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Lyle
12-10-2009, 08:03 PM
Yay or nay?

Wonderment
12-10-2009, 08:14 PM
Nay. A teaching moment gone awry and the wrong message to our children.

I have heard way too many Obama speeches by now, so I'm a bit jaded, but this one struck me as especially pernicious:

American military triumphalism at its worst, all the wrong lessons embedded for future generations, a self-serving revisionist history reminiscent of the Soviets, a veiled warning to the world to expect more and more of the same old interventions ("I... reserve the right to act unilaterally..."); a specious self-appraisal in the "mistakes were made" form; and a shameful co-opting of King and Gandhi.

Wonderment
12-10-2009, 08:20 PM
I forgot hypocrisy. Geneva Conventions, multilateralism, blah, blah, blah. But the Obama administration is opposed to the Land Mine Treaty.

As fellow Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams puts it:


Obama's position on land mines calls into question his expressed views on multilateralism, respect for international humanitarian law and disarmament. How can he, with total credibility, lead the world to nuclear disarmament when his own country won't give up even land mines?

claymisher
12-10-2009, 08:29 PM
Nay. A teaching moment gone awry and the wrong message to our children.

I have heard way too many Obama speeches by now, so I'm a bit jaded, but this one struck me as especially pernicious:

American military triumphalism at its worst, all the wrong lessons embedded for future generations, a self-serving revisionist history reminiscent of the Soviets, a veiled warning to the world to expect more and more of the same old interventions ("I... reserve the right to act unilaterally..."); a specious self-appraisal in the "mistakes were made" form; and a shameful co-opting of King and Gandhi.

Did you read the whole thing?

Wonderment
12-10-2009, 08:36 PM
Did you read the whole thing?

Every word.

TwinSwords
12-10-2009, 08:45 PM
Every word.

Would you still rather have him be the president than Sarah Palin?

claymisher
12-10-2009, 08:52 PM
Every word.

I thought he was making a lot of sense. I'd say it's his best speech ever.

Try looking at Obama (and his Nobel speech) not as deviating from the pure pacifist position but as pushing America (and all of its warmongers) closer towards it.

Whatfur
12-10-2009, 09:26 PM
Yay...only because it was better than expected. Could have used some specificity...but that would have been asking too much. At least was not a stop on the great "Apology Tour". However, I am sure he will better than make up for that in Copenhagen.

I heard he stood up the King later and told a couple of Ole and Lena jokes.

Lyle
12-10-2009, 10:44 PM
I liked it. It was a speech I'd give.

Lyle
12-10-2009, 10:58 PM
I think he's rounding in to form as a President. He has had time to realize the seriousness of the job and what he has to do to lead the nation. I think only the economy can sink his re-election now. He's got the far Left strapped down to a chair, with a sock in their mouth... and I'll think he'll do the business overseas. The Right can't call him out on foreign policy any more, he gets it.

TwinSwords
12-10-2009, 11:09 PM
I thought he was making a lot of sense. I'd say it's his best speech ever.

Try looking at Obama (and his Nobel speech) not as deviating from the pure pacifist position but as pushing America (and all of its warmongers) closer towards it.

Yes.

I haven't heard the whole thing yet, but listened to extensive coverage of it tonight on MSNBC (in the background while otherwise occupied), and I got the same impression (that it was a great speech, for reasons Wonderment should appreciate). While I'm sure I agree with Wonderment's moral judgements 95% of the time, I think his political judgements need work.

The fact of the matter is that everything Wonderment cares about (and that I care about) is most threatened by a Republican return to power. I appreciate Wonderment's intent in exerting pressure on the Democrats from the left; I, too, am dismayed by their Republican Lite routine. But I'm concerned it will only serve to facilitate the rise of the teabagging fascists. I hate the feeling that I'm enabling Republican Lite by holding my tongue, but I would hate it even more if Sarah Palin was our president, which she is on track to be in 2013.

This question is actually related to why Obama deserved the Nobel Peace Prize in the first place: Just winning the presidency was a monumental humanitarian achievement. If Obama just sits on his hands for four years and does nothing, he'd still deserve the Peace Prize simply by virtue of the fact that his election prevented four more years of Republican foreign policy and all its attendent suffering. Sometimes men are deemed heroic not for their affirmative accomplishments (what Wonderment demands), but for what they prevent others from doing. By being in the White House instead of Republicans, Obama has prevented massive human suffering. Wonderment should give him some credit for that.

Every time Wonderment takes a shot at Obama, he should think twice first about what a Sarah Palin presidency is going to mean for the planet. Hint: Lots of death, lots of torture, lots of pain, and lots of suffering.

Wonderment
12-11-2009, 02:32 AM
I liked it. It was a speech I'd give.

I know, Lyle.

Wonderment
12-11-2009, 02:52 AM
Try looking at Obama (and his Nobel speech) not as deviating from the pure pacifist position but as pushing America (and all of its warmongers) closer towards it.

I tried :) Didn't work for me.

The speech certainly was popular with the usual right wing suspects like Sarah Palin, however.

I agree with Twin that the Peace Prize was deserved. Here are the reasons: 1) first black head of state of a Western nation; 2) early opposition to the Iraq holocaust; 3) favors abolition of nukes; 4) opposes torture (a no-brainer) and announces the closing of Gitmo.

But the speech was an apology for American exceptionalism and perpetual war.

I am glad he made the speech though; his ideology is much clearer to me now.

Whatfur
12-11-2009, 10:01 AM
Here are the reasons: 1) first black head of state of a Western nation; 2) early opposition to the Iraq holocaust; 3) favors abolition of nukes; 4) opposes torture (a no-brainer) and announces the closing of Gitmo.


1. then the prize should go to the Amercan voters
2. then the prize could have gone to a few million others
3. ditto 2
4. ditto2, and since when are prizes given for announcements,

or

1. and that is reflective on a peace prize how
2. Bush was against the Iraq holocaust too and sent in troops to stop it
3. so does everyone, some are smart enough to recognize current necessity
4. Cheney is against torture also which is why we used water-boarding instead.

I could go on but...

Great he won it ...now he can work to deserve it. To say he already has is weak beyond comprehension and tarnishes all past and future recipients with the knowledge that it has become a political tool and not a recognition of deeds.

claymisher
12-11-2009, 11:33 AM
But the speech was an apology for American exceptionalism and perpetual war.



Apology for American exceptionalism, yeah, hard to argue with that. Perpetual war, not at all! The whole point of the speech was how to move from the status quo to the abolition of war, how it won't happen overnight ("based not on a sudden revolution in human nature"), but it can be attained through practical steps, and what some of those steps are.

popcorn_karate
12-11-2009, 01:25 PM
Apology for American exceptionalism, yeah, hard to argue with that. Perpetual war, not at all! The whole point of the speech was how to move from the status quo to the abolition of war, how it won't happen overnight ("based not on a sudden revolution in human nature"), but it can be attained through practical steps, and what some of those steps are.

it also sounded like a bit of a challenge - you don't like our hegemony? do some FUCKING peace keeping, europe!

i hope they step up to the challenge. I don't think its good for them or us to be their outsourced military.

Francoamerican
12-11-2009, 01:32 PM
it also sounded like a bit of a challenge - you don't like our hegemony? do some FUCKING peace keeping, europe!

i hope they step up to the challenge. I don't think its good for them or us to be their outsourced military.

I have seen little evidence of US peacekeeping for some time--- since the invasion of Iraq in fact. Do some FUCKING peace keeping yourself.

PreppyMcPrepperson
12-11-2009, 01:39 PM
I hated it. For a number of reasons:

1. I read it before I watched it. And when I read it, I had the distinct feeling that it was a speech Bush could have given. I think Wonderment is right about that--the "you must have some wars in order to have peace" argument is a neocon argument. If as some people on this board maintain, the prize was given to him for his new-ness as a kind of president, this speech seems to belie that new-ness.

2. I don't think he should have won the prize at all. I have a very narrow reading of how the Nobel has historically been awarded, until very recently --I articulated this in a thread on this part of the forum when he first won the prize. [Note: I oppose most of the Committee's decisions in recent years--Obama is not the first honoree to raise my eyebrows.] Any speech he gave that tried to link his policies to the Nobel goals was going to bother me.

3. It smacked of Barackian exceptionalism. Whenever he is speaking on an international platform, he goes into this "L'Etat, c'est moi" mode that was precisely what the McCain campaign tried to nail him as in summer 2008. It failed because the ads were crappy and the McCain campaign in general was such a mess, but the Barack-the-teen-idol meme was still pretty close to the mark.

If the prize, as I understand it, has historically been given for acts of peacemaking rather than to peaceful individuals, this speech seemed tonally out of sync. On the other hand, since the Obama prize seems to have broken that tradition by recognizing him for being himself, this speech just reminded me that that's what the prize was given for, and how much I hate that that's what the prize was given for this time.

AemJeff
12-11-2009, 01:49 PM
... I think Wonderment is right about that--the "you must have some wars in order to have peace" argument is a neocon argument. ...

What about WWII? I think it can easily be argued that Obama's assertion is perfectly consistent with historical observation. I mean if you define "peace" simply as the absence of war - without reference to the sorts of violence and transgressions against human dignity exemplified by the Nazi regime (and the Taliban - though I'm certainly not arguing we're in imminent danger of a global Caliphate, at th moment) - then you have a good technical argument, I guess; but not one that most people would sign onto, I think.

popcorn_karate
12-11-2009, 01:52 PM
I have seen little evidence of US peacekeeping for some time--- since the invasion of Iraq in fact.

ok - so thats 7 of the last 60+ years. In any case i presented that sloppily, I thought there was an implicit challenge to europe to step-up and stop relying on the US military - see the balkans in the '90s for an example.

do you disagree with the idea that EU countries would have higher defense spending in the absence of the U.S. military?

