Anti-Americanism - Aggressive Isolationism

America is a country of immigrants. By definition immigrants came from somewhere else and thought the U.S. was better than the places they left or they would have stayed there. The memory of coming from somewhere worse is an important source of our feeling that we have it better than most. We are justifiably proud of what our country has accomplished and want to share it with others, but our default option is isolationism.

We assume people want to come to the U.S. and be more like Americans (not alway true, BTW), but we feel little responsibility to convert them. Pew Research finds that only 27% of Americans are strongly committed to spreading democracy abroad. This is significantly lower than in Europe. American public support for international institutions is always low and we dislike the idea of binding commitments anywhere outside the U.S. Americans have been suspicious of foreign entanglements ever since George Washington advised us to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.

Our ideal situation is a world where we can trade and make lots of money, but will otherwise leaves us alone. Failing that, we prefer a short intervention to solve whatever trouble others have gotten into and then come home. The paradox is that our actions often lead to situations directly contrary to our preferences. Many serious problems cannot be solved by a power with attention deficit disorder, not matter what our short term strength and enthusiasm. Others justifiably complain about our perfidiousness. There is no doubt that we can defeat any enemy and solve any problem in the short term, but we lack staying power. We get tired of commitments and want to go home. (The obvious big exception was the Cold War, where we successfully manned the barricades for two generations) Inconsistent behavior in a superpower makes others nervous.

What probably bothers some foreigners even more is that we just don't care what they think. We say we do. Research shows that Americans are aware of their declining international reputation and they say they are concerned and 69% of Americans surveyed thought that their country was generally disliked. BUT they ranked improving relations with allies nine out of nineteen international objectives. And domestic concerns always trump international ones. So we want to be liked, but we want to do things our way.

This one is probably mostly our own fault, but do we really want to change? Can we change a habit we have had for more than 200 years? Would it really be a good thing?

Posted by Jack at June 4, 2006 3:22 PM
Comment #154300

“Inconsistent behavior in a superpower makes others nervous. “

Hell, it makes ME nervous!

Good article, Jack, some trenchant points. Let’s see what the group says, and I’ll bounce off the conversation.

Posted by: Tim Crow at June 4, 2006 4:34 PM
Comment #154313

I actually do care what the world community thinks of the U.S.A. Much like I care about what individuals in my day to day life think of me.
I just try not to let that influence my life choices or beliefs. I am lead by a higher power than human emotions and feelings. I HAVE feelings, but I follow the Truth.
It’s not a popular way to run your life, but I was called to be a peculiar person, not to get along at any cost. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to be friends with all folks, it’s just not to be.

Posted by: coonyjay at June 4, 2006 5:42 PM
Comment #154328


Good article. One thing that I think we forget is we need to be more cognizant of what is happening on the inside of the country instead of overly concerned with the outside. I am not saying you aren’t concerned this is just the point I am trying to make. The reason we are having image problems is not so much the war as it is people can see the divide amongst the country. It is broadcast by everyone loud and clear everyday. Take your pick of phrases, “Red States/Blue States,” “Culture of corruption,” Liberal/Conservative,” etc.
I have always found that when your own house is in order that the rest seems to fall into place. May seem simple, but most truths in life are.


Posted by: Mike at June 4, 2006 7:24 PM
Comment #154330

To me, the key in international relations is not some overarching philosophy, but three things: Knowing what you need and what you want from abroad, Having some decent standards about how you go about getting it, and taking heed of the consequences, even if they trip up your agenda or run counter to your partisan expectations.

If Von Clausewitz could discuss battle in terms of a fog (which lead others to speak of the Fog of War), we can speak of peace in such terms as well, given the strategist’s definition of war as being the continuation of policy by other means.

That is to say, that in both peacetime and wartime:

1)we have complex environments whose reaction to our actions are beyond complete foresight and rational understanding.

2)Our flow of information is imperfect and incomplete, meaning that even if we do understand the situation we could commit errors because the information we get tells us the wrong story, or leaves out important details.

Whatever your party, expecting one instrument of policy, diplomacy, military, covert, economic, or whatever to work on everything, in any dependable way, is foolish.

I do not think that relentless diplomacy or appeasment will solve all problem. Nor do I believe war can solve all problems, whether it’s out there or in the dark. What can be done? I would not offer up any pat statements, except to say that we should weigh the costs and benefit of any such approach carefully, especially when we’re committing ourselves to military force, with its risk and expense.

That said, we can’t oversimplify our vision of cost and benefits, because the real world doesn’t work in such a friendly way. Something we think will cost us little may end up costing us dearly. I would like to propose the hypothesis that at least some in the Bush administration believed that gambling with the quality of the evidence for going to war was justifiable in light of what they saw as the great likelihood of finding the evidence.

The laxness on gaining a intelligence picture of substance, and the excessive confidence in the predicted results turns out to have been a lethal combination. We cannot run our policy as if we know everything. We don’t and we never will. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom in civil rights, of course, but it’s also what we must pay in foreign policy matters as well- a vigilance not just for the next threat, but for problems in the reliability of our threat detection. We should not become overconfident in our picture of how the world works, because our enemies can exploit that weakness once they recognize it.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 4, 2006 7:31 PM
Comment #154335

Jack, what an entirely false premise you imply when you say: “We are justifiably proud of what our country has accomplished and want to share it with others, but our default option is isolationism.”

