Sunday, April 25, 2010

Everybody Loves Us, Nobody Hates Us

As Bill Maher pointed out Friday night, nothing displays the hypocrisy of the Tea Party movement more than their disconnect on defense spending. I think this is as much about ego as anything else. Most conservatives seem to feel like Merka is so crucial to global stability that without us, the planet would stop in its orbit.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not discounting our importance to global stability and all, but I think for a lot of conservatives such feelings are rooted in fantasies going back to World War II: you know, the whole “we bailed your asses out” thing. We love to think that the world loves us--nay, owes us--don’t we?

It’s sorta like how Florida’s Teanuts rallied to keep the government’s hands off their NASA jobs. I love the idea of NASA and space exploration, but let’s remember that for much of Baby Boom America, it was our space program which brought us a collective ego boost back when we were battling the Russkies for global domination bragging rights. A lot of these folks don’t care about science or space, they care that we have these gazillion-billion dollar phallic symbols telling the world to suck on this.

So little wonder news like this rarely gets prominent play in the U.S. media:
Mass rally in Japan against US base on Okinawa

Nearly 100,000 people have attended a rally in Japan's southern island of Okinawa demanding that a US military base be moved off the island.

Under a 2006 agreement with the US, the US Marines' Futenma base was to be moved from the centre to the coast.

But demonstrators want Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to stick to an election pledge to remove it completely.

The row over the base has undermined relations between his centre-left Government and the US.


Japanese have long been resentful of the massive US base on the island, which is home to most of the 47,000 American troops based in Japan.

I’m sorry but why is it necessary for us to have 47,000 troops in Japan? Anyway, the Japanese government wants to move the base to the island of Tokunoshima, a place we don’t want to go. And they apparently don’t want us there, either. From April 19:

Tokunoshima residents rally against hosting Futenma


At least 11,000 people gathered Sunday on Tokunoshima to protest a plan to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Okinawa to the island.

The rally, which had been planned for weeks and was expected to draw about 10,000 people, took place only a few days after it was reported that the U.S. had rejected Tokunoshima Island as a Futenma relocation site.

U.S. officials say moving Futenma's air operations to Tokunoshima, which is hundreds of kilometers away, would make it impossible to effectively conduct joint air, land and sea training with other marine units in Okinawa.

It’s important for Americans to remember that we are not beloved around the world, much as we wish it were true. So many were puzzled by the 9/11 attacks, and “why do they hate us” became a national mourning cry. We heard that tired Bush line about being hated “for our freedoms,” which is asinine, simplistic, even jingoistic.

We are not hated for our freedoms. We are hated for our power, for our dominance, for the way we muscle our way around the world. Japan was once our foe, now our ally, but even here 100,000 citizens have rallied to get our troops off their soil. And our news media, if they cover the event at all, will relegate the story to the small print and back pages. It certainly won’t dominate our national conversation, where we talk about Tea Parties and Sarah Palin’s e-mail and the White House’s Wall Street reform plan.

Why do we have 47,000 troops in Iraq Japan? Because we won a war 65 years ago.

I am reminded of this excellent column by author Mohsin Hamid from 2007. Do read the whole thing, but I wanted to call attention to this part:

Americans need to educate themselves, from elementary school onward, about what their country has done abroad. And they need to play a more active role in ensuring that what the United States does abroad is not merely in keeping with a foreign policy elite's sense of realpolitik but also with the American public's own sense of American values.

Right now we have troops in Afghanistan, still mopping up “the final campaign of the Cold War” which Americans only know about thanks to a Hollywood movie starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.

In Baghdad we have built an embassy-slash-military-base the size of Vatican City. In 65 years, will we still be in Afghanistan? Will we still be in Iraq? Will Americans wonder why we have thousands of troops in these foreign lands, will the Iraqis be rallying in the streets in numbers as high as 100,000 to get us to leave?

Or will the American empire have crumbled under its own weight by then?