Do some FUCKING peace keeping yourself.

thats the point. i don't want to pay for the u.s. military to do it. and I do understand that you, personally, would be happy to forego those services too.

look
12-11-2009, 01:56 PM
What about WWII? I think it can easily be argued that Obama's assertion is perfectly consistent with historical observation. I mean if you define "peace" simply as the absence of war - without reference to the sorts of violence and transgressions against human dignity exemplified by the Nazi regime (and the Taliban - though I'm certainly not arguing we're in imminent danger of a global Caliphate, at th moment) - then you have a good technical argument, I guess; but not one that most people would sign onto, I think.We're all neocons now.

popcorn_karate
12-11-2009, 02:03 PM
We're all neocons now.

no. Wonder just doesn't have a good grasp on the wide array of differences that distinguish the lump of people that constitute the class he identifies as "not pacifists".

i'm sure you know better, though.

AemJeff
12-11-2009, 02:04 PM
We're all neocons now.

That's sort of my point. I think applying that label to what Obama said pushes the limits of what the words mean past the breaking point. Wonderment has a point of view, and I understand his wish to frame it in the most extreme way he can. But, from the standpoint of people without his unyielding commitment to pacifism, I don't think that's a fair characterization.

claymisher
12-11-2009, 02:23 PM
I hated it. For a number of reasons:

1. I read it before I watched it. And when I read it, I had the distinct feeling that it was a speech Bush could have given.

Do you really think that or is this just the way you signal your disapproval? Because the Bush I remember didn't have the same views on outreach, sanctions, and multilateralism.

Francoamerican
12-11-2009, 02:32 PM
ok - so thats 7 of the last 60+ years. In any case i presented that sloppily, I thought there was an implicit challenge to europe to step-up and stop relying on the US military - see the balkans in the '90s for an example.

do you disagree with the idea that EU countries would have higher defense spending in the absence of the U.S. military?.

Not all European countries are remiss in defense spending. The UK and France spend about as much as they can afford. If they thought, like so many Americans, that they were threatened by the entire planet, they might want to increase military spending, but Europeans simply don't perceive the world in the same way. And then there is the problem of NATO. The EU will never become an independent military force---something France has long desired---as long as NATO exists.

thats the point. i don't want to pay for the u.s. military to do it. and I do understand that you, personally, would be happy to forego those services too.

The US economy has become dependent on "defense" and military spending. Will it ever be able to extricate itself from the military-industrial complex?

Wonderment
12-11-2009, 03:05 PM
Wonder just doesn't have a good grasp on the wide array of differences that distinguish the lump of people that constitute the class he identifies as "not pacifists".

Not as wide as you think/claim.

It's true that almost everyone (including me) buys into a good self-defense argument; that's why it is used by warists in virtually EVERY war.

If the self-defense claim is not explicit, it's implied in broad terms like "national security" or as Obama crudely put it yesterday "enlightened self-interest."

You basically can't lose in selling a war once you scare the bejesus out of the people and convince them killing is not only the right thing to do but the ONLY (sane, safe, moral) thing to do.

If you deconstruct the wars that Obama is apparently so proud of, however (Vietnam? Panama? Santo Domingo? Mexico? Cambodia? Laos?) and all the violent coups and fascist crackdowns we sponsored in places like Indonesia and Chile ("mistakes were made?"), the US is left with one dubiously justified war -- WWII (see "The Human Smoke" for an excellent critique of why I dispute the facts of that one.)

So the "wide array" is just between people who disagree on the self-defense justifications. I admit I'm out of the mainstream on the Civil War and WWII (both of which I view as unnecessary), but internationally (more objectively) the consensus is pretty strong that the US is a warmongering nation -- a far, far, far cry from the heroic preserver of peace that Obama posits in his jingoistic Nobel speech and his cynical use of MLK and Gandhi as props.

Wonderment
12-11-2009, 03:18 PM
And when I read it, I had the distinct feeling that it was a speech Bush could have given. I think Wonderment is right about that--the "you must have some wars in order to have peace" argument is a neocon argument.

Thank you for the reality check. I thought I had wandered into a alternate universe where Obama had given a "We are the Change we've been waiting for" speech.

The speech was also notable for its silences. Palestinians and Israelis got one line in which they were referenced as "Arabs and Jews." Gays got nothing, which is what they've got in the US army since the Commander in Chief took over too. And I think there was one reference to a specific human rights case. (I could make this list a lot longer, but I'll spare you.)

PreppyMcPrepperson
12-11-2009, 03:26 PM
Do you really think that or is this just the way you signal your disapproval? Because the Bush I remember didn't have the same views on outreach, sanctions, and multilateralism.

True. But the tone I got from the Obama speech was that those were just veneer; the core of what he was saying was these two passages:

"We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified."

"But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason."

Go back and read early Bush. When he's making the case for war. Not when he's apologizing for wars gone wrong. This is 2001-2002 GWB, more refined in style, vocabulary and knowledge of history, but not fundamentally different in his belief in the use of force to spread political freedom.

Baltimoron
12-11-2009, 08:33 PM
I hated it. For a number of reasons:

1. I read it before I watched it. And when I read it, I had the distinct feeling that it was a speech Bush could have given. I think Wonderment is right about that--the "you must have some wars in order to have peace" argument is a neocon argument. If as some people on this board maintain, the prize was given to him for his new-ness as a kind of president, this speech seems to belie that new-ness.

2. I don't think he should have won the prize at all. I have a very narrow reading of how the Nobel has historically been awarded, until very recently --I articulated this in a thread on this part of the forum when he first won the prize. [Note: I oppose most of the Committee's decisions in recent years--Obama is not the first honoree to raise my eyebrows.] Any speech he gave that tried to link his policies to the Nobel goals was going to bother me.

I agree with your overall revulsion. Jon Meacham argued on The Charlie Rose Show (sorry, after that site's new look revision, I cannot figure out how to link to episodes until they go to archives), that the speech works as a successive chapter to the West Point speech, and that both speeches share common terms. I would add, that both are "buffet" speeches.

Wonderment makes a good observation about the arguments' overall neoconservative content. As a student of political realism, I would remind commenters, though, how much of a hodge podge of academic theories neoconservatism is. But, President Obama in both speeches takes that scattershot approach to new depths. As I listened to the speech, sorting sentences into categories, I began to wonder if there's a higher strategy: the arrangement of elements into a rhetorical performance. But, intellectually, it's very nearly only a smorgasbord. I'm not sure I want to commit myself to mapping the speech, because I'm afraid the strategy has nothing to do with an intellectual goal, but merely with a political goal or even mere obfuscation. I'm also not certain if it's not incoherent.

And, if just combining realism and liberalism, with just war theory, were not enough, Obama still managed to throw in some absolutism and religion. That part was clearly the political sop. "Hope" is a word I hope I never have to hear again.

If for three years I have to listen to such politically crafted montages, I think my ears will bleed. "Listen! Three references to my side!" "I got four!". It's like it's a drinking game. Or, ""I heard echoes of Sorensen!" "No, that was Truman-esque!" It's a trivia game.

My ears are starting to bleed...

Wonderment
12-11-2009, 09:04 PM
If for three years I have to listen to such politically crafted montages, I think my ears will bleed. "Listen! Three references to my side!" "I got four!". It's like it's a drinking game. Or, ""I heard echoes of Sorensen!" "No, that was Truman-esque!" It's a trivia game.

This was a particularly big speech, which makes it doubly infuriating.

Obama's Nobel acceptance speech is likely to be quoted for generations to come, while the Afghanistan War speech and most of his others will be soon forgotten (and appear more cliched as time passes, we sober up, and the "hope" sheen and anti-Bush glow fade).

The unintended consequence for the liberal Obama internationalists who awarded him the Nobel may be that they actually learn how Obama thinks, why the Pentagon and defense lobbies love him, and how he epitomizes neo-con triumphalism, self-righteousness and exceptionalism.

This is the Project for a New American Century (http://www.newamericancentury.org/) of intervention and military hegemony that Cheney and Bush dreamed of but were too dumb and hysterical to articulate and market properly.

Baltimoron
12-11-2009, 09:12 PM
This was a particularly big speech, which makes it doubly infuriating.

The unintended consequence for the liberal Obama internationalists who awarded him the Nobel may be that they actually learn how Obama thinks, why the Pentagon and defense lobbies love him, and how he epitomizes neo-con triumphalism, self-righteousness and exceptionalism.

This is the Project for a New American Century (http://www.newamericancentury.org/) of intervention and military hegemony that Cheney and Bush dreamed of but were too dumb and hysterical to articulate and market properly.

I agree. I actually think, that if President Obama laid out in a speech how many jobs the Afghan "surge" will save or even create and enumerate the goals the Defense Department hopes to achieve, more Americans would support him. These ungainly lectures built on platitude and demographics must appeal, as Preppy says, to some image Obama has of his office.

claymisher
12-11-2009, 09:29 PM
OK then, what should Obama have said (slash-intend-to-do) instead? Give me the bullet points.

Wonderment
12-11-2009, 09:48 PM
Ladies and gentlemen*:

President Mikhail Gorbachev received your recognition for his preeminent role in ending the Cold War that had lasted fifty years.

But instead of entering a millennium of peace, the world is now, in many ways, a more dangerous place. The greater ease of travel and communication has not been matched by equal understanding and mutual respect. There is a plethora of civil wars, unrestrained by rules of the Geneva Convention, within which an overwhelming portion of the casualties are unarmed civilians who have no ability to defend themselves. And recent appalling acts of terrorism have reminded us that no nations, even superpowers, are invulnerable.