There are more than 500 million people in the world who would like to move into the U.S.

Do you think we should open our doors to 500 million people this year or next?

The default option is not isolationism. The Default option is to return to our previous policy of controlled legal immigration and enforcement of laws against illegal immigration. That point is made all the more relevant since 9/11.

The issue really is as simple as erecting a barrier with enforcement against illegal immigration, drive up the cost for illegals to try to circumvent those barriers, and then enforce the laws against illegal immigration to include those laws against those who aid and abet illegal immigration. Having done these things, then, and only then, does deciding the fate of illegals already in this country make any rational sense.

Reversing the order only promotes a tidal wave of new illegal immigration to get in under the wire for whatever favorable disposition is granted to illegals already here.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 4, 2006 7:54 PM
Comment #154338

Jack as for international relations, your assessment appears to be fairly accurate. But, frankly, we are on a chess board playing one move ahead while China (and some others) are playing end game strategies through partnerships, alliances, trade, and military agreements in S. America, Africa, some S. and S.E. Asian nations, Eastern European and Middle Eastern nations.

This is happening in the headlines as we speak, and this is what we get with a dullard like Bush for President, capable of only one move ahead thinking. Iraq was such a fine example of Bush’s one move strategy, move our military in, kick some military ass, and the everything else will take care of itself. WRONG!

With nations like China and India and Malaysia playing end game chess with us on the global chess board with economic and trade moves reaching years and even decades into the future, we are stuck with an administration capable of wielding a huge military around like queen attack on an isolated pawn neglecting the position of the rest of the chess board’s pieces and their future potential moves.

A little isolation soon for a short period would probably be a good thing to allow for America animosity to cool down a bit. But, that option is not even available as long as we remain committed to Iraqi military involvement.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 4, 2006 8:05 PM
Comment #154348


Speaking not of international relations, but simple relations or negotiation, we always think the other guy has an advantage because we know our weaknesses and imagine his are less acute.

I admire the progress China and India have made. It is wrong to underestimate them but it would be wrong to overestimate them too. The U.S. has remained the most competitive large economy for many years. It is very adaptive.

I think you make the mistake of equating the U.S. with the U.S. Government. The reason we ARE the most competitive large economy is that the government stays out of many things that governments other places commonly handle. If you compare X service provided by the government in one place with what the government provides here, we look bad. But that is not the fair comparison.

As you may recall, I lived in Europe for about 12 years and I still get there a few times a year. Government does more things for people there and people do less for themselves. My rough and ready analysis of what that means in practical terms is that in America you often don’t have the RIGHT to something, but you can almost always get it. In Europe you have the right to many things but you cannot often get them. So in theory things are great in Europe, but in practice they are better in the U.S. I think that is true with lots of things. We make the mistake of buying the theory.

Posted by: Jack at June 4, 2006 9:33 PM
Comment #154352

It is easy to imagine dualities as an on/off switch, or the swinging of a penduluum, but it might be more useful to think of this as continuous movement in a direction; only the speed varies, with retrograde motion the occasional exception.

The movement forward is the liberal direction, the progress of progressives. It embraces change, innovation, expansion, expanding from the smaller to the larger, the individual to the group.

The impeding or retrograde movement is the conservative force. It stresses tradition, convention, fear of change, shrinking from the larger to the smaller, from the group to the individual.

In this sense, Trotsky is the liberal, Lenin the conservative; Jefferson the liberal, Adams the conservative; Osama bin Laden the liberal, Zarqawi the conservative.

In international relations, violent efforts to spread the liberal approach always, inevitably fail. It contains an inherent contradiction between liberal recognition of human commonalities versus the effort to dehumanize through violence, and consolidate under a tradition.

The conservative approach usually succeeds because violence is consistent with the philosophy. The downgrade from international to national, from national to state, from state to municipality, from city to group, from group to individual is an inherently violent process. It denies the natural progression from tribe, to chiefdom, to state, to recognition of common humanity. So, the conservative, “greed is good,” “Language/Culture?Borders” movement succeeds when it uses violence to consolidate tradition by force.

The key to overcoming the violent imperative behind the conservative approach to international relations is to stress shared humanity & common goals, rather than the fear and hatred which motivates violence; fear of change, fear of the other, xenophobia, isolationism, nativism, and so on.

In a sense, the world is a battle of hearts and minds. The good news is that eventually the best part of our hearts and minds will proceed ineluctably to victory.

Posted by: phx8 at June 4, 2006 9:52 PM
Comment #154356

Jack, I think the error in your reasoning is reliance on the assumption that what is past will continue in the future. The entire history of the human race contradicts that assumption underlying your entire argument above.

The facts are: Perceived quality of life is dropping in America. Perceived quality of life is rising in China, India, Malaysia and many other emerging economies. Where there is progress, populations support that progress. Where there is regression, populations tend toward revolution either peaceful and innovative or violent and destructive or both.

A nation in turmoil over change becomes an unstable nation losing competitive advantage against nations who support and endorse the changes. That is the future we face on the global chess board. The past can be instructive, but the past is no guarantor of the future. Especially when a nation abandons the qualities and policies its people endorse en masse.

