Back in the glory days of the British Empire, the mother country was frequently accused of playing fast and loose with troops from the dominions. In WWI, for example, there was a perception Down Under that the cream of Aussie youth had been thrown into the meat grinder against the Turks at Gallipoli while tea-sipping British officers and regulars remained in the rear, thus avoiding the carnage. In the British mind, a British soldier’s life was somehow worth more, and should be conserved at the expense of others. At least, that was the perception.
It’s like that with the U. S. and the regimes we have historically propped up in the Middle East. Democracy is a beautiful thing. It begets prosperity and the freedom to pursue life’s enriching pleasures. But what’s good enough for our exceptional Shining City On The Hill isn’t good enough for the inhabitants of the oil-rich states of the Middle East.
No, the goal there is preserving stability, so that the Shining City’s engine room can be assured prompt and secure delivery of its fossil-fuel lifeblood. Here at home, we congratulate ourselves for promoting the idea of democracy around the world, but tell that to all the oppressed of Latin America whose caudillos we supported because they created a favorable environment for American businesses (and profited richly as a result).
Is it any wonder that there is a robust strain of anti-Americanism among many of the rebels who are, for the first time, flexing their muscle across the Arab world? To them, we are hypocrites who were complicit in perpetuating their misery.
Now that the house of cards we helped build is collapsing, we find ourselves scurrying to be on the right side of history. After all, keeping that oil flowing is our first priority, and we’ll have to cozy up to whoever ultimately wins the power struggle.
Conservatives love to bash President Obama for “apologizing for America,” which he has never done. He has indicated that we are not perfect, and are going to try to be more considerate and compassionate, less imperial. That is not apologizing.
Which isn’t to say a little self-examination of what we do versus who we perceive ourselves to be wouldn’t hurt, regardless of our political leanings.