, don’t ascribe much value to whatever “intelligent” opinion these oh so impressive conservative minds might come up with next. What kind of insight did they demonstrate post-facto, that might lend them a bit of credibility ?

Great Joi. I am spending most of my time in the US these days as you know. I think that you are absolutely right about expressing your oppinion - which I agree with. I however do not like the idea of labelling oneself as a Liberal or a Conservative. These are just conceptual tools that can be used to perceive and influence policy. I find when I come back to the Socialist UK - I start to want to put on my Conservative Conceptual Lenses - but when I am in the US I like to put on my Liberal Lenses. To me it is a bit like using o-hashi to eat Japanese food and Knife and Fork to eat Western...... A very non-linear way of thinking but there you go. Anyway - for all those who think linearly and like to have two sides to an argument and all that stuff - I think that you made the right decision to stop being neutral.

Hmmm. I have to take issue with Mr. MostlyVowels:

"believed that Iraq had WMDs, casually brushing aside the serious doubts of the UN weapon inspectors who had been criss-crossing the country for years looking for them"

But of course, even the UN had found more than once that Iraq had lied about and concealed its failure to comply with resolutions. They were certainly not honest. The problem was simply that the U.S. intelligence was insufficient.

Or, maybe they knew there were no WMDs, but believed that the only way to maintain our dominance in this geostrategic game of foreign policy was to remake the middle-east. I tend to think this is the case, and Cheney and his crew were behind it. Read Brzezinski, "The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives"... That's a key part of the world for many many more reasons than WMDs...

"support Bush’s imprudent stance on the greenhouse gases issue, against the majority opinion of the world’s leading scientists investigating global warming"

It's certainly true that the scientific evidence indicates that eventually, the Earth will warm due to greenhouse gas emissions. Much evidence exists that it's already warming. Many conservatives dismiss this as hogwash. They're morons. Many, like me, wonder when and whether we should take drastic steps when the world economy is fragile. Isn't it conceivable that it could cause more harm to do too much than to wait? Technology improves every day. We'll have hydrogen cars soon. It's a balancing test.

"see no problems with Bush rejecting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, possibly paving the way for the development of more “usable” tactical, theater nuceal weapons. Never mind the fact that one of the tenets of the Non-Proliferation Treaty is that nuclear powers are supposed to reduce their nuclear arsenal, in exchange for non-nuclear powers renouncing to develop such weapons."

As far as I see it, the U.S. maintains the global economy and global security. We had better have something to convince people we're stable or else terrorism and illegal opportunism will increase. Without testing of nukes, we depend currently on massive computer simulations of debatable accuracy. I think our nukes need to be effective. I think we should have nukes and only other stable and responsible countries should have them too. I think we should try to make sure the others don't have them.

"dismissed Salam Pax, the Baghdad blogger, as a “Baath agent,” unable to see the obvious ring of truth permeating from his writings"

This is stupid, I agree. But I never saw any evidence he was genuine either. It's never stupid to be skeptical, just to be dismissive...

"ignore e.g. as “sour gripes” whatever criticism voiced by informed administration insiders like ex-Treasury secretary O’Neill. Never mind that Bush, once he steps out from the presidency, will be a fairly insignificant “has been” with financial assets and “insight” or conference marketability that will be negligible compared to O’Neill, who has been the CEO of one of the US’ largest companies after all"

So... you're saying people dismissed and didn't believe O'Neill. Plus a lot of angst... ;) I don't know enough about this to comment but it doesn't seem to be that surprising that people refused to believe one politician.

"are not troubled at all by the various elements surfacing about Bush’s record that cast doubt on his character and competence"

I was. I would never ideally choose to vote for someone who had a coke problem. Probably not for someone with a drinking problem either. Those who whitewash Bush's record are dogma whores.

"believe a US president with strong “Christian” beliefs and led by “God” is the best person to impose “solutions” to the issues faced by the Islamic populations of the Middle-East"

Actually, Christianity is a heck of a lot more similar to Islam than secular atheism. Go to a muslim country and talk to people. They ask you whether you're christian, jewish, or muslim... They often don't even think about the possibility of atheism. If you tell them you're atheist, which some I know have tried, it's not usually a good friend-maker... People just can't relate much of the time. (Upper-class educated aside)

...