Invading Iraq abandon almost 3/4 of a century of foreign policy which made the U.S. the envy of the world. Abandoning fiscal conservative policy now jeopardizes present and future generations hope for prosperity and security. Abandoning secular public funded education based on future employer market needs and trends threatens quality of life for generations to come. Abandoning the safety net for a policy of sink or swim on individual merit is breeding discontent and insecurity which is already beginning to destablilize our nation’s capacity to govern for the welfare and benefit of the majority, present and future.

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” This appears to be the kind of freedom we are reaching for. Our elections are a mockery of democracy. Elect means “to choose”. Gerrymandering and the stratospheric costs to launch a campaign for office are leaving half or more incumbents uncontested in primaries and general elections. That means there is no choice for increasing numbers of poltical offices. And where there is no choice, there is no democracy.

You can look backward and take comfort if you choose. But, I feel a responsibility to view the present and project forward to the consequences of current events and ask, is this where we want to go?

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 4, 2006 10:02 PM
Comment #154360


The strangest thing about what you wrote is that you actually believe it…comparing what you wrote to the constitution would be an interesting discussion, however, it would send this particular post down a cow path…

The whole conservatism is violent thing was risible…

Posted by: Cliff at June 4, 2006 10:16 PM
Comment #154362


Sounds like the 50’s & 60’s all over again…

Posted by: discerner at June 4, 2006 10:20 PM
Comment #154363

discerner, we do appear to be on a similar path.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 4, 2006 10:22 PM
Comment #154365

Movement forward, in the liberal direction, can be violent; revolution can cause movement in a more inclusive direction, from cheifdom to state, dictatorship to democracy. However, the movement towards inclusive growth automatically handicaps the liberal impulse, so that if it is spread violently, it most likely will fail.

The violence of the French Revolution resulted in Napoleon & The Congress of Vienna. Manning the barricades during the revolutions of 1848 also failed. In general, the human movement in the liberal direction fails when it is spread violently. Successful movements included the peaceful formation of the German state later in that century, and the peaceful cohering of the European Union.

In the US, an attempt to reverse the direction, and in the name of States Rights devolve from the nation to the state, occurred with the Civil War. In the truest sense, the War was a conservative attempt to preserve the past, tradition, and accumulation of power in the smaller entity, rather than the larger, more inclusive one.

Posted by: phx8 at June 4, 2006 10:31 PM
Comment #154370


Sometimes I don’t understand how you think about liberal and conservative. I don’t know what all conservatives believe. But in the U.S. conservatives believe in the free market. The free market tends to create “progress”. Liberals used to be for that, but between the 1930s and the 1970s they started to opt for government. Belief in government management of the economy is retrograde.

We should probably not try to define liberal and conservative too closely, since the definitions are not stable over time or geography. I look at it as a government management of the economy and central planning versus free markets and networks. That means Lenin and Trotsky are both on one side. Hitler is on the same side as they are. I don’t know where bin Laden would land. I don’t think he is in favor of free market economics, but I don’t recall him ever specifically talking about it.


We cannot predict discontinuous change. You are right about that. Our predictions only work if the future resembles the past. It usually does, but not always.

China is growing fast, but it has a many problems such as pollution, labor problems and inefficient and corrupt government. Today it takes a billion and a half Chinese to produce half as much as 300 million Americans. If they keep on progressing in 20 years a billion Chinese might be able to make as much as 300 million Americans. That is better than before, but it still is not good.

You can talk about discontinuous change, which means that none of us can predict anything. As far as the thins we do know today, the U.S. is the most productive and competitive large economy in the world. It has not lost it place this year and in fact has strengthened a little. In some measures, Finland beats us. Should we worry?

Posted by: Jack at June 4, 2006 11:07 PM
Comment #154379


Interesting comments—especially this:

“The past can be instructive, but the past is no guarantor of the future. Especially when a nation abandons the qualities and policies its people endorse en masse.”

Are you indicating that, in your opinion, that is going on now in the United States? If so, what are some examples of this?

Posted by: Tim Crow at June 4, 2006 11:55 PM
Comment #154381

2005 GDP. data by the millions, us dollar. no1. united states at 12,485,725. no2. Japan at 4,570,314. no3. Germany at 2,797,343. no 4. China at 2,212,811. no 5.United Kingdom at 2,201,473. no 6. france at 2,105,864. here are Estimates by the IMF for the year 2006. no1.united states at 13,228,391. no2. Japan at 4,420,955. no3.germany at 2,752,612. no4. china at 2,519,563. no5. united kingdom at 2,229,138.no6. france at 2,092,532.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at June 5, 2006 12:04 AM
Comment #154383

To see the tension between the liberal & the conservative, consider immigration.

The very act of accepting encouraging immigration is fundamentally liberal; it is extending the process of change, inclusion, and growth, all with an eye towards creating a feeling of “us,” the U.S., a bracing mixture which brings out the best in us. It breaks down borders, it mixes languages, it makes cultures intermingle. This process only succeeds when accomplished through peaceful means.

Building a wall is the ultimate expression of conservative thinking. It is physical attempt to create spiritual rigidity, to prevent change, to exclude rather than include, to literally limit growth. Whether it is The Berlin Wall, the Wall built by the Palestinians, a wall between Mexicans & Americans, or “The Wall” by Pink Floyd, the result is the same. It reflects conservative values by creating borders, an attempts to deny linguistic or cultural mixing. It now becomes “Us versus Them.” Xenophobia, nativism, and other conservative manifestations appear.

To further the point:

The spread of liberalism must fail when it is spread through violent means.