It is clear that global challenges must be met with an emphasis on peace, in harmony with others, with strong alliances and international consensus. Imperfect as it may be, there is no doubt that this can best be done through the United Nations, which Ralph Bunche described here in this same forum as exhibiting a "fortunate flexibility" - not merely to preserve peace but also to make change, even radical change, without violence.

He went on to say: "To suggest that war can prevent war is a base play on words and a despicable form of warmongering. The objective of any who sincerely believe in peace clearly must be to exhaust every honorable recourse in the effort to save the peace. The world has had ample evidence that war begets only conditions that beget further war."

...

.....During the past decades, the international community, usually under the auspices of the United Nations, has struggled to negotiate global standards that can help us achieve essential goals. They include: the abolition of land mines and chemical weapons; an end to the testing, proliferation, and further deployment of nuclear warheads; constraints on global warming; prohibition of the death penalty, at least for children; and an international criminal court to deter and to punish war crimes and genocide. Those agreements already adopted must be fully implemented, and others should be pursued aggressively.

We must also strive to correct the injustice of economic sanctions that seek to penalize abusive leaders but all too often inflict punishment on those who are already suffering from the abuse.
...
In order for us human beings to commit ourselves personally to the inhumanity of war, we find it necessary first to dehumanize our opponents, which is in itself a violation of the beliefs of all religions. Once we characterize our adversaries as beyond the scope of God's mercy and grace, their lives lose all value. We deny personal responsibility when we plant landmines and, days or years later, a stranger to us - often a child – is crippled or killed. From a great distance, we launch bombs or missiles with almost total impunity, and never want to know the number or identity of the victims.

At the beginning of this new millennium I was asked to discuss, here in Oslo, the greatest challenge that the world faces. Among all the possible choices, I decided that the most serious and universal problem is the growing chasm between the richest and poorest people on earth. Citizens of the ten wealthiest countries are now seventy-five times richer than those who live in the ten poorest ones, and the separation is increasing every year, not only between nations but also within them. The results of this disparity are root causes of most of the world's unresolved problems, including starvation, illiteracy, environmental degradation, violent conflict, and unnecessary illnesses that range from Guinea worm to HIV/AIDS....

But tragically, in the industrialized world there is a terrible absence of understanding or concern about those who are enduring lives of despair and hopelessness. We have not yet made the commitment to share with others an appreciable part of our excessive wealth. This is a potentially rewarding burden that we should all be willing to assume.

Ladies and gentlemen:

War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other's children.

The bond of our common humanity is stronger than the divisiveness of our fears and prejudices. God gives us the capacity for choice. We can choose to alleviate suffering. We can choose to work together for peace. We can make these changes - and we must.

Jimmy Carter, Oslo 2002, on acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize. Full text here. (http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2002/carter-lecture.html)

Baltimoron
12-11-2009, 09:59 PM
No serving executive can make that speech.

Wonderment
12-11-2009, 10:17 PM
No serving executive can make that speech.

Yes, we can! (http://adrianpatino.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/obama.png)

Whatfur
12-11-2009, 10:19 PM
Yes, we can! (http://adrianpatino.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/obama.png)

:)

Ocean
12-11-2009, 10:22 PM
No serving executive can make that speech.

That makes sense. I guess the Norwegians didn't do Obama such a great favor by giving him the prize after all. He is forced to play multiple roles and negotiate very tricky boundaries. As a president he can lead, but he can't be so far ahead of the rest of the country that people lose sight of him and turn in another direction. It's all about finding that elusive balance and the right distance.

Ocean
12-11-2009, 10:23 PM
Yes, we can! (http://adrianpatino.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/obama.png)

Oh...snap!

Baltimoron
12-11-2009, 10:27 PM
Oh, yeah (http://qualteam.tripod.com/qualteam/yes_we_can_3.png)?

PreppyMcPrepperson
12-12-2009, 01:27 AM
OK then, what should Obama have said (slash-intend-to-do) instead? Give me the bullet points.

I'm in the camp that says he should have turned the prize down in the first place and then enumerated (in his turning-down speech) what policy steps he intended to take to make himself more worthy. For example, his non-prolif. agenda re: Iran, or his plans to get out of Iraq. At that time, conveniently, he didn't have an Afghan strategy, so he wouldn't have had to talk about it.

rfrobison
12-12-2009, 03:48 AM
Not all European countries are remiss in defense spending. The UK and France spend about as much as they can afford. If they thought, like so many Americans, that they were threatened by the entire planet, they might want to increase military spending, but Europeans simply don't perceive the world in the same way. And then there is the problem of NATO. The EU will never become an independent military force---something France has long desired---as long as NATO exists.



The US economy has become dependent on "defense" and military spending. Will it ever be able to extricate itself from the military-industrial complex?

Hey Franco, Ça fait longtemps...So, I'm curious what you think the purpose of European defense spending is, as opposed to that of the U.S., even for the (only) European countries, i.e., Britain and France, with the ability to project an extremely modest amount of military power beyond their shores.

I'm doing my best to ignore your seemingly insatiable need to ascribe the worst tendencies of human nature and most sinister motives imaginable to the United States and its people, while absolving your fellow Europeans of any responsibility for the world in which we find ourselves today. E.g., Americans "seeing themselves as threatened by the entire planet," etc., etc. As compared to, say, the Swiss, who apparently feel threatened by minarets.

Maybe if your forefathers had had the good sense not to back the American colonists in their rebellion against Britain, we'd still be Europeans and you'd have to find another target for your critique.

As for the European Union's nascent military aspirations, all I can say is if any such a force actually comes into being and is run along the same lines as the selection of the EU president and foreign minister, your hypothetical enemies won't have a whole lot to worry about.

Francoamerican
12-12-2009, 08:48 AM
Hey Franco, Ça fait longtemps...So, I'm curious what you think the purpose of European defense spending is, as opposed to that of the U.S., even for the (only) European countries, i.e., Britain and France, with the ability to project an extremely modest amount of military power beyond their shores.

I'm doing my best to ignore your seemingly insatiable need to ascribe the worst tendencies of human nature and most sinister motives imaginable to the United States and its people, while absolving your fellow Europeans of any responsibility for the world in which we find ourselves today. E.g., Americans "seeing themselves as threatened by the entire planet," etc., etc. As compared to, say, the Swiss, who apparently feel threatened by minarets.

Maybe if your forefathers had had the good sense not to back the American colonists in their rebellion against Britain, we'd still be Europeans and you'd have to find another target for your critique.

As for the European Union's nascent military aspirations, all I can say is if any such a force actually comes into being and is run along the same lines as the selection of the EU president and foreign minister, your hypothetical enemies won't have a whole lot to worry about.

I have no idea what you are talking about when you refer to my insatiable need to ascribe "the worst tendencies of human nature and sinister motives imaginable" to the American people." Perhaps you would like to furnish some proof of that statement? What you really mean is that I am less impressed than you are by the power of the US military to "project" itself beyond its shores.

Do I think that Americans see themselves as threatened by the entire planet? Yes I do, and so no doubt will future historians who attempt to understand some of the more salient features of US foreign policy over the past 60 years. How else do you explain a bloated peacetime military budget that has always far exceeded any threat posed by another power? How else do you explain the hysteria and propaganda of the Cold War which fed the military's insatiable appetite for new and superfluous weapons systems? How else do you explain such grotesque exercises in political ineptitude as the War in Vietnam and the constant meddling in the affairs of other small nations in the name of anti-communism? And finally how else do you explain the hysteria about terrorism since 9/11 and the criminal war against a tinpot dictatorship in violation of all the norms of international law?

There is no precedent in world history for the military power of one nation to exceed by so many orders of magnitude that of all other nations combined. So I simply draw the conclusion that any intelligent observer must draw: the US feels threatened by the rest of the world.

rfrobison
12-12-2009, 09:53 AM
I
There is no precedent in world history for the military power of one nation to exceed by so many orders of magnitude that of all other nations combined. So I simply draw the conclusion that any intelligent observer must draw: the US feels threatened by the rest of the world.

Well, Franco, you're perfectly free to draw whatever conclusions you like about about Americans and their response to a dangerous world. But I see ample proof of anti-American bias, based on your rather, shall we say, selective reading of American history--the "hysterical" response to the Cold War, Vietnam (France did a bit of killing there, too, as I recall), Afghanistan, Iraq and the rest...Not to mention your constant reference to the alleged stupidity, and/or ignorance, and/or philistinism of Americans, and your general contempt for all things Yanqui.

I can recall no instance of your having acknowledged, in any of your prolific posts, ANY positive contributions the United States has made "in the last 60 years" to the betterment of mankind. Thus, only conclusion I can draw, intelligent or not, is that you, like so many well-fed, spoiled Europeans, have trouble accepting the fact that, as Barack Obama so aptly put it in his Nobel Lecture, the United States has underwritten the freedom and prosperity of much of the world in the post World War II era.

If you believe we would all be better off under Chinese, Indian, Russian, or even EU hegemony, I guess we'll find out someday. But you know the old saying:

Be careful what you wish for. You may get it.

And you never answered my question about what motivates European defense spending. Which enemies are you preparing to go to war with? Is it us war-mongering Americans you fear, or someone else?

Taken as a whole, the EU spends roughly the same amount on its militaries as the U.S. does. The fact that you get "less bang for the buck" is not really our problem, is it? Except, that is, when our so-called allies are asked to fight in places like Afghanistan, as they are obligated to do when NATO invoked Article 5, but find, after a few years, that we are not "all Americans now" after all, and that the U.S. really deserves whatever it gets, whether at the hands of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or anyone else.

