Academic and former member of Clinton’s National Security Council Richard Feinberg writes in today’s (Thursday, 24 May 2007) Washington Post that American embassies and consulates have grown to resemble “medieval fortresses — remote, foreboding, impenetrable,” trapping diplomats inside them in bubbles that isolate them from the countries they live and work in.
Feinberg says this prevents American diplomats from gathering intelligence and properly spreading “American values.” He writes:
Embassies have a second vital function: to disseminate American ideas and values. But what impressions of the American sense of self are created by garrison embassies? Far from suggesting confidence, good will, tolerance and democracy, high walls and wide moats suggest fear, discrimination and militarism.
But wait a minute? Aren’t “fear, discrimination and militarism” American values too? Proper, true and heartfelt American values? Why shouldn’t we export them? In great quantity? After all, if they are good enough for God’s chosen people, shouldn’t these very values be good enough for the entire world?
Feinberg’s policing metaphor for diplomats is all wrong too. It suggests — or perhaps assumes — that Americans ought to be policing the world. Maybe he is suggesting that. But he shouldn’t.
In a review John O’Sullivan’s The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister: Three Who Changed the World, Peter Hitchens takes a slightly more cautious look back at the 1980s, wondering why if Reagan, Thatcher and JPII were so virtuous and the West so right, how is it things have ended up the way they have? He doesn’t so much pucture triumphalism and let a lot of air out, slowly:
But I think there is a sort of presumption in the idea that God is particularly interested in liberating people from Communism, let alone from the rule of Jimmy Carter or of the British Labor Party. His kingdom is not of this world, as Christ unambiguously said. Go to Poland now, and you will find that the church and the Christian faith are, if anything, weaker than they were under the heel of the Communists. I might add that Poland, though freed from the iron manacles of Moscow, is now instead wrapped up in the sticky marshmallow bonds of the European Union, a despotic, secretive, and lawless empire with the strong potential to get much worse than it already is. As for the U.S. and Britain, I will get round to that. I really wouldn’t like to speculate on what God might have wanted to happen, but if He was hoping for the current arrangements, I should be very much surprised.