Ultimately, the retrograde motion of conservatism can only succeed when forms of violence & repression support it.

Posted by: phx8 at June 5, 2006 12:19 AM
Comment #154390


“The spread of liberalism must fail when it is spread through violent means.

Ultimately, the retrograde motion of conservatism can only succeed when forms of violence & repression support it.”

The next time I lose my temper with one of the Righties here regarding free markets, the Invisible Hand, the economy is great stuff, and I start yelling about revolution and blood in the streets, I want you to remind me of this, okay?

(You can recognize when I’m yelling, right?)

Posted by: Tim Crow at June 5, 2006 12:56 AM
Comment #154394

Jack do we lack staying power all the time or only when the collective American spirit feels the current war, dispute, military action is wrong?

Posted by: j2t2 at June 5, 2006 1:15 AM
Comment #154395


This democrat has to disagree with you on immigration. I am against the illegal immigration as are the Republicans as I understand it. What the wall is about is stopping illegal immigration. It really needs to stop, whatever accomplishes that.

I hate when folks discuss immigration and don’t specify legal or illegal, it really clouds an important issue.

I hate to admit that I lean a little right on the issue of what to do about illegal immigration, except that I think the right doesn’t want to come down as hard on the employers, as I do.

Posted by: womanmarine at June 5, 2006 1:24 AM
Comment #154397

Thanks for the encouragement!

Another manifestation of the fundamental difference between liberalism & conservativism appears in the attitutde towards government, and illustrates the violent nature at the foundation of conservative thinking.

Conservative thinking supposedly advocates smaller government. In a way, this is correct. A conservative opposes centralized government to the extent it involves inclusion, growth, social programs, and other programs which encourage recognition of our human commonalities, rather than walls which seperate us.

The conservative prefers ratcheting down recognition of the universal in favor of the particular: US government over the UN; States rights over the US government; communities over the state; and so on. It is an endless process of exclusion, of defense, of building a wall splitting “them” from “us.”

Yet government seems to grow at record rates when conservatives control the pursestrings. Whis is that?

This occurs because conservative thinking results in enormous spending on “defense.” Today the US spends as much as the rest of the world combined on “defense,” and yet Jack can write an article wondering why anyone outside US borders would feel anti-american.

J2T2 wonders about Iraq. Here is an example of an attempt to spread the liberal ideal through violence. It cannot succeed. Never mind the failure on our part to stress Human Rights rather than Democracy; the mere spectre of foreign troops wandering around a country with guns and tanks, demanding the locals adapt democracy, is a recipe for failure.

Posted by: phx8 at June 5, 2006 1:34 AM
Comment #154398

phx8, It’s hard to remember when I read a more illogical biased rant in any column on WB.

Border Barriers include ports of entry, friend. The border barrier drastically reduces the illegals while the ports of entry permit the legals through. It is called responsibility and control of one’s nation. It is called protecting the citizens within those borders. It is called protecting our future against unwanted and undesireable elements like drug traffickers, violent criminals and terrorists.

Your entire rant is utter nonsense. The Border Barrier is a demonstration of the ability to respond appropriately to a problem out of control (i.e the heart of the definition of responsibility).

Your argument is aimed at irresponsible passion and emotion and offers nothing in the way of solutions to the illegal immigration problem. In fact, your argument implies illegal immigration is not a problem except for definition. Redefine anyone wanting to enter our country as legal, problem solved. But such simple answer is no answer at all to complex problem requiring prioritized steps on many fronts to solve.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 5, 2006 1:35 AM
Comment #154400

Do these illegal immigrants make you feel insecure? Do you feel threatened? We are a nation of immigrants, most of them coming here as slaves (both indentured servants, negroes, & American Indians), criminals (the state of Georgia was founded as a penal colony), refugees, economic opportunists, and other neer-do-wells. Put aside the fear. In an ultimate sense, in the only way that ultimately matters, legal immigrants and legal immigrants and US citizens are precisely the same. We are the same in every fundamental way that matters. You know what I am saying is true, David. Forget the fear, and embrace your better half.

I will stick with my general point, and just note that we can define legal v illegal as we choose.

Posted by: phx8 at June 5, 2006 1:48 AM
Comment #154402

Jack, China is not competing to BE US! Your assumptions need serious critical review. China has no desire to be American, to become gluttonous, selfish, and ignorant. The entire history and culture of the people aims in exactly the opposite directions. The great vast majority of Chinese desire sufficent food, education, housing, and employment to raise their families with the freedom that adequate food, education, housing, and employment provides. They have no American notions that freedom is having the right, smarts, or ingenuity to beat the system, break the laws, and diminish others with one’s success. Their entire Buddhist philosophy teaches something quite opposite all of that.

Which means, despite their factionalied Agricultural, Industrialized, and new Technologized cultures and economic segments, their root culture lies in the belief that what is good for one, must be good for all. And this means that the cost to achieve their freedom and moderately (relatively speaking) wealthy goals will in fact cost far less to achieve in China than in the U.S. for a host of reasons not the least of which is that China will invent, produce, market, and sell to their own people, rather than having to import most of what they want with a few exceptions perhaps such as food and certain natural resources.

The Chinese have real and heartfelt hope that their children will be better off than they, and their grandchildren better off still than their parents. That is absolutely opposite what American public sentiment is morphing into as we speak. The polls show the numbers who believe their children and grandchildren will never see times and benefits of being American as great as they have enjoyed are growing significantly, despite even short term hearty economic statistics.