"I, for one, don’t ascribe much value to whatever “intelligent” opinion these oh so impressive conservative minds might come up with next. What kind of insight did they demonstrate post-facto, that might lend them a bit of credibility ?"

There are smart and stupid people on both sides of the fence. We should try to find the smart ones and listen to them.

But of course, even the UN had found more than once that Iraq had lied about and concealed its failure to comply with resolutions. They were certainly not honest. The problem was simply that the U.S. intelligence was insufficient.

It’s pretty clear that Iraq was substantially compliant with important UN resolutions — they withdrew from Kuwait and had disarmed. I don’t consider occasional violations of no-fly zones to be a valid casus belli.



Or, maybe they knew there were no WMDs, but believed that the only way to maintain our dominance in this geostrategic game of foreign policy was to remake the middle-east. I tend to think this is the case, and Cheney and his crew were behind it. Read Brzezinski, "The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives"... That's a key part of the world for many many more reasons than WMDs...

As a somewhat egoistic person who had the luck to be born a G7 country citizen, I actually consider that rationale for invading Iraq to be valid. Even though I have some moral qualms accepting the unfairness of resource distribution between the oil-producing third world and the industrialized countries, I certainly don’t have a magic solution to correct these unequalities.

A beneficial (to us) geopolitical structure has been deployed across the world, using a mixture of cajoling, incentives, threats, corruption and actual use of military force to ensure a stable-ish and low-cost supply of oil. Being able to regulate at will — possibly outside of the OPEC’s framework — the supply of Iraqi oil, and hence exert downward pressure on prices is indeed attractive.
Ordinary (conservative?) citizens who like to boast of the “G7 way of life” as a proof that their societal systems are somehow “better” tend to forget that their countries’ economies would grind to a halt, were it not for that carefully-maintained market structure which ensures oil prices way out of line with its actual importance.

Given that context, I actually understand and support the dispatching by Koizumi of Japanese SDF troops to Iraq. Such a move allows Japan to continue to participate and benefit from this advantageous oil supply framework.



Many, like me, wonder when and whether we should take drastic steps when the world economy is fragile. Isn’t it conceivable that it could cause more harm to do too much than to wait? Technology improves every day. We'll have hydrogen cars soon. It's a balancing test.

Some G7 countries are actually voluntarily meeting their Kyoto protocol quotas, even though the treaty hasn’t been ratified. Complying with the protocol doesn’t require enormous changes to our way of life, especially weighed against the risks and economic costs global warming might engender.

I also have a quite pessimistic view of the availability — and possible energy balance benefits — of hydrogen-powered cars. Fuel cells have been studied for decades, and the proton exchange membranes they use are, in 2004, still exceedingly short-lived and fragile, not anywhere near the cost and reliability levels required for consumer products.
There’s admittedly a slight chance that hydrogen cars and a large-scale hydrogen production and supply infrastructure might be deployed within, say, 30 years. Let’s hope that the geopolitical structure that allows us to enjoy low oil prices will be robust enough to tide us over for a few decades more :-P



I think our nukes need to be effective. I think we should have nukes and only other stable and responsible countries should have them too.


Most people don’t doubt that U.S. nukes are effective, so that’s not really the problem.
The issue is that, by continuing to develop their arsenal, the U.S. are not keeping their side of the bargain, and thus actively undermine the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Such an attitude might provide further justification or impetus to a number of (possibly rogue) governments to develop their own nuclear weapon programmes, as they are keenly aware of the nukes’ dissuasion potential.



So... you're saying people dismissed and didn't believe O'Neill. Plus a lot of angst... ;) I don't know enough about this to comment but it doesn't seem to be that surprising that people refused to believe one politician.

Well, O’Neill didn’t spend much time politicking. I don’t think it’s fair to qualify him as an irresponsible or ignorant political animal. See his bio.



Actually, Christianity is a heck of a lot more similar to Islam than secular atheism.