It is irksome, but what else can we expect? One wonders if the "intelligentsia" in Western Europe might not have benefited from a few years under Soviet tutelage, just to see what they missed out on.

But no, I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

By the way, I still consider you one of the more interesting commenters here and hope you will continue to consider me worth talking with.

Francoamerican
12-12-2009, 10:44 AM
Well, Franco, you're perfectly free to draw whatever conclusions you like about about Americans and their response to a dangerous world. But I see no reason why, based on your rather, shall we say, selective reading of American history--a the "hysterical" response to the Cold War, Vietnam (France did a bit of killing there, too, as I recall), Afghanistan, Iraq and the rest...

No mention of ANY positive contributions the United States has made "in the last 60 years" to the betterment of mankind--and the only conclusion I can draw is that you have trouble accepting the fact that, as Barack Obama so aptly put it in his Nobel Lecture, the United States has underwritten the freedom and prosperity of much of the world in the post World War II era.

If you believe you'd do better under Chinese, Indian, Russian, or even EU hegemony, I guess we'll find out someday. But you know the old saying:

Be careful what you wish for. You may get it.

By the way, I still consider you one of the more interesting commenters here and hope you will continue to consider me worth talking with.

Obama was simply repeating standard presidential boilerplate. I would really like to hear someone explain concretely for once the meaning of such phrases as "the US has underwritten freedom and prosperity in the post WW II era." I would certainly never dispute that Americans, individually and collectively, have contributed in many ways, as you put it, to the "betterment of mankind." I would dispute, however, that US foreign policy has always done so, or even that it has been in the best interests of the American people. That is partly in the nature of things--no government acting in its national interest is necessarily intelligent let alone benevolent--and partly in the nature of American exceptionalism, which is intrinsically hubristic because it too readily assumes that what is good for America is good for the rest of the world.

My respects too rfrobson.

Lyle
12-12-2009, 11:24 AM
I'd say Cheney articulated the neo-Bush Obama Doctrine (I jest) quite well. Bush struggled with it though. Tony Blair was the best though. :)

Lyle
12-12-2009, 11:28 AM
That wouldn't have been a good to thing to do. He would have just set himself up for more criticism through failure by laying out plans he wouldn't ever accomplish. Lies would have had to have been uttered as well, like talking about closing down Gitmo and getting out of Iraq.

rfrobison
12-12-2009, 02:00 PM
Obama was simply repeating standard presidential boilerplate. I would really like to hear someone explain concretely for once the meaning of such phrases as "the US has underwritten freedom and prosperity in the post WW II era." I would certainly never dispute that Americans, individually and collectively, have contributed in many ways, as you put it, to the "betterment of mankind." I would dispute, however, that US foreign policy has always done so, or even that it has been in the best interests of the American people. That is partly in the nature of things--no government acting in its national interest is necessarily intelligent let alone benevolent--and partly in the nature of American exceptionalism, which is intrinsically hubristic because it too readily assumes that what is good for America is good for the rest of the world.

My respects too rfrobson.

All very true.

Will try to make the case for an overall, though not certainly not a perfect, American benevolence some other time, perhaps. As for hubris, yes indeed Americans are susceptible, perhaps more than most. If nothing else, the last few years have been a good tonic against that particular failing.

Though perhaps not for long. For another of our national flaws, in my view, is a very, very short collective memory. That isn't always bad, but...

claymisher
12-12-2009, 02:23 PM
Obama was simply repeating standard presidential boilerplate. I would really like to hear someone explain concretely for once the meaning of such phrases as "the US has underwritten freedom and prosperity in the post WW II era." I would certainly never dispute that Americans, individually and collectively, have contributed in many ways, as you put it, to the "betterment of mankind." I would dispute, however, that US foreign policy has always done so, or even that it has been in the best interests of the American people. That is partly in the nature of things--no government acting in its national interest is necessarily intelligent let alone benevolent--and partly in the nature of American exceptionalism, which is intrinsically hubristic because it too readily assumes that what is good for America is good for the rest of the world.

After WW2 American power was the only thing that held back the Soviet Union from advancing on Japan and the rest of Europe. That doesn't excuse all the well-known fiascos of the Cold War (Korea, Vietnam, US involvement in Central America, etc) but it's not like there was no reason for it. The Cold War could have ended in 1960s instead of 1980s if it and hadn't been for blunders like this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1960_U-2_incident). But I can't think of anything the USA could have done in 1945-1960 other than just contain Soviet expansion. (Hmm. Maybe it's time to let that go. That was a long time ago.)

Obama (like anyone with a brain) also disputes "that US foreign policy has always done so." There's a whole a lot of room between "Amerikkka is evil" and "USA, A-OK." Let's ignore the extremes.

Obama's American exceptionalism is about valuing diversity:

I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I'm enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world. If you think about the site of this summit and what it means, I don't think America should be embarrassed to see evidence of the sacrifices of our troops, the enormous amount of resources that were put into Europe postwar, and our leadership in crafting an Alliance that ultimately led to the unification of Europe. We should take great pride in that.

And if you think of our current situation, the United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional.

Now, the fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we've got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we're not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise and that includes us.

And so I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we create partnerships because we can't solve these problems alone.

Wonderment
12-12-2009, 03:51 PM
How else do you explain a bloated peacetime military budget that has always far exceeded any threat posed by another power?

Money.

How else do you explain the hysteria and propaganda of the Cold War which fed the military's insatiable appetite for new and superfluous weapons systems?

Money.

How else do you explain such grotesque exercises in political ineptitude as the War in Vietnam and the constant meddling in the affairs of other small nations in the name of anti-communism?

Money.

And finally how else do you explain the hysteria about terrorism since 9/11 and the criminal war against a tinpot dictatorship in violation of all the norms of international law?

Money.

Wars are marketed. In a modern democracy they cannot happen without the consent of the governed, especially its elites and power brokers. The USA is good at marketing. Call it propaganda, if you like, but "propaganda" evokes images of more vulgar and primitive forms of mind control and manipulation.

Look at any Pepsi, Ford or US Army ad, and you'll see that a pretty sophisticated exercise in brainwashing. Plus, the military gets tons of free advertising (product placement) on television, movies, Internet, at sporting events, at every small town America 4th of July parade, in popular music and so on.

Some wars are easier to market than others, but all wars are hard to market in a sustained fashion. Even the Israelis grew tired of Lebanon. The "War on Terror", however, -- perpetual, ubiquitous, and of whatever intensity people will bear -- is perfectly sustainability.

The genius of the Dem Hawks is that they no longer even have to say "War on Terror" as Bush did or repeat "9/11" twelve million times like Guliani did; the marketing concept is now embedded in our psyches and can be evoked by almost any indirect reference.

The Afghanistan war was relatively easy to market ("The attacked us on American soil!), but the Iraq War was much harder. It got a trial run, destroyed a few hundred lives, and then was recalled and tweaked ("surge"). Now it's apparently morphing into a low-intensity permanent occupation.

War threats and "defense" are easier to market than hot wars. That is why the USA can have military bases in a hundred or so countries. Tons of defense money flowing in, and most American don't know these places even exist. You can explain this in terms of US paranoia about being attacked by Greenland, Djibouti or Okinawa; or you can simply note that the bases represent lots of goods and services to sell. Money.

Wonderment
12-12-2009, 06:16 PM
There's no reason to apologize for supporting U.S. war efforts, American country singer Toby Keith said Friday, just hours before performing at the annual Nobel Peace Prize concert in Oslo, Norway.

Keith, whose 2002 saber-rattling hit "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" was inspired by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said he stands by President Obama's decision to send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan.

Keith's appearance at the downtown Oslo Spektrum arena had been questioned by Norwegians dismayed that a performer known for a fervent pro-war anthem was playing at a show focused on peace.

The musician dismissed the criticism.

"If President Obama has to send [more] troops into Afghanistan to fight evil, I'll pull for our guys to win, and I won't apologize for it," Keith said. "I'm an American, and I do pull for our team to fight evil."

Lyrics to the Nobel Peace Prize Anthem 2009:

American girls and American guys will always stand up and salute;
Will always recognize
When we see ol' glory flying,
There's a lot of men dead,
So we can sleep in peace at night when we lay down our head.

My daddy served in the army,
Where he lost his right eye.
But he flew a flag out in our yard 'til the day that he died.
He wanted my mother, my brother, my sister and me
To grow up and live happy in the land of the free.

Now this nation that I love has fallen under attack.
A mighty sucker punch came flying in from somewhere in the back.
Soon as we could see clearly through our big black eye,
Man we lit up your world like the Fourth of July.

Hey Uncle Sam put your name at the top of his list,
And the Statue of Liberty started shaking her fist.
And the eagle will fly,
And there's gonna be Hell,
When you hear Mother Freedom start ringing her bell!
It's gonna feel like the whole wide world is raining down on you...
Brought to you courtesy of the Red, White and Blue!

Oh, Justice will be served and the battle will rage.
This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage
You'll be sorry that you messed with the US of A
'Cuz we'll put a boot in your ass
It's the American way.

Hey Uncle Sam put your name at the top of his list,
And the Statue of Liberty started shaking her fist.
And the eagle will fly,
And there's gonna be Hell,
When you hear Mother Freedom start ringing her bell!
And it'll feel like the whole wide world is raining down on you...
Brought to you courtesy of the Red, White and Blue!