It is indeed about trends blossoming into dominant fully developed outcomes. Their’s are positive looking forward, ours are negative. Their are deep and intense costs to any society that is forced to regard their children’s future pessimistically by comparison.

Our own 20th century history stands as testament to the problems which a society can overcome when their view of the future is hopeful and positive regardless of the Pearl Harbors, Depressions and Wall Street crashes, and fear of global Communist domination. Hope and belief in the future has always been our greatest and most valuable asset aside from richness of our lands and coastal seas. But that is a rapidly diminishing asset under Republican leadership. And we all know diminished assets drives up costs of future growth and expansion.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 5, 2006 1:59 AM
Comment #154403


“But such simple answer is no answer at all to complex problem requiring prioritized steps on many fronts to solve.”

As you say, this is a complicated problem that needs to be addressed on many fronts. I’ve stayed out of these discussions on immigration because I’m not as well-versed as others, and frankly, my feelings are very mixed. There are quite a few Hispanics in my area that are hired by agricultural and nursery businesses. I have yet to meet a Mexican that hasn’t been polite, hard-working and respectful of our culture. To put it simply, I like them and I respect their values. Perhaps their behavior is predicated on paranoia—the fear of landing in jail or being deported. I suppose that may have something to do with it. But I’m not wild about the idea that illegals drive down wages for the lower third of the American workforce, and make it even tougher for unions to exist.

What I find perplexing in this whole discussion
is the lack of holding employers accountable for hiring illegals. And a lack of discussion about the possibilities of what NAFTA and other economic policies may have done to the Mexican economy that make their people so desperate to come here.

I was a young boy living in Germany when the Berlin Wall went up. I remember later reading about some of the cynical reasons the East German government came up with to justify it—keeping out undesirables, Capitalist aggression etc. The actual reality was that the East Germans were voting with their feet, rejecting the harsh economy and government of the Communists. The wall went up because the was a real brain drain going on and the country was on the verge of collapse.

I saw that wall when I was a boy—I’ll never forget it. I am very leery of walls and barbed wire, even when it is for a seemingly good purpose.

And, I am suspicious of the timing for this whole national discussion. It smacks of political manipulation. Where was this concern two years ago, or five years ago?

Posted by: Tim Crow at June 5, 2006 2:04 AM
Comment #154404

phx8, Your comment is just plain dumb by omission. We are indeed a nation of immigrants, LEGAL Immigrants, NOT ILLEGAL immigrants. Your argument has no merit once again because you incorrectly assess or distort the facts to fit your intended conclusions. A logical argument must proceed from a minimum of two sound premises. Your premises are flawed, hence, so are your conclusions and implications.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 5, 2006 2:05 AM
Comment #154405

phx8, I highly recommend a cursory look at Chinese history for an example of the horrendous costs to a nation for gratuitous and uncontrolled population growth. Revolution and starvation and deprivation are the consequences of uncontrolled population growth. Illegal immigration if gone unchecked will bring precisely such consequences to the U.S. The logic is infallible, you know it and I know it.

Plead on your emotional case, but, the facts and logic contradict you at every turn.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 5, 2006 2:09 AM
Comment #154409

To all those unwilling to call the illegal immigrants what they are, illegal immigrants, I ask you this, Are you for giving the Southwest United States up to become Atzlan? Are you for removing all borders and restrictions into and out of this Country? Where exactly do you draw the line on people coming into this Country.

Posted by: j2t2 at June 5, 2006 2:20 AM
Comment #154410

You realize there is a Buddhist subtext to my points? Just wondering.

Yes, I am being provacative & ranting & challenging assumptions about anti-americanism, isolationism, what it means to be conservative about these issues, & what is means to be liberal. After all, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” I can think of counterarguments to some of my own points, but it seems immigration hits a sore spot.

The definition of “legal” immigration changes with time. I have opinions, and like Tim, I usually stay out of the immigration discussions. My feeling is that we should “open the door.” Anyone willing to commit is welcome to come, as far as I am concerned. I cannot support them, beypond basic decencies, but like Tim, my experiences with Hispanics have consistently been great.

In college, I worked with them in a steel mill. Every single caucasian who tried that job quit, because it was too hard. It was brutal. I stayed. I learned spanish, and spoke with them, and smoked with them, and have nothing but respect for them.

My children are 1/4 Hispanic.

The issues raised about conservatism v liberalism reflect only tangentially on population growth. Interesting implication. We will see what tomorrow might bring.

Posted by: phx8 at June 5, 2006 2:29 AM
Comment #154411

Tim, the illegal immigration issue has been important for years,its coming to the forefront now probably due to the upcoming elections. I beleive it is an issue that will cause democrats to lose a lot of the ground gained by watching W and his administration screw things up. NAFTA hurt all but the multinational corporations, shouldnt the illegals fight in their own country to correct the problem instead of running away from it?

Posted by: j2t2 at June 5, 2006 2:39 AM
Comment #154414


The Illegals are fighting the multinational corporations in their country. Just count how many Socialist Candidates won elections in south america.

Posted by: Aldous at June 5, 2006 3:36 AM
Comment #154415


The reason we are having image problems is not so much the war as it is people can see the divide amongst the country. It is broadcast by everyone loud and clear everyday. Take your pick of phrases, “Red States/Blue States,” “Culture of corruption,” Liberal/Conservative,” etc.