I seriously doubt that Bush’s variety of “moral majority” Christianism, and policies influenced by such dogmas, would be palatable to most Muslims. I also worry about the disconnection of some conservatives’ worldview with reality. This quote from a recent NY Times article is worrying:

“[..] In fact, months ago a senior adviser to Mr. Bush predicted that should a terrorist attack occur in Europe, it would probably drive the Europeans closer to the United States and its approach to the campaign against terror, not away from it.”

This might be indicative of an inability of some — presumably conservative — of Bush’s advisers to accurately predict European sentiment, even though Europe should be, from a cultural point of view, one of the least foreign and most open and understandable areas in the world for Americans. It doesn’t bode very well for the capability of some U.S. policy makers to accurately gauge sentiment, and possible political repercussions, when the cultural gap is much larger — e.g. in the Middle-East or Eastern Asia.

“[..] In fact, months ago a senior adviser to Mr. Bush predicted that should a terrorist attack occur in Europe, it would probably drive the Europeans closer to the United States and its approach to the campaign against terror, not away from it.”

This might be indicative of an inability of some — presumably conservative — of Bush’s advisers to accurately predict European sentiment, even though Europe should be, from a cultural point of view, one of the least foreign and most open and understandable areas in the world for Americans. It doesn’t bode very well for the capability of some U.S. policy makers to accurately gauge sentiment, and possible political repercussions, when the cultural gap is much larger — e.g. in the Middle-East or Eastern Asia.

Are you suggesting that Europe would NOT move closer to the US if this happened, and therefore he misunderstands their perspective?

You may be right, but I would be surprised if any government could (or would) restrain itself from becoming more hard-line on terrorism when attacks increase...

At any rate, there _is_ a wide and IMHO widening gap between Europe and the US. Not so much between Japan and the US though. In fact, I see Japan becoming more conservative and moving even closer to the US on policy issues in the near future.

The gap with Europe has been widening for a long long time though. At this point, it's just a fact that most Americans see moderate politics in Europe as totally socialist. Most Americans can't understand people going to college for free, while Europeans can't understand NOT being able to do so. It's just really really different, and it's getting to the point that we're starting to disgust each-other just by stating moderate views.

I don't know what's going to happen here, but there's definitely going to be friction for a long time to come. It's certainly interesting to watch though. ;P

There seems to be a lot of questioning about why people outside the US dislike America. Maybe I can shed some light on the situation.

I'm not trying to present a balanced, rational view here, (if such a thing is possible across cultures); rather I'm going to try to explain a different viewpoint rooted in quite different cultural values.

Firstly, the USA won't compromise with other countries on the most important issues of the day to make progress. While the rest of the world is looking to work on global problems as a team, making multilateral agreements on land mines, the environment, nuclear weapons, and the other great challenges of 21st century politics, the US has consistently insisted on going it alone. Even the basic rules of warfare and human rights that the US (and nearly every other country one can imagine) is signatory to have been violated by the USA when there was thought to be some kind of advantage in doing so. (Guantanamo Bay etc.)

Secondly, the US ignores everyone else in deciding what it will do. In the case of Iraq, the stubborn insistence of the US (from all sides) to invade Iraq, against the wishes and advice of nearly every other significant military power, proved again that the US is a loose cannon, more likely to cause harm than good. (While nobody was stupid enough to say 'I told you so', I'm sure the French, German and Russian presidents are quite pleased they didn't back the invasion of Iraq to find WMDs, thank you very much.)

Thirdly, terrorism. The viewpoint of many people outside the US is that in fact terrorism as a global phenomenon has generally been stirred up by the USA, and never would have been so powerful had the US not demonstrated its willingness to invade foreign soil purely based on suspicions.

Overall, it's not American people they dislike, it's the (mostly foreign) policies of the government that the American people elect. The feeling is that the US stands in the way of solving a number of very important issues.

A lot of it comes down to perception. People within the USA talk about the ability of Bush's advisors to 'predict European sentiment', but in Europe, I imagine most people are wondering if Bush (who represents the USA at large) even cares!

Moreover, while in the US it may be seen as acceptable for a nation to do what it likes in its own self interest, (even up to invading other nations as some of the above posts have suggested), the Golden rule of doing unto other nations as you would have them do unto you is often seen as far more important outside the USA. That means no exceptions just because you are rich and have a huge military industrial complex.