Of the Red, White and Blue..
Of my Red, White and Blue...

rfrobison
12-12-2009, 07:38 PM
You're being unfair, Wonderment.

rfrobison
12-12-2009, 09:23 PM
Not as wide as you think/claim.

It's true that almost everyone (including me) buys into a good self-defense argument; that's why it is used by warists in virtually EVERY war.

If the self-defense claim is not explicit, it's implied in broad terms like "national security" or as Obama crudely put it yesterday "enlightened self-interest."

You basically can't lose in selling a war once you scare the bejesus out of the people and convince them killing is not only the right thing to do but the ONLY (sane, safe, moral) thing to do.

If you deconstruct the wars that Obama is apparently so proud of, however (Vietnam? Panama? Santo Domingo? Mexico? Cambodia? Laos?) and all the violent coups and fascist crackdowns we sponsored in places like Indonesia and Chile ("mistakes were made?"), the US is left with one dubiously justified war -- WWII (see "The Human Smoke" for an excellent critique of why I dispute the facts of that one.)

So the "wide array" is just between people who disagree on the self-defense justifications. I admit I'm out of the mainstream on the Civil War and WWII (both of which I view as unnecessary), but internationally (more objectively) the consensus is pretty strong that the US is a warmongering nation -- a far, far, far cry from the heroic preserver of peace that Obama posits in his jingoistic Nobel speech and his cynical use of MLK and Gandhi as props.

Wonderment: I wish to stress again that I respect the ideals of pacifism (though I'm not a pacifist), and you seem as close to those ideals as anyone I "know." But I think you're presenting a pretty one-sided view of the U.S. to advance your argument.

I wonder just what circumstances you think justify the use of force in international affairs, if any, seeing as how you've said you accept the self-defense argument for war.

If the Soviets decide to carve up Poland in a secret deal with Nazi Germany, are the Poles justified in fighting back? And if they lack the means to repel the invaders because their neighbors are stronger, are they justified in seeking help from others, or must they simply accept their fate?

If the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, is the U.S. supposed to simply turn the other cheek? In affairs between individuals that looks principled and brave; in affairs of state it looks craven and cowardly.

If the majority of South Africans are subjugated because of the color of their skin, are they justified in acts of violence against their oppressors?

I grant you that nonviolent resistance is possible in many cases, but there is a price to pay in lives for that as well. The world can limit itself to expressions of dismay at a situation like Rwanda, say, or Saddam's gassing of the Kurds, but how many died because of our refusal to intervene in those cases? How long were the Balkans allowed to bleed because the "international community" was squeamish about using force against the aggressors?

You may believe the U.S. to be an especially (uniquely?) sinful country because of its readiness to resort to force in pursuit of its interests and/or ideals, but the question that always comes up in my mind is: "compared to whom?"

Is China a better global citizen than the U.S. because it directs violence primarily against its own citizens rather than outsiders (excepting, of course, in Korea, Vietnam, India, the Soviet Union, Taiwan)?

India, home of the world's best-known pacifist, has fought countless wars against its neighbors, as well as its own home-grown rebels.

We needn't recount the blood-soaked history of Europe and its empires here.

I think the world benefits from those committed in an even-handed way to pacifism, because someone should always be willing to ask the uncomfortable question: "Is this worth the cost in blood?" whenever people are asked to go to war.

I feel this way despite the fact that pacifism in its most visible guise is often simply a cloak for anti-Americanism. Where are the thousands marching in the streets over Darfur, Congo? In short, until you succeed in convincing all the nations of the world to turn their swords into plowshares, I can't see myself joining you.

As for Obama's speech being "jingoistic," that's just plain silly. He spoke no ill of any other country. You might have been happier with an hours-long mea culpa enumerating in graphic detail America's many failings and concluding by throwing America upon the mercy of the court of world opinion, but that simply isn't a speech a U.S. president can reasonably be expected to give.

Maybe the rule should be: no Nobel Prizes for sitting heads of state, particularly those who haven't done much for world peace besides make fancy speeches.

I take it you don't think Yassir Arafat deserved his prize, either. (At least I hope you don't.)

Wonderment
12-12-2009, 10:00 PM
I wonder just what circumstances you think justify the use of force in international affairs, if any, seeing as how you've said you accept the self-defense argument for war.

I didn't say I accepted it; I said I am tempted to buy into it. Pure self-defense (the kind that comes up in hypothetical discussions revolving around a psychopath holding a knife to a child's throat) reveals some weakness in the pure pacifist ideology. But "pure" conditions almost never unfold in the real world. In real life, I've found, that there are always nonviolent options that are preferable to violence.

If the Soviets decide to carve up Poland in a secret deal with Nazi Germany, are the Poles justified in fighting back? And if they lack the means to repel the invaders because their neighbors are stronger, are they justified in seeking help from others, or must they simply accept their fate?[

If the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, is the U.S. supposed to simply turn the other cheek? In affairs between individuals that looks principled and brave; in affairs of state it looks craven and cowardly.

If the majority of South Africans are subjugated because of the color of their skin, are they justified in acts of violence against their oppressors?

No, no and no. The time for nonviolence is BEFORE such endgame events occur, and we're always in a situation of being BEFORE such events. For example, now we are BEFORE war with Iran happens. Now is the time for creative nonviolence from all the players -- Israelis, Palestinians, Americans, Iranians.

It's just like in real life. If you listen to Jimmy in kindergarten who says to the teacher, "Bobby was holding me down and choking me, so I had to hit him over the head with the shovel to get him off me," you may be tempted to justify Jimmy's actions. But if you really look at the dozens of ways you could have intervened, negotiated, taught and protected BEFORE Bobby put Jimmy in the chokehold, you may revise your "blame and justify" theory.

You may believe the U.S. to be an especially (uniquely?) sinful country because of its readiness to resort to force in pursuit of its interests and/or ideals, but the question that always comes up in my mind is: "compared to whom?"

No, I don't believe that the US is especially sinful.

I think the world benefits from those committed in an even-handed way to pacifism, because someone should always be willing to ask the question: "Is this worth the cost in blood?" whenever people are asked to go to war.

Yes, I agree wholeheartedly.

I feel this way despite the fact that I think that pacifism in practice is simply a cloak for anti-Americanism. Where are the thousands marching in the streets over Darfur, Congo? In short, until you succeed in convincing the nations of the world to turn their swords into plowshares, I can't see myself joining you.

That's ok. Join Darfur and Congo. Just as noble a calling. Since humans are universally violent, you can be a pacifist anywhere and anytime.


Maybe the rule should be: no Nobel Prizes for sitting heads of state, particularly those who haven't done much for world peace besides make fancy speeches.

That's a good idea.


I take it you don't think Yassir Arafat deserved his prize, either. (At least I hope you don't.)

No. Absolutely not.

Wonderment
12-12-2009, 10:59 PM
Full essay here. (http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/12/12-5)

Rather than a speech of vision and hope, it was a speech that sought to justify war and particularly America's wars. The speech was largely an infomercial for war, touting not only its necessity but its virtues, and might well be thought of as the "Nobel War Lecture."

How troubling it is to see this man of hope bogged down by war, not only on the ground but in his mind. ...The president persists despite his recognition that "[i]n today's wars, many more civilians are killed than soldiers; the seeds of future conflicts are sewn, economies are wrecked, civil societies torn asunder, refugees amassed, and children scarred."

Where was the vision that was so hopeful in Barack Obama the campaigner for the presidency? ...

...President Obama barely mentioned nuclear disarmament in his speech. When he did, he reiterated his commitment to upholding the Non-Proliferation Treaty, calling it "a centerpiece" of his foreign policy. He then moved quickly to pointing a finger at Iran and North Korea. ...

The President might have built a strong, positive and hopeful speech on the need to rid the world of nuclear weapons, instruments of omnicide, but he chose instead to offer up a laundry list of reasons for war. When it came to peace, his message, sadly, was No, we can't.

Francoamerican
12-13-2009, 10:09 AM
Wars are marketed. In a modern democracy they cannot happen without the consent of the governed, especially its elites and power brokers. The USA is good at marketing. Call it propaganda, if you like, but "propaganda" evokes images of more vulgar and primitive forms of mind control and manipulation.

Look at any Pepsi, Ford or US Army ad, and you'll see that a pretty sophisticated exercise in brainwashing. Plus, the military gets tons of free advertising (product placement) on television, movies, Internet, at sporting events, at every small town America 4th of July parade, in popular music and so on.

Some wars are easier to market than others, but all wars are hard to market in a sustained fashion. Even the Israelis grew tired of Lebanon. The "War on Terror", however, -- perpetual, ubiquitous, and of whatever intensity people will bear -- is perfectly sustainability.

The genius of the Dem Hawks is that they no longer even have to say "War on Terror" as Bush did or repeat "9/11" twelve million times like Guliani did; the marketing concept is now embedded in our psyches and can be evoked by almost any indirect reference.

The Afghanistan war was relatively easy to market ("The attacked us on American soil!), but the Iraq War was much harder. It got a trial run, destroyed a few hundred lives, and then was recalled and tweaked ("surge"). Now it's apparently morphing into a low-intensity permanent occupation.

War threats and "defense" are easier to market than hot wars. That is why the USA can have military bases in a hundred or so countries. Tons of defense money flowing in, and most American don't know these places even exist. You can explain this in terms of US paranoia about being attacked by Greenland, Djibouti or Okinawa; or you can simply note that the bases represent lots of goods and services to sell. Money.

You are no doubt right about the marketing of wars in the post WW II period. But I wonder if Americans would have gone along so readily with the more fanatical cold warriors and then with the "War on Terror" if it were only a matter of profits. Propaganda or persuasion can only work if they play on strong emotions.