Most of world nations doesn’t matter that much about your domestic issues, nation division included.
Whatever the US foreign policy is, it’s viewed as the Americans one as a whole. Because its your government’s foreign policy, and it was elected democratically. Supposedly.
We (the rest of the world) don’t really receive these phrases, except if we are looking for US domestic status… And when we do, seeing your nation as a divided one is quite refreshing in fact: it’s a very great sign of an alive democracy. When people don’t whim anymore, it’s warming… and no a democracy anymore!

US image worldwide is bound directly to the US foreign policy. And the very much exported US Culture, too.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at June 5, 2006 3:45 AM
Comment #154416


“NAFTA hurt all but the multinational corporations, shouldnt the illegals fight in their own country to correct the problem instead of running away from it?

Ideally, yes they should fight in their own countries against economic injustice. But when there are jobs just accross the border that can mean eating and not eating, I think desperation drives them over here.

I believe in legal immigration, and I think if an immigrant wants to commit to American citizenship, then I think legal avenues should be available. If illegals are here to get some bread to make ends meet, and have no commitment to being citizens, then I have a problem with that.

I often detect a xenophobic, punitive edge to immigration discussions that I am not comfortable with. There are even racist overtones sometimes that I find regretable. I am not as sophisticated on this subject as I’d like to be. But I council caution, lawful conclusions, and where possible, compassion.

Posted by: Tim Crow at June 5, 2006 3:46 AM
Comment #154417


Great post. I quite agreed on pretty much all ;-)
Could be interested at end of your Anti-Americanism series to rank each points, though.

There is no doubt that we can defeat any enemy and solve any problem in the short term, but we lack staying power.

Hum, okay what about the Climate Change problem?
Could US solve this problem alone, even if China and India continue at increasing rate their very quick industrial (and with it their contribution to world pollution) development?

I’m not so sure that, in a world where all is now so globalized - economy, culture, society, and obviously the issues - a superpower, even a superpower could anymore fix herself all issues without (or worst, against) the will of others nations.

So we want to be liked, but we want to do things our way.

No surprise here, afterall your country is a teenager, right. It’s known to be the worst period for practicing compromises.

This one is probably mostly our own fault, but do we really want to change? Can we change a habit we have had for more than 200 years?

It has already began, I think.

Would it really be a good thing?

Does being more open to others - and eventually care more about them - a good or bad thing?
You tell me.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at June 5, 2006 4:08 AM
Comment #154418


“…after all your country is a teenager, right.”

“American is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without any civilization in between.”

Oscar Wilde

Posted by: Tim Crow at June 5, 2006 4:23 AM
Comment #154419


Nice quote.
Even if I find this one overly pessimistic.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at June 5, 2006 4:32 AM
Comment #154422
I will stick with my general point, and just note that we can define legal v illegal as we choose.

Gee, why do we have laws then? Can we all do that?

Posted by: womanmarine at June 5, 2006 8:07 AM
Comment #154433

We avoid entangling alliances historically, because we recognize that other countries will only observe treaties and agreements when it is in their interest to do so. Washington was suggesting that we not become “entangled” in other countries affairds; that we had enough to worry about taking care of ourselves. At the time, the real issue he was addressing was whether or not we should join France in a war against England. Many people wanted to do so, especially since on the surface France was having a revolution similar to our own. Washington recognized that things are not always what they appear on the surface.

I would argue the whole Iraq fiasco has shown that Washington and Hamilton are still right. We’ve invested ourselves heavily in a situation that we could have monitored. By choosing instead to march in there, we have depleted all our resources, broken our own nation’s back, and solved nothing for Iraq or its citizens.

Posted by: Max at June 5, 2006 9:53 AM
Comment #154434


German unification – Peaceful and liberal? I think Otto von Bismarck would be surprised to have his “blood and iron” policy characterized that way. And the EU is possible only because of NATO. Security always comes first.

Immigration - Bush is for it; so it the WSJ. Labor Unions generally support restrictions. It is not a liberal/conservative issue.


You are right, but your statement approaches tautology. We stay in until we figure we should go.


I don’t know why you admire the Chinese so much. Was it their peaceful philosophy forty years ago this year that caused the death of as many as 50 million people in the Cultural Revolution? Is it love of nature that makes the air in Chinese cities literally unbreathable (not the small time thing we call pollution around here). Chinese are willing to pay a year’s salary and risk death to come to the U.S. in order to work at the very lowest jobs. That tells you something.

China has come a long way and it will be better in the future. But it still has a long way to go. And it may never actually arrive.


Climate problem cannot be solved by the U.S. alone. In fact the future of this problem, as you correctly point out, lies in China and India. What we can do is share technologies (and develop them). I don’t know if we will succeed. I suspect not. The world will be warmer and we will have to adapt to it, but we can at least mitigate.

One reason we do things our way is because we CAN. Most countries (and people) like to get what they want, but most cannot. I don’t think the U.S. can much longer either, but it is generally not SELF restraint alone that keeps people (and countries) from asserting themselves.

Posted by: Jack at June 5, 2006 9:57 AM
Comment #154456

You are right, German unification is not a good example.

No one notices the role tradition & convention play. Conservatism has its place, just as the brakes on a car serve a purpose.