I'd like to compare this to a contrasting (straw man) argument.

The pat rationalisation that people dislike the USA 'because they envy us / hate our democracy' etc is nonsense. I think you will find that most citizens in the developed world would believe their own electoral system to be as good as or better than the US system. Many of them might contrast their own female heads of state or prime ministers with the USA, which has never even had a serious female candidate, or point to the large numbers of parties they have in comparison to only two in the USA.

Likewise in economic terms, although the GDP per capita of the US is greater, comparatively few people in the developed world outside the US would actually trade their own culture for that of the US, given issues like guns, more widespread poverty, more people in jail, college education that is very expensive (vs. free), and cultural values that don't match well with Americans. (See Trevor Hill's post above.) However, there is no doubt that overall the US is richer.

The above explanations are just one viewpoint, not my own, and heavily slanted at that. But many people may feel that way about the USA. I hope this might help Americans understand how people in Europe, Oceania and the rest of the world might be feeling about the States.

I think the biggest points you touched on there are that the US is perceived as acting in its own self-interest, and ignoring other nations' opinions, or at least not caring about them.

I tend to think that the reason European nations are cooperating now is not because they're better somehow or more evolved, but mostly because they have a more socialist culture, and most importantly, they simply can't achieve certain larger scale goals without cooperation.

If the US had to cooperate to achieve its goals, it probably would, but it doesn't have to. The cooperation in Europe that IMHO initially developed because of the inability of individual nations to achieve certain things, is now being expected of the US almost as a moral issue.

Furthermore, since the self-restraint of European nations sometimes works to their detriment, it seems unfair to them that the US actually acts in its self-interest. But it has never been recognized as 'wrong' in the past for a nation to act as the US has... I still don't think it is. But I can see why people become jealous or upset that their nations are ineffective at changing the policies of a powerful player like the US. Isn't this really what's happening? If so, are the gripes really legitimate, or should the US be allowed to pursue its self-interest as long as it doesn't unreasonably step on the toes of other responsible nations...?

In other words, morally speaking, is the US required to compromise and cooperate, even when it doesn't have to? Or is it just required not to unreasonably infringe upon other responsible nations' sovereignty?

Trevor wrote:


MostlyVowels wrote:

Quoted from a NY Times article:
“[..] In fact, months ago a senior adviser to Mr. Bush predicted that should a terrorist attack occur in Europe, it would probably drive the Europeans closer to the United States and its approach to the campaign against terror, not away from it.”
This might be indicative of an inability of some — presumably conservative — of Bush’s advisers to accurately predict European sentiment, even though Europe should be, from a cultural point of view, one of the least foreign and most open and understandable areas in the world for Americans. It doesn’t bode very well for the capability of some U.S. policy makers to accurately gauge sentiment, and possible political repercussions, when the cultural gap is much larger — e.g. in the Middle-East or Eastern Asia.

Are you suggesting that Europe would NOT move closer to the US if this happened, and therefore he misunderstands their perspective?

Last month’s bomb attacks in Madrid didn’t exactly increase empathy in Europe for U.S. policies...

Most Americans can't understand people going to college for free, while Europeans can't understand NOT being able to do so.

It’s also somewhat puzzling that, for all the talks about the negative social consequences of outsourcing e.g. to India, the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that will make student loans more expensive.
One would think that the way to increase U.S. productivity and protect U.S. jobs would be by fostering a better-educated workforce, able to compete with college-educated Asians...

Dave and Trevor, thanks for your thoughtful comments.

Methinks the flaring up of anti-U.S. sentiment in Europe is due more to Bush Jr’s policies, rather than being an ingrained cultural structural European trait: transatlantic relations where pretty smooth during the Bush Sr. and Clinton eras, with the tiffs being rather minor and generally trade and tariff-related.

I think that Bush Sr. and Clinton had the intelligence to recognize that the U.S. and European countries have not necessarily antagonistic interests, and have more to gain through collaboration than divergence.
There is a certain degree of insight required of political leaders to recognize and weigh the soft, and perhaps intangible, benefits accruing to the U.S. when it chooses to play along. The Bush Sr. and Clinton administrations seem to have had that Fingerspitzengefühl.

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