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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

bit of a round up « Previous | |Next »
August 21, 2003

This post is a bit of a round up. has a post on whether we can apply 'neo-con' in Australia and on the confusions of the libertarian understanding of liberalism and conservatism. It is a reponse to this article by Andrew Norton who argues that neo-con is positively confusing in the Australian context. It does not apply.

There is no equivalent to the US Manifest Destiny (civilising mission of democratising the world on the back of free markets that now takes an imperial form) in Australia. However, the US shift to an American empire is supported by the Howard Government, which defines itself as the Deputy Sherrif to the global cop. In Australia we do have a more activist foreign policy, a more assertive nationalism and an impatient with the constraints imposed by treaties, multilateral action and Australia's membership of international clubs like the UN and a desire to see Australia hit back when attacked. This group of assertive nationalists is fostering more nationalism, more assertiveness and a greater readiness to go it alone with tacit US backing.

On an another note Abu Aardvarke links to this article in Foreign Affairs by Marc Lynch taking Arab public opinion seriously.

The article is entitled Taking Arabs Seriously. It starts from an argument made here at public opinion that the Bush administration's own strategy, which links U.S. security to a democratic and liberal transformation of the region, is undermined by its practice. The central argument is that the Bush team's practice has worked against its stated goals, largely because it has been based on misguided assumptions about the Arab world.

It then usefully lists these assumptions:

"One such assumption is that Arabs respect power and scorn attempts at reason as signs of weakness -- and so the way to impress them is to cow them into submission. Another assumption is that Arab public opinion does not really matter, because authoritarian states can either control or ignore any discontent. Still another is that anger at the United States can and should be disregarded because it is intrinsic to Islamic or Arab culture, represents the envy of the successful by the weak and failed, or is simply cooked up by unpopular leaders to deflect attention from their own shortcomings. And a final, increasingly common notion is that anti-Americanism results from a simple misunderstanding of U.S. policy."

It then spells the consequences of these assumptions which makes sense of what is happening in Iraq.

"Together, these concepts have produced an approach that combines vigorous military interventions with a dismissal of local opposition to them, offset by occasional patronizing attempts to "get the American message out" (through well-intentioned but ineffective initiatives involving public diplomacy, advertising, and the promotion of radio stations featuring popular music). Not surprisingly, the result has been to alienate the very people whose support the United States needs in order to succeed."

Marc Lynch then recommends that the US engage in a dialogue with the Arab and Islamic world:

"The United States needs to approach regional public diplomacy in a fundamentally new way, opening a direct dialogue with the Arab and Islamic world through its already existing and increasingly influential transnational media. Such a dialogue could go a long way toward easing deep-seated anger over perceived American arrogance and hypocrisy and could address the corrosive skepticism about Washington's intentions, which colors attitudes toward virtually everything the United States does. "

And this is a roundtable on American power, the international concern about the US use of that power and its impact on US culture.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:31 AM | | Comments (0)