For the first half of its history the US was isolated from world politics and saw itself as the shining city on the hill, God's Elect. Indeed the dominant trend of American populism before WW I was isolationist and xenophobic (foreigner=non-WASP). Mass non-WASP immigration and two world wars changed the composition of the country, but I wonder if deep down many Americans, even those descended from the non-Elect, still harbor the belief that they are God's Elect.

And for the Elect, the rest of the world is damned.

look
12-13-2009, 02:14 PM
You are no doubt right about the marketing of wars in the post WW II period. But I wonder if Americans would have gone along so readily with the more fanatical cold warriors and then with the "War on Terror" if it were only a matter of profits. Propaganda or persuasion can only work if they play on strong emotions.

For the first half of its history the US was isolated from world politics and saw itself as the shining city on the hill, God's Elect. Indeed the dominant trend of American populism before WW I was isolationist and xenophobic (foreigner=non-WASP). Mass non-WASP immigration and two world wars changed the composition of the country, but I wonder if deep down many Americans, even those descended from the non-Elect, still harbor the belief that they are God's Elect.

And for the Elect, the rest of the world is damned.My, that was dramatic.

By the late 1800s America had quite the influx of Catholic Poles, Irish Catholics, Protestant Germans, Catholic Mexicans, "heathen Chinee," etc. It wasn't always pretty, but over all, I think we did a damn good job.

Francoamerican
12-13-2009, 02:35 PM
My, that was dramatic.

By the late 1800s America had quite the influx of Catholic Poles, Irish Catholics, Protestant Germans, Catholic Mexicans, "heathen Chinee," etc. It wasn't always pretty, but over all, I think we did a damn good job.

I am glad to hear your opinion, Look. It is always so interesting and to the point. Did I say something that you are contradicting?

look
12-13-2009, 02:50 PM
I am glad to hear your opinion, Look. It is always so interesting. Did I say something that you are contradicting?Yes, especially the bolded. Let's start with you, Franc. As an American, do you think the rest of the world is damned?

Francoamerican
12-13-2009, 02:58 PM
Yes, especially the bolded. Let's start with you, Franc. As an American, do you think the rest of the world is damned?

I have no idea. I'm not a theologian. But I certainly doubt that Americans are the Elect.

popcorn_karate
12-14-2009, 07:24 PM
By the late 1800s America had quite the influx of Catholic Poles, Irish Catholics, Protestant Germans, Catholic Mexicans, "heathen Chinee," etc. It wasn't always pretty, but over all, I think we did a damn good job.

with the chinese in particular, i have to call bullshit on that being a "damn good job".

look
12-14-2009, 08:24 PM
with the chinese in particular, i have to call bullshit on that being a "damn good job".That's me told. Case closed.

Francoamerican
12-15-2009, 05:34 AM
My, that was dramatic.

By the late 1800s America had quite the influx of Catholic Poles, Irish Catholics, Protestant Germans, Catholic Mexicans, "heathen Chinee," etc. It wasn't always pretty, but over all, I think we did a damn good job.

Revisiting this exchange, I see where it went astray. I was commenting on American foreign policy in response to Wonderment. You seemed to think I was commenting on the assimilation of immigrants.

In fact I would probably agree with you. Immigrants were assimilated, maybe too well. The successful ones at least became super-Americans, super-patriots, and have kept alive the notion of America as the shining city on the hill, God's elect, even when it was fading among New Englanders and East Coast wasps.

American foreign policy since WW II could hardly have succeeded without the fervor of all these recent converts to the American Dream. Just look at the social background of the Neo-cons.

Lyle
12-15-2009, 02:32 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/15/opinion/15brooks.html?_r=1

His speeches at West Point and Oslo this year are pitch-perfect explications of the liberal internationalist approach. Other Democrats talk tough in a secular way, but Obama’s speeches were thoroughly theological. He talked about the “core struggle of human nature” between love and evil.

More than usual, he talked about the high ideals of the human rights activists and America’s history as a vehicle for democracy, prosperity and human rights. He talked about America’s “strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct.” Most of all, he talked about the paradox at the core of cold war liberalism, of the need to balance “two seemingly irreconcilable truths” — that war is both folly and necessary.

He talked about the need to balance the moral obligation to champion freedom while not getting swept up in self-destructive fervor.

Obama has not always gotten this balance right. He misjudged the emotional moment when Iranians were marching in Tehran. But his doctrine is becoming clear. The Oslo speech was the most profound of his presidency, and maybe his life.

I agree. It was probably the best substantive speech he's ever given; certainly the most honest. Probably the one speech I'll always remember.

popcorn_karate
12-15-2009, 07:08 PM
That's me told. Case closed.

is that you recognizing you don't know the pertinent history and asking for information?

check out how the chinese were treated in S.F., by the railroads, during the gold rush etc. Its pretty ugly stuff.

look
12-15-2009, 08:44 PM
Thanks for your further thoughts.

Revisiting this exchange, I see where it went astray. I was commenting on American foreign policy in response to Wonderment. You seemed to think I was commenting on the assimilation of immigrants.

In fact I would probably agree with you. Immigrants were assimilated, maybe too well. The successful ones at least became super-Americans, super-patriots, and have kept alive the notion of America as the shining city on the hill, God's elect, even when it was fading among New Englanders and East Coast wasps. Now, is this argumentum ad redneckium or ad nongracilium?

How could they have been assimilated 'too' well. The charm of America is the extent of assimilation (which does not mean complete homogeneity).

Did you catch this post by Preppy?

A story:

Part I: In 1978, when my Indian dad graduated from a masters prog in Finance at LSE, he took a job as an auditor for a London accounting firm. He was there 4 years during which he was promoted from an auditor to a manager overseeing several accounts. But what he remembers most about that job was the first day: he walked in, and the guy looked at him and at his CV and according to my dad, made a few cracks about his name and why he didn't wear a turban (we're not Sikhs, just Indians...). After that, they kept assigning him to strange joke projects, instead of to the corporate clients he was hired to handle.

For example: "go to a zoo in a village about an hour outside London and audit it. And when you get to 'inventory,' make sure they have all the animals. And make sure you see each animal close-up, not from afar." And so my dad would find himself in a cage staring face-to-face at an alpha male gorilla, and freaking out.

Papa didn't say anything, because you know, he was new, and had a funny name, and needed to keep the job to stay in London. But after about six months passed, he noticed that none of the other recruits were sent to count animals. Moreover, the other young recruits often went out after work; they never asked him, and he was too shy to ask to join. And so on.

No, nobody ever spat on him or said anything overtly prejudiced. But it was clear that even as he slowly slowly got promoted, he could never really be 'one of them.' And that's why, in 1982, he wound up taking a pay cut for a job at Price Waterhouse in New York.

Part II: At the same time, my dad retains a profound attachment to English culture and food. I grew up eating Farmhouse cheddar cheese, shepherd's pie, and Rich Tea biscuits and watching Fawlty Towers and Yes, Minister in our Manhattan apartment. And so naturally, I dreamt of studying in England myself. But my dad always insisted that once I got there, I would find it closed to me.

I studied in England twice, for six months in 2003 and again for a year from 2006-2007. And in the end, I concluded, my father was right. You can, if you work very hard and swallow a whole bunch of snide but subtle social slights, succeed such that your kids too go Eton and Westminster and then Oxford and Cambridge, but you never quite become British. Indeed, neither do your kids. When I was there, with a South Asian name and appearance, but with a blatant American accent, and on leave from a US university, I was--routinely--asked how I felt about X or Y, "as an Indian."

By contrast, no one has ever regarded my parents, who have been in the States 34 and 27 years as anything other than bona fide New Yorkers.

http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showpost.php?p=142862&postcount=62

American foreign policy since WW II could hardly have succeeded without the fervor of all these recent converts to the American Dream. Just look at the social background of the Neo-cons.The Cold War was packaged as better living through scientific progress and defeating communism...who could be against that? I understand about the M-I complex, but we made it to the moon! And what did it say on the plaque? "HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON JULY 1969, A.D. WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND"

look
12-15-2009, 09:11 PM
is that you recognizing you don't know the pertinent history and asking for information?

check out how the chinese were treated in S.F., by the railroads, during the gold rush etc. Its pretty ugly stuff.I said 'it wasn't pretty' in my first post. Considering the Cultural Revolution, the Russian gulags, the Cambodian killing fields, the rape of Nanking, etc., I'd say we're not the worst. Would you concede that?

Francoamerican
12-16-2009, 03:51 AM
Thanks for your further thoughts.

Now, is this argumentum ad redneckium or ad nongracilium? "

Neither. It is simply a statement of historical fact. The only sector of the country that has ever stood out for critical intellect is the North East. The neocons were highly educated, but their minds were (are) those of trueborn, fanatical American exceptionalists.

How could they have been assimilated 'too' well. The charm of America is the extent of assimilation (which does not mean complete homogeneity)."

You may find it charming. De gustibus..... but I agree that immigrants like Preppy may have found the US a more welcoming place than the UK.


http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showpost.php?p=142862&postcount=62

The Cold War was packaged as better living through scientific progress and defeating communism...who could be against that? I understand about the M-I complex, but we made it to the moon! And what did it say on the plaque? "HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON JULY 1969, A.D. WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND"

Packaged is the operative word. The Cold War was one biggest snow jobs inhistory. I see no connection between technological "progress", landing on the moon etc. and the goals pursued by US foreign policy from 1950 to the present. Or rather I should say the connection was part of the snow job: Americans were led to believe that technological progress would eventually solve all mankind's problems, that "the end of history" would result from liberalism and capitalism.