We use brakes out of fear. Sometimes full speed ahead is not the best way to get where we want to go.

When it comes to immigration, I would not argue against laws, or some common sense level of security. Really, it is a small subset of a larger point I tried to make- apparently without success. Back to the drawing board!

Posted by: phx8 at June 5, 2006 11:54 AM
Comment #154463


I question the use of liberal and conservative. The terms have really changed meaning over the years, especially in the American sense.

The basis of American conservatism is free markets. This is from the Heritage Foundation: …”conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.” This was what we called liberal until the 1930s and what the Europeans still call liberal. In most of the world neoliberal = what we call neocon.

I won’t argue that practical real world conservative politicans always attain these goals (just as liberals don’t attain theirs) but it is what they hope to work towards.

Liberal in the U.S. sense is more akin to social democratic most other places. Americans don’t have a significant number of conservatives in the continental European sense.

As a U.S. style conservative, I do not believe additional governmental management and centralization is a good thing. I used to be aginst it for values reasons, but now i think we have just transcended it. It is outdated.

The time for central planning came and went during the age of the mainframe computer. We now live in a more networked society where different people come to different conclusions and have different outcomes.

In our pluaristic society, we have less and less place for central government control. We can live together as long as we don’t bother each other too much. Government control is the ultimate bother.

Posted by: Jack at June 5, 2006 12:13 PM
Comment #154484
Government control is the ultimate bother.

Jack, I agree with your entire post, however this line in particular caught my eye as it stands in stark contrast to several prominent conversative positions like opposition to gay marriage, abortion, and medical marijuana. Conversative policies on these issues seem to favour more governmental involvement than less. If policy makers were to have an open and honest debate on these topics I am confident that liberals and conservatives could arrive at a compromise that would satisfy perhaps 90% of people. Unfortunately, with an election coming up I doubt this’ll happen anytime soon.

Posted by: Christian at June 5, 2006 2:11 PM
Comment #154499

Jack- I usually can read three or four sentences into your post,before I see anything particularly zany. As the decendant of immigrants,I too believe us to be a nation of freedom seekers.
The indigenous population,consisting of many nations,that were here before,disagrees however.Many of them rightfully view us as land grabbing interlopers.
In response to your statements regarding our apparent decline in the eyes of the world,I wonder if any of the people surveyed have ever left the continental U.S.?
I have always been struck by two things as I travel. One is the overwhelmingly friendly behavior I have experienced in various European countries. By making the smallest effort to understand and accept cultural differences,I was rewarded with a acceptance that was nothing short of astounding.
One important distinction I have noticed over the years is the difference between americans who have traveled,and those who have not. The ones who do,invariably proclaim themselves as Americans
by word and deed,while those who don’t are hard pressed to understand just what it feels like to be american. You can only truly understand what being one of us means,when you get out of the fishbowl and into the rest of the world
I am not trying to cast any doubts on anyones loyalty or patriotism,but the best way to feel like an american is to be one,somewhere else.

Posted by: jblym at June 5, 2006 3:06 PM
Comment #154508



Posted by: jblym at June 5, 2006 3:24 PM
Comment #154535


Rf Thucydides re the oringinal people granting what they must. All land is taken from someone else. I don’t mean to be glib, but what happened more before anyone alive can remember personally is the common history of mankind. We - I hope - have somewhat moved beyond that, but we are all of us descended from the more agressive humans. That is why we are here.

That has been the nature of things. When we consider immigration reform, we should recall that none of these original nations had an enforceable immigration policy.

Posted by: Jack at June 5, 2006 4:25 PM
Comment #154595


In support of some of what David has been saying here: We can not know the future, but we can watch the trends and the trends are important and ominous.


1. In part because of our concerns about terrorism it is becoming more difficult for the worlds brightest and best to come here for their education - many of whom would have stayed. Many people are now going to China to receive their advanced degrees and if memory serves, I believe that China is now producing more PH.D.s than the U.S. - ominous. This - while we leave all children behind by underfunding our “No Child Left” plan by 45 billion dollars - ominous. More of those who do come here for an education are returning home to their own countries, instead of staying here and enriching ours - ominous.

2. We are transferring the tax burden onto the middle class while giving massive tax cuts to the rich, there by creating huge deficits which our children will have to pay - ominous.

3. We are running huge trade deficits - money which is owed to our rivals like China and Arab powers - ominous.

4. We are allowing ourselves to be pinned down in an unwinnable tribal conflict which is wasting our treasure, turning the world against us, and sapping our military strength - ominous.

5. The federal government is effectively threatening to default on its good faith and credit by gutting Social Security benefits promised to working class men and women who have paid more money into the system than the system needed for the last 20 odd years since Reagan. With that in mind: how long before our creditor nations get nervous, call in their debts, pull their money out of the U.S. and collapse our economy - ominous?

6. Increasingly we are dividing ourselves and fighting over stupid issues like whether 2 men want to play house, instead of concerning ourselves with real issues like: should we really go to war in Iraq, Iran, I.Arab.something.or.other? To divide ourselves over insignificant wedge social issues - ominous.

7. We gutting our civil liberties and undermining the Constitution of the United States of America by allowing our President to usurp congressional power through signing statements, and by allowing our President wiretap Americans with no warrant, no oversight, no checks, no balances, there by giving him, and all future Presidents, the power to spy on political rivals and opponents and blackmail them - there by undermining the Constitution of the United States of America - OMINOUS.

