Europe and the rest of the world: What would you have us do?

(Sorry if this has been discussed before, I don’t frequent GD)

Obviously, nobody reading this is in a position to answer for the entire planet, but this is something I’m curious about: what would the rest of the world, given the choice, have the US do in terms of foreign policy? Before everyone jumps on the war, I’m asking beyond the war as well. Naturally, different nations have different priorities and you can’t please everyone all the time, but it doesn’t seem like anyone’s particularly thrilled with us right now. It seems to me that unilateralism is probably the biggest complaint, but maybe there’s something I’m missing.

Is there anything the US can realistically do to appease the world without endangering itself in the process, or is it unavoidably lonely at the top? (no arrogance intended; it’s just hard to argue against the US’s current lone superpower status.)

I’m trying pretty hard to develop my “our superiority is the cause of our problems” theory, which started with military tactics but can be expanded to geopolitics. It isn’t so much that people are jealous of our power - though that is part of the problem - but that our own self-image causes us to use this power rather sloppily. For instance, we take one of our beliefs, and are shocked - SHOCKED - when the rest of the world doesn’t immediately agree with it. This even affects our use of language.

For example, recently there was a discussion on another board about some political cartoonist ripping on Tillman. The general theme from the Tillman-defenders was, “why would this artist do something that outrages everyone in the world?” We have this tendancy to assume that WE are the majority of the world, and thus our own opinion matters exponentially more than the pithy minority. This leads us to, in general, act like assholes. Including viewing ourselves as above laws we expect others to follow. An example of THAT is our gosh-golly-skippy-gee willingness to randomly charge across the planet, invade a country, depose its leader, hold them in a military tribunal, and lock them away/execute them while the rest of the world looks on aghast and the International Criminal Court shrivles up and dies - but at the same time, we absolutely RESENT it when anyone else DARES have the audacity to support a foreign leader, initiate a foreign war, or, horror of horrors, attack us.

Generally speaking, we lack a system of global balances. In ANY system, you NEED a set of counterbalances. If one does not exist, one will be created. For instance, when a species overpopulates an area due to some freak success, various factors are “introduced” that reduce the population to below the carrying capacity - mainly, these are held to be famine, disease, and “warfare” or group combat. A political system, while different, follows much the same rules. When one force is dominant, a counterforce will develop to balance it. Right now, we are at a period in history where one of the balancing forces rather suddenly completely disappeared, and the system is completely out of whack while something comes along and balances it again.

This leads to another American policy fallacy. People like the PNAC believe that America as the world’s only superpower is FATE and DESTINY, not a fluke of happenstance. While it may be true that we are entering an age where America is the dominant power, it should not be taken for granted that this means anything special.

America’s best bet is to downplay its status - treat every other country as an equal, not overuse the military option, establish international law, balance the global market, and other selfless goody two-shoes acts.

The more we STRESS that we are the only superpower and act out blindly on that status, the more we alienate the world and speed our eventual demise.

Taking it a different direction than Zagadka:

I think that abolishing the death penalty could go a long way towards repairing Euro-US Relations. The EU as a whole has made abolishing capital punishment worldwide a definite goal, and we (the US) are one big obstacle.

Of course it’s really domestic policy (and a prerogative of the states) - but it directly affects our foreign relations as well.

Just a thought (not exactly what you were looking for I imagine).

  • Peter Wiggen

“With great power comes great responsibility.”
–Peter Parker, a.k.a. the Amazing Spider-Man

It’s rather embarassing when a comic-book character is wiser than the President of the United States.

In what way would it improve relations?


Quite apart from the complicated issues of political substance, a change in attitude and style would go a long way.

Normally in international relations, a bigger/richer/more powerful country will have a greater influence on the outcome of an agreement than a smaller/poorer one. Scrupulous attention is normally paid, however, to not letting the party which gives in lose face, and to the principle that all countries are equal. When statesmen are convinced that theirs is the greatest country on Earth they enjoy that thought, in private.

A case in point: When President Bush addressed the UN General Assembly last year he held his speech, then left. President Chirac also spoke, then took his seat on the assembly floor with his country’s delegation, to listen to the others’ speeches.

Also a factor is that US politicians seem to design any statement on foreign policy wholly according to how the domestic public will receive it. What’s forceful to a US audience is reported worldwide, and understood as gratuitous public insult.

There are certain positions which are strongly held by many ion the US that the rest of the industrialised democratic world saw the folly of decades ago.[ul][li]Taxation is unjust, and must be reduced even if it means that some unlucky souls truly suffer for it.[/li][li]National interest outweighs moral principle: The “common good” should only be sought if it coincides with self-interest. [/li][li]The UN is them, not us. When there is disagreement, it is not because the UN is acting in the common good but because it wishes to our influence reduced.[/li][li]Illegal Israeli settlements and Palestinian refugee camps are morally justified.[/li][li]Capital punishment is how a civilised society deals with criminals.[/ul][/li]
What “the world would have you do” in general is to become a little more moderate and eschew the right-wing flag-waving, bible-thumping, “U-S-A, U-S-A!” chants that pass for diplomacy these days.