There may be some truth to that. But not in the sense of "end" understood by Francis Fukuyama.

popcorn_karate
12-16-2009, 11:39 AM
i took issue with:
over all, I think we did a damn good job.
when applied to chinese immigrants in particular.

I said 'it wasn't pretty' in my first post. Considering the Cultural Revolution, the Russian gulags, the Cambodian killing fields, the rape of Nanking, etc., I'd say we're not the worst. Would you concede that?

I never tried to imply we were the worst, and would disagree with anyone that said we were. we are in complete agreement about that.

look
12-16-2009, 07:33 PM
Packaged is the operative word. The Cold War was one biggest snow jobs inhistory. I see no connection between technological "progress", landing on the moon etc. and the goals pursued by US foreign policy from 1950 to the present. Or rather I should say the connection was part of the snow job: Americans were led to believe that technological progress would eventually solve all mankind's problems, that "the end of history" would result from liberalism and capitalism.

There may be some truth to that. But not in the sense of "end" understood by Francis Fukuyama.I don't know if we actually disagree about anything, except maybe motivation. Did those in the US government and in positions of influence really fear the spread of Communism, or were they cynically promoting the Cold War in order to make money from arms manufacturing?

Hey, did you ever duck and cover? Once in first grade, the teacher, coincidentally, had been instructing us about it (at the time I was puzzled as to how my arm was going to protect my neck if the building crashed down on me). Later, while we stood in the line with our lunch boxes, the air-raid siren went off. With one great slam, all of our lunch boxes hit the floor at the same time as we assumed the position.

look
12-16-2009, 07:37 PM
i took issue with:

when applied to chinese immigrants in particular.



I never tried to imply we were the worst, and would disagree with anyone that said we were. we are in complete agreement about that.I understood what you were saying the first time. I'd forgotten about the railroad stuff, I need to look that up.

Francoamerican
12-17-2009, 11:34 AM
I don't know if we actually disagree about anything, except maybe motivation. Did those in the US government and in positions of influence really fear the spread of Communism, or were they cynically promoting the Cold War in order to make money from arms manufacturing?

Hey, did you ever duck and cover? Once in first grade, the teacher, coincidentally, had been instructing us about it (at the time I was puzzled as to how my arm was going to protect my neck if the building crashed down on me). Later, while we stood in the line with our lunch boxes, the air-raid siren went off. With one great slam, all of our lunch boxes hit the floor at the same time as we assumed the position.

LOL. My only memory is of a film about how to construct a bomb shelter in your backyard. It looked pretty cool to me at the time.

I have read a few books on the Cold War, and I have still have no idea what it was all about. The motivations of the chief actors were murky. Some of them were clearly self-deluded about the Soviet threat, others were probably cynical and greedy manipulators of opinion. The really unfathomable ones were the technocrats and strategists who contemplated nuclear war with sang froid.

PreppyMcPrepperson
12-17-2009, 03:49 PM
I agree that immigrants like Preppy may have found the US a more welcoming place than the UK.

But, Franco, I'm NOT an immigrant in the States. I was born there. My point is that in Europe, a first-generation natural citizen is still regarded as not quite native. Which I suppose you've just proven.

Francoamerican
12-17-2009, 04:02 PM
But, Franco, I'm NOT an immigrant in the States. I was born there. My point is that in Europe, a first-generation natural citizen is still regarded as not quite native. Which I suppose you've just proven.

Exact, a naturalized citizen isn't regarded as "native" in Europe. But that is true in the US too. Children born of immigrants, however, are regarded as native in France and the UK.

Lyle
12-17-2009, 07:27 PM
De jure yes, de facto less so.

PreppyMcPrepperson
12-18-2009, 03:22 AM
Exact, a naturalized citizen isn't regarded as "native" in Europe. But that is true in the US too. Children born of immigrants, however, are regarded as native in France and the UK.

No no, Franco. I WAS born in the States. Of immigrant parents. Who are now US citizens. That's why I said natural, not naturalized. But despite that, while in Europe and the UK, I am often referred to and addressed as Indian, not American.

Francoamerican
12-18-2009, 04:33 AM
No no, Franco. I WAS born in the States. Of immigrant parents. Who are now US citizens. That's why I said natural, not naturalized. But despite that, while in Europe and the UK, I am often referred to and addressed as Indian, not American.

I understood your point the first time. Your parents were naturalized and you are native. The same distinction exists in Europe. There is no such thing as a "natural" citizen, or in any case there is no such usage in English.

You can repeat yourself as often as you like and toot your American horn, but a child born of naturalized immigrant parents in France is considered a native. One out of four French citizens has a grandparent who was born elsewhere.

Whatfur
12-18-2009, 10:57 AM
Limit one to a customer. (http://uppitywoman08.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/free-nobel-peace-prize-with-an-oil-change/)

popcorn_karate
12-18-2009, 12:20 PM
I understood your point the first time. Your parents were naturalized and you are native. The same distinction exists in Europe. There is no such thing as a "natural" citizen, or in any case there is no such usage in English.

You can repeat yourself as often as you like and toot your American horn, but a child born of naturalized immigrant parents in France is considered a native. One out of four French citizens has a grandparent who was born elsewhere.

i imagine that her own experience of her own life trumps your conjectures about how it is supposed to be.

you are arguing about labels, she is explaining her experience. it doesn't matter if the labels are the same when how people experience the situation is very different.

Francoamerican
12-18-2009, 12:34 PM
i imagine that her own experience of her own life trumps your conjectures about how it is supposed to be.

you are arguing about labels, she is explaining her experience. it doesn't matter if the labels are the same when how people experience the situation is very different.

I made no conjectures about Preppy's life experience. I simply said that she is wrong about Europe. She speaks for herself but she also speaks in clichés. It is simply not true that the children of immigrants are all treated like foreigners in France or the UK.

PreppyMcPrepperson
12-18-2009, 02:18 PM
I made no conjectures about Preppy's life experience. I simply said that she is wrong about Europe. She speaks for herself but she also speaks in clichés. It is simply not true that the children of immigrants are all treated like foreigners in France or the UK.

But Franco, I WAS treated as an Indian, not an American, in the UK. Are you suggesting

A. that I mispercieved my own treatment; or,
B. that I represent an anomalous case

Both are plausible--though my observation of others leads me to maintain my view; I'm just wondering which you are implying.

TwinSwords
12-18-2009, 02:22 PM
But Franco, I WAS treated as an Indian, not an American, in the UK.

I'm curious: How did this treatment manifest itself? You gave a pretty detailed and interesting description of how your dad was treated, but if you described how you were treated I missed it.

Francoamerican
12-18-2009, 03:04 PM
But Franco, I WAS treated as an Indian, not an American, in the UK. Are you suggesting

A. that I mispercieved my own treatment; or,
B. that I represent an anomalous case

Both are plausible--though my observation of others leads me to maintain my view; I'm just wondering which you are implying.

Probably anomalous, given the fact that you grew up in the US. If you had grown up and been educated in the UK, spoke English like a Briton and lived there, I doubt very much if you would have been treated like an Indian---whatever that means. The same goes for France.

Language, more than anything else in my experience, is the true marker of identity in the eyes of most people.

Ocean
12-18-2009, 06:28 PM
Probably anomalous, given the fact that you grew up in the US. If you had grown up and been educated in the UK, spoke English like a Briton and lived there, I doubt very much if you would have been treated like an Indian---whatever that means. The same goes for France.

Language, more than anything else in my experience, is the true marker of identity in the eyes of most people.

I will speculate that there are a number of traits that are markers. Language is one, but race and cultural features (for example the way you dress or behave) are all important. The more features in common with the native population, the easier it is to be accepted.

Francoamerican
12-19-2009, 07:02 AM
I will speculate that there are a number of traits that are markers. Language is one, but race and cultural features (for example the way you dress or behave) are all important. The more features in common with the native population, the easier it is to be accepted.

True. Personally, I am completely insensitive to race, both as a concept and as a marker of indentity. Language encompasses much of what we mean by culture, doesn't it? But I agree with the two following medieval proverbs: L'habit fait le moine (Clothes make the monk, i.e. man) and Manners maketh man.

PreppyMcPrepperson
12-19-2009, 11:52 AM
I'm curious: How did this treatment manifest itself? You gave a pretty detailed and interesting description of how your dad was treated, but if you described how you were treated I missed it.

What I recall is this.

1. Social groups among students tended to break down into the following broad categories: super elite kids from Eton/Westminster, regular old (white) Middle Britain, American expats (of mixed ethnicity), AND a fourth group of expats from Asia lumped together with British kids of Asian descent. In other words, the social hierarchy did not involve those ethnically Asian Britons hanging about with other Britons but with Asians.

2. These ethnically Asian first-gen British citizens were often referred to as British Indians, or British Chinese etc. In the States, we do the opposite (Indian Americans etc). I don't think the word order is insignificant: grammar suggests that the first word is a modifier, so that in England, you're essentially Indian with a British twist, whereas in the States, if you're born in the States, you are essentially American with a twist of foreign ancestry. Obviously, the word order is not meant perjoratively, and I'm not suggesting it is. But it can still carry unintentional and somewhat subliminal valence.

3. Going back to point 1., as an American visiting from a US university, to the extent that I fell into any clique, I fell in with other US expats. But I recall, multiple times, being asked by both white Britons and ethnically Indian Britons why I didn't roll with the ethnic Asian clique instead. Both groups assumed that I would feel a stronger cultural tie to those who shared my ethnicity than those who shared my nationality because, in Britain, that seems to be how the social groupings break down.

