Wednesday, January 10, 2007

ideas for improving america's image abroad

Another brilliant idea has been revealed by the de facto Bush Administration for improving the image of the US abroad. It will be announced today -- the Benjamin Franklin Award for Public Diplomacy (whatever that means), which the State Department apparently hopes will convince businesses and nongovernmental groups to help polish the US image.

It really isn't up to Microsoft or the Sierra Club to improve our image abroad. In any case, I can think of a few more likely ways to make that image better.

One way would be to stop invading countries for no provocation, on weak or completely fabricated grounds. Invading Afghanistan did NOT hurt the US image. Invading Iraq did.

Another way would be to stop inflicting our demands on how the rest of the world behave. For example, we shouldn't insist that anybody taking our money for population control programs not mention abortion, and shouldn't insist that our money helping against AIDS be accompanied by a naive, ineffective insistence on abstinence rather than sex education and condoms.

And finally, we shouldn't moan about how something might hurt our economy as an excuse not to take action. The most egregious example is our refusal to do anything meaningful on climate change -- compounded in this instance by our refusal to even agree that the scientific debate on whether humans are responsible for climate change is settled. (The answer? "Yes.") It is very unbecoming for the richest country on the planet to refuse to even consider the slightest bit of sacrifice, it is unbecoming for us to act as if having a large-screen television or a gas-guzzling Hummer SUV were more important than the possible collapse of human civilization.

I think reversing these actions would do more to help our image abroad than giving an award to some American company that sponsors an orphanage.


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