American foreign policy – funny and serious

Here’s a meaningful quote as we continue to ponder and act on what we believe to be America’s position in the world.

Only a nation at peace with itself, with its transgressions as well as its achievements, is capable of a generous understanding of others . . .

When a nation is very powerful but lacking in self-confidence, it is likely to behave in a manner dangerous to itself and to others. Feeling the need to prove what is obvious to everyone else, it begins to confuse great power with total power and great responsibility with total responsibility: it can admit of no error; it must win every argument, no matter how trivial . . .

Gradually but unmistakably, America is showing signs of that arrogance of power which afflicted, weakened, and in some cases destroyed great nations in the past. In so doing, we are not living up to our capacity and promise as a civilized example of the world. The measure of our falling short is the measure of the patriot’s duty of dissent.

Written by William Fulbright in 1966, during the Vietnam War. Sad how we’ve learned so little in the past forty or so years. But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised–though the Civil War was fought in the 1860s, it took a century until Americans began a national movement for civil rights in the 1960s.

The quote is Fulbright’s, but I learned of it in a talk today on campus. Anatol Lieven, a journalist, writer and historian who writes on security and international affairs, gave an interesting lecture on the components, dangers, and failings of American nationalism in the past half-century or so. But my favorite part of the lecture was actually listening to him speak. I always enjoy accents, but there are some that are truly a joy to listen to, and his was one of them. Very BBC-English. Lovely.

Many of us who voted against Bush last week were dismayed that the election results might convey to the world a unilateral approval of that individual and his policies. Fortunately for us, though our votes were not able to speak for us, there are some websites that do.

-Marry an American [link broken] is the place to start if you’re looking for a partner to help you leave the country. Canadians have signed pledges “to liberate, through the legal and binding act of marriage,” Americans seeking political asylum in their country. And from what I can tell, gays are welcome, unlike in the USA!

-Submit your photo to Sorry Everybody and demonstrate your regret at what your fellow Americans have wrought. A few of my favorites: an Asian guy holding up