While some of those ethnically Indian Brits may be perfectly happy with this set-up, it is less culturally absorptive than the American version and to me, less appealing as a result.

Ocean
12-19-2009, 12:10 PM
For the little I know about European culture, at least until a decade ago or so, what you describe makes sense.

The history of Europe is such that for many centuries they had small (relatively) populations divided in multiple nations, in more or less constant rivalry and war. Europeans had to be able to differentiate from each other by identifying minimal differences between their cultures. Some of the European countries are probably even more sensitive to small differences. I can imagine that Great Britain has been one of those.

American history has been shorter and opposite in its goal to integrate the different groups of immigrants. Of course, there are obvious exceptions and flaws in that intention, but at least in the large metropolitan areas where most immigrants arrive to this country, there is a closer version to the melting pot. The access to power, however, has remained carefully guarded and limited to the selected few.

Francoamerican
12-19-2009, 01:15 PM
2. These ethnically Asian first-gen British citizens were often referred to as British Indians, or British Chinese etc. In the States, we do the opposite (Indian Americans etc). I don't think the word order is insignificant: grammar suggests that the first word is a modifier, so that in England, you're essentially Indian with a British twist, whereas in the States, if you're born in the States, you are essentially American with a twist of foreign ancestry. Obviously, the word order is not meant perjoratively, and I'm not suggesting it is. But it can still carry unintentional and somewhat subliminal valence.


What you say may be true of major cities like NY or Boston, but I don't think it is true of the US as a whole, at least until fairly recently. Most Americans until very recently (something like 75%, if I am not mistaken) were of a very distinct "ethnicity." They were WASPS, i.e. descendants of English and Scottish settlers or descendants of those honorary WASPS (Germans and sundry northern Europeans as well as Italians and Eastern Europeans) who did their best to assimilate to the dominant cultural norms, despite their often different religions.

Multiculturalism, the very idea of ethnicity and hyphenated identities, dates from the 1960s. Europeans have never really adopted it because they expect, as Americans once did, that immigrants will make an effort to assimilate to the dominant cultural norms.

PreppyMcPrepperson
12-19-2009, 01:35 PM
What you say may be true of major cities like NY or Boston, but I don't think it is true of the US as a whole, at least until fairly recently. Most Americans until very recently (something like 75%, if I am not mistaken) were of a very distinct "ethnicity." They were WASPS, i.e. descendants of English and Scottish settlers or descendants of those honorary WASPS (Germans and sundry northern Europeans as well as Italians and Eastern Europeans) who did their best to assimilate to the dominant cultural norms, despite their often different religions.

Multiculturalism, the very idea of ethnicity and hyphenated identities, dates from the 1960s. Europeans have never really adopted it because they expect, as Americans once did, that immigrants will make an effort to assimilate to the dominant cultural norms.

We're not in any disagreement about chronologically here: America has only moved this way in the last generation or so. I see that as a positive shift; you don't. Got it.

But we are in disagreement about one thing--your last sentence suggests that Europeans look on immigrants and their children who don't pick up the language, garb etc as foreign. I would agree that this is the case on the Continent and explains why multiculturalism doesn't work so well there.

But in the UK, it's a bit more perplexing: In my experience, at an elite British university where everyone was middle class or up and spoke very proper London English, there was still social segregation of British citizens along ethnic lines. So even within a group who were speaking the same language and operating in the same social class, there was an ethnic--and purely ethnic--line drawn. I never quite understood why. Any thoughts?

Francoamerican
12-19-2009, 02:07 PM
We're not in any disagreement about chronologically here: America has only moved this way in the last generation or so. I see that as a positive shift; you don't. Got it.?

You jump to conclusions. Positive shift? Negative shift? Who knows?


But we are in disagreement about one thing--your last sentence suggests that Europeans look on immigrants and their children who don't pick up the language, garb etc as foreign. I would agree that this is the case on the Continent and explains why multiculturalism doesn't work so well there.?

Muticulturalism is a meaningless word. The children of immigrants usually do master the language of their adopted country, and, if they are intelligent, they make an effort to assimilate its culture too.

But in the UK, it's a bit more perplexing: In my experience, at an elite British university where everyone was middle class or up and spoke very proper London English, there was still social segregation of British citizens along ethnic lines. So even within a group who were speaking the same language and operating in the same social class, there was an ethnic--and purely ethnic--line drawn. I never quite understood why. Any thoughts?.?

I have no idea. I'm not familiar enough with the fine points of English snobbery, well-known to all continentals. Maybe you have a chip on your shoulder? Maybe you are a snob?

PreppyMcPrepperson
12-19-2009, 02:20 PM
You jump to conclusions. Positive shift? Negative shift? Who knows? ?

Like I said, it is my opinion that this has been a positive change in America. It's just an opinion--I'm not claiming to know anything.

Muticulturalism is a meaningless word. The children of immigrants usually do master the language of their adopted country, and, if they are intelligent, they make an effort to assimilate its culture too.

You brought up the term 'multicultural' above, Franco, not I, and you used in conjunction with the American approach to hyphenated identities.

I have no idea. I'm not familiar enough with the fine points of English snobbery, well-known to all continentals. Maybe you have a chip on your shoulder? Maybe you are a snob?

I'm a snob because I'm curious as to the underlying causes of another country's snobbery? Explain.

Francoamerican
12-19-2009, 02:43 PM
You brought up the term 'multicultural' above, Franco, not I, and you used in conjunction with the American approach to hyphenated identities..

It is pretty obvious from the context what I think of hyphenated identities. But I plead guilty to having brought up the odious subject.

I'm a snob because I'm curious as to the underlying causes of another country's snobbery? Explain.

Well, why else would you care what such people thought of you? After all, you are an American. It clearly bothers you that you were seen as an outsider in their eyes, excluded from the "in" group.

If the social discrimination you mention is a manifestation of snobbery, as I think it is, the underlying cause is obvious. The Brits are past masters in the art of the subtle put-down.

PreppyMcPrepperson
12-19-2009, 02:55 PM
But Franco, I AM an outsider to Britain. I'm not British. That's not the issue. The issue is that they seemed to see me as an outsider TO MY OWN COUNTRY. As in not an American. That just seems weird but I came to understand it as I saw the way they treated their own, British, citizens as outsiders if those citizens were ethnic minorities. That is, as you say, evidence of a kind of snobbery that I dislike.

nikkibong
12-19-2009, 03:10 PM
But Franco, I AM an outsider to Britain. I'm not British. That's not the issue. The issue is that they seemed to see me as an outsider TO MY OWN COUNTRY. As in not an American. That just seems weird but I came to understand it as I saw the way they treated their own, British, citizens as outsiders if those citizens were ethnic minorities. That is, as you say, evidence of a kind of snobbery that I dislike.

Right.

Unfortunately a perspective exists in many places that Americans = caucasian. (I would have thought that Obama's election's would have changed that.)

Especially in non-western countries that I've visited (Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam), I've found a very crude and disheartening conflation of racial identity and national identiy. Of course, the countries I cite do the same thing in their own countries, so it's understandable. (In Korea, Koreans = ethnic Koreans.) FYI, Korean people tend to refer to second or third generation Korean Americans as "han guk saram" - that is, Korean people.

PreppyMcPrepperson
12-19-2009, 03:14 PM
Right.

Unfortunately a perspective exists in many places that Americans = caucasian. (I would have thought that Obama's election's would have changed that.)

Especially in non-western countries that I've visited (Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam), I've found a very crude and disheartening conflation of racial identity and identiy. Of course, the countries I cite do the same thing in their own countries, so it's understandable. (In Korea, Koreans = ethnic Koreans.) FYI, Korean people tend to refer to second or third generation Korean Americans as "han guk saram" - that is, Korean people.

Yeah. Some Pakistanis and Indians do that too. It's as much a form of snobbery in these countries as it is in the UK. It really confuses our extended family here in the Subcontinent that my parents, my sister and I regard ourselves as Americans.

Francoamerican
12-19-2009, 03:26 PM
But Franco, I AM an outsider to Britain. I'm not British. That's not the issue. The issue is that they seemed to see me as an outsider TO MY OWN COUNTRY. As in not an American. That just seems weird but I came to understand it as I saw the way they treated their own, British, citizens as outsiders if those citizens were ethnic minorities. That is, as you say, evidence of a kind of snobbery that I dislike.

Come now, Preppy. Unless the circles you moved in were incredibly ignorant and ill-informed, how could they NOT know that the US is made up of immigrants, some of them quite recent?

And I seriously doubt that the educated Brits you knew had the same attitude towards you as they have towards British Indians, for the reasons I gave above. Snobbery in Britain is a class thing. As I am sure you know, there are prominent Indian academics, professionals and businessmen. There are even MPs of Indian descent. Are they regarded as outsiders? They may not be accepted by aristocratic toffs, but to claim that they are pariahs in British society is something I find difficult to swallow.

But thanks for your comments anyway.

PreppyMcPrepperson
12-19-2009, 03:35 PM
Come now, Preppy. Unless the circles you moved in were incredibly ignorant and ill-informed, how could they NOT know that the US is made up of immigrants, some of them quite recent?

Beats me. But they didn't sometimes, and it confused me.

Snobbery in Britain is a class thing. As I am sure you know, there are prominent Indian academics, professionals and businessmen. There are even MPs of Indian descent. Are they regarded as outsiders? They may not be accepted by aristocratic toffs, but to claim that they are pariahs in British society is something I find difficult to swallow.

Not pariahs, but still regarded by people--and not just toffs--as somehow 'other.' If I were a better writer I could explain it in more detail, but this was my impression.

But thanks for your comments anyway.

You're welcome, and thanks for yours.