In particular a new, public commitment to the UN Charter (which the US practically wrote, let alone signed up to) would be extremely helpful. The UN is its member states. If its most powerful member disregards the UN, then the “ineffectiveness of the UN” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I agree that the language America uses plays a role in creating negative feeling in Europe (and, I’d imagine elsewhere). Basic things like the way American politicians throw the word “freedom” around as if the US had a proprietary claim to it. Bush also has a tendency to make all his speeches about what the US is doing in Iraq sound like Reagan’s “Morning In America” campaign ad (“the hopes and dreams of the Iraqi people blah blah blah”). I’m sure it plays well with Middle America - and yes, I’m aware that that’s who he needs to appeal to - but it just comes across as incredibly obnoxious to everyone else.

I’m not claiming that language moderation alone will make a vast improvement in relations, but it would go some way.

I suggest you seppos go back to your pre-WWII isolationism. Draw back your ham-fisted interference in other countries’ affairs and concentrate on domestic policy and enactment of said policy. Lord knows, there’s enough you can do at home to improve your social welfare system, your medical messes, your slack educational system, your corrupt political systems, your racisms and classisms, your foolish false jingoisms, your flag-waving and your treatment of the marginalised and disaffected.

Stop drawing down a greedy and accumulative storage of the world’s resources. Stop using your ‘power and influence’ to subvert the direction of other countries’ evolution in order to feed your rich but starve your poor. Get a social conscience and a feel for the marginalised, both in your own country and abroad.

Realise that your ‘War on {insert whatever is the current hotword political phrase}’ is a sham and it’s the underlying psychosis in your culture that drives the world to hate you and attack you. Accept that you are terribly deficit in all of your logic, ambitions, political nous, world understandings, greeds, accumulations and profit-motive rather that service-orientation.

You have so much to learn and so little capacity for intellectual and cultural growth.

There is reasoned and calculated opinion extant in the world of subversive body politic that you have ‘done your dash’. You will be a spent force within my lifetime. Within fifty years, ‘America’ (how dare you usurp the name America from, not one but two continents. At least the French are French first and Europeans next. At lease the Japanese are Japanese first and Asians as an afterthought. Friggin’ Seppos are Americans first and stuff the rest of North and South America. Mexicans can’t be ‘Americans’? Does that tell you how ham-fisted and insensitive you Seppos are?) will no longer exist - The US will be white-anted because you are a dispirited peoples who fight your ‘War on Terrorism’ as a body corporate from a distance by sending your youth on the mission of invading other countries for economic (read oil) reasons rather than ideological ones. Sit back and watch your ‘war on terrorism’ on your entertainment centre in your plush leather recliner. Keep your lily-white hands clean, wave your flags and vote for Bush. Fools.

You suck.

What does this have to do with European/American relations? I can’t honestly say I’ve ever cared how Great Britian or France viewed taxation in their country or how they spent their money.

Maybe what good for a chunk of the world isn’t good for the US. We elect our leaders to promote the common good for the United States not for the whole world.

I think countries use the UN as a diplomatic forum to push their own agendas. Europeans do it, the US does it, the USSR did it, and China does it. I’m a fan of some UN programs but I can’t say I have a lot of respect for the general assembly.

It’d help smooth over our relationship if Europeans started condemning terrorist organizations like Hamas instead of just pretending Israel is a big bully.

Not all criminals.

If only we were more like Europeans instead of being so American. Then we’d all get along.


Please, let me know specifically what I can do, personally, to improve the social welfare system and combat the corruption in politics, etc., because Jeebus knows that plenty of My Fellow Americans have been trying very hard to do those very things for decades now with little discernable progress.

Over half of the country didn’t vote for Bush last time, genius. Nothing builds up your credibility quite like buying into stereotypes and building straw men.

There is nothing we can, or should, do to appease the world. Look at some of the responses in this thread, and you will see what sort of ill-reasoned and plainly stupid sentiments that America is up against.

There isn’t much we Americans can do about other peoples geopolitical penis-envy, and those that suffer from it are not worth the effort.

Don’t ask the question, and don’t view the answers, if you are going to get all defensive and patronising.

Who’s the first Seppo to trot out the “If we didn’t interfere in WWII, you would all be dead meat” house-of-cards with a straw-man firmly perched on top comment?

It would probablly please many people, but I strongly doubt that the existence of capital punishment in the US is very high in the european governments’ agendas…

Defensive? Patronising? Straw-man? Are you talking about yourself here, or have you yet to see the plank in your own eye, ye hypocrite…?

Honestly, I think that in most countries who have any shred of influence, national interest does outweight moral principles, generally speaking, public statements to the contrary nonwithstanding.

Marc and Brutus: Well, I didn’t specifically intend to defend those items in my list, although I’m prepared to: The OP asked for differences between the US and the rest of the industrialised democratic world (except Israel, granted) which ran deeper than just the single issue of Iraq and I tried to summarise a few general propositions which seem only to have much support in the US, and have not really even been debated elsewhere for many decades.

I think it fair to say that the US is seen as being a little backward in some respects, socially and politically, and that progress could be made with a more moderate approach.

Specifically regarding the UN, I find it worrying that even Soviet diplomacy in this respect is seen by some as “fair game”.

What in the fuck is a Seppo?


I must have missed that part of the OP. I thought the OP wanted to know what the US could change about foreign policy to appease Europeans. Our tax system and the death penalty have little to do with our foreign policy.

I didn’t say I liked it I just said that’s how it is. I have little respect for the UN as an organization but I do respect many of the member states.


Agreed, yes, maybe my interpretation was overly broad. (However, there is still an example being set to foreign countries which perhaps hinders “development” in a social and political sense.)

I believe it needn’t be “how it is”, if only the industrialised democratic world could present a more united approach entailing less Soviet-style diplomacy.