Photo Courtesy of NY Daily News
“… But, I mean, everyone hates the United States so…” The thought drifted into a silence of small smiles and resigned head shaking as a group of students reflected on the unfortunate truth buried in this generalization.
We were discussing the Syrian crisis, sparked by the August chemical weapons attack on Ghouta, and the possibility of action, either American or international. Inevitably, the role of America as ‘global cop’ came up, and with it, this nearly aphoristic statement was shared.
As one interested in the international stage of politics and as an American, I felt a pang of concern at the room’s near apathy towards said negative feelings of ‘everyone’ towards my nation. But look, I’m not naïve. I know some countries will always dislike other countries, no matter how slightly. And I know the United States has plenty of historical and not-so-historical foreign engagements that tarnish our international reputation.
To avoid sweeping statements, let’s put the problem this way: there is a significant amount of negative feeling towards the United States of America, as a political and social entity, found across the globe. We’re fat. We like our guns too much. We’re loud. We wear too much red, white, or blue. We ignorantly fail to pronounce the first A in America. Whatever the generalization, our international image isn’t the greatest.
Now, I’m going to take it as a given that we want the world to like us. And if I were in charge of this large and prosperous (subject to debate) nation, I would want people to like my nation. They would be more likely to agree with us, trade with us, etc. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. So I’m going to pretend to be president.
My goal is to increase the status of the people of my nation, and in this global economy, the way to do that is to make friends (Wharton Networking 101). Not just allies, friends. As in: we would do a handshake/bro-hug combo when we passed on Locust.
Suddenly, a humanitarian crisis strikes: the chemical weapons attack in Syria. We can step in, play the hero, blow up the bad guys, save the day. Perfect.
But that’s not what happens. We send in drones, they miss their targets, and footage of an accidental American missile strike on a Syrian neighborhood goes viral. Or the Russians send in planes and shoot our drones down. No Americans dead, but things are getting awkward, and maybe we face a standoff . If we act alone or if we get it wrong, we gain nothing and risk losing much.
Even if our hearts are in the right place, we look like conniving meddlers in the affairs of a civil war. Where will our friends be then? Looking away and shaking their heads, resigned at how we did it again, and now everyone really hates us.
But, in the opinion of the author: Assad should stand trial for war crimes.