Posted by: Ray Guest at June 5, 2006 8:56 PM
Comment #154641


Eloquent—and sobering.

Posted by: Tim Crow at June 5, 2006 11:42 PM
Comment #154783

Good article Jack and if I may I’d like to add a few comments.

First, regarding the topic of a country being liked by other countries. It has always puzzled me why Americans are so keen on seeking approval from foreigners? I once was one myself.
If you look at the rest of the world which other good sized country (countries) demonstrably tries to be liked? I cannot think of one.
The reason must be that they are pretty proud of who they are and coulnd’t care less what some foreigner thinks of them. That may not be a very kind or agreeable attitude but it suggests to me at least, that those countries want to do their own thing, no matter what, just like the USA wants to. So why do we make ourselves so craven in wanting approbation for who we are?
Who and what we are is unique, in the best sense of the word, of which we may be justifiably proud, as long a we do not become arrogant like the French. Historically, no country has done for others during the past 100 years or so, what the USA has done. If we are not fighting wars that we didn’t start, and the Iraq war is no exception, we are always the biggest helper and donor when others are in trouble. We are seen by most people as the saviour of last resort, not necessarily liked a lot, but handy and dependable to have in a pinch. So I ask again, why can’t we just forget about trying to win a popularity contest with foreigners when they can get under our skin anytime by calling us ugly Americans and what have you.

On immigration I have a few thoughts not only because I was one myself more than a half century ago. When I applied for my immigration papers, I was fingerprinted, interviewed repeatedly, checked out by the FBI in a way that makes them know me better than I know myself, but all that did not bother me at all. As a matter of fact it was like a quality control check, indicative of a country that knows what kind of people they would open the door for. And importantly, the laws of immigration were enforced.
That’s today’s problem with south of the border immigration. WE have allowed our border to become as porous as a wicker basket for too many years already and now, all of a sudden we hear everybody yell: STOP! Ideas and breaking the laws have consequences. We should not be surprised.
As a matter of fact, I have a lot of respect for the great mass of those illegal immigrants who saw an opportunity and risked life and limb and money to get here. Most of them find paying jobs and even manage to send money home out of that. That is a significant element, to me, that these people are potentially OK citizen material, provided they learn the language, pay their taxes and stay out of trouble. Which is what mosty of them have done.
But now we condemn them all of a sudden because they have created a political dilemma of our own making.
Notwithstanding the several hundreds of thousands of aspirant immigrants from all over the world who have gone the legal way and waited, sometimes many years already for their papers, it is my opinion that we should allow a one-time amnesty for those already here, process them whereever they live, let them pay a fine, but also insist they have 5 years to learn English and if they do not, they will never become citizens and their green crads may be revoked. We must also impress on them that they assimilate and of course, second generation Hispanic citizens can and should be the main agent of helping these illegals become fully “legal”. But let us not forget that WE really let our own laws be broken, so now we pay the price for that sloppiness. Let it be a lesson and not an opportunity to discriminate against or vilify those who merely did what circumstances allowed them to do. From here on we better make sure the law can and will be upheld.

Posted by: fred at June 6, 2006 1:13 PM
Comment #154843

I wish that I could just accept the notion that what is past,is past,but many people,including many African-Americans,feel differently. They call it Reparations for Slavery. Jews certainly did not feel that way when then Sen D’Amato helped them get some of what was taken during WW2. So,yes aggresive humans do tend to take the largest piece of pie,we can’t and should’nt turn our backs on the past.
Along the same lines,we can’t turn our backs on what America means to countless millions out there. This is still a shining beacon of freedom and oppurtunity to so many. In the same way I can’t discriminate against someone for color,or religion or physical handicap,I can’t discriminate against anyone who wishes to enjoy the freedoms we have.

Posted by: jblym at June 6, 2006 4:29 PM
Comment #155193


The trouble with the past is that it is complicated and not completly knowable.

African Americans, for example, would have to seek initial compensation from places like Ghana and Nigeria, the places that intitially sold their ancestors. Americans did not invent slavery. Then what about anyone who arrived after 1865? Do you emempt those whose ancestors fought in the Union Army or those whose ancestors never owned slaves. What about people like Malcom X and Alex Haley, who are descended both from slaves and slave holders?

I did not support reparations for Jews in Europe either. But at least in that case you still had good records and some living memory.

There is an additional problem with historical Grievances. Everybody has one. We have all been victims and perpetrators in our family histories. The Turks and Arabs took slaves from Europe for centuries. The Balkans was a leading slaving place for Muslims to take Christians. It is likely that as many Europeans were made slaves by Muslims as Africans sold to Europeans, although over a longer time. Should a place like Serbia demand free oil to make up for this?

BTW Muslims enslaves more Africans than Europeans did too. There’s your reparations target.

Posted by: Jack at June 7, 2006 1:55 PM
Comment #286905

Everyone is attempting to paint a positive picture here, but in their own vision. My vision? Leaving my home in LA, after 20 years, because of violent latino gang bangers, some of who may be legal due to birthright, many who are illegal. My vision was of a people who had no intention of assimilating. My thoughts are turning to violent conflict more and more with each passing day.

Paint a rosy picture with THAT.

Posted by: John at August 25, 2009 6:27 PM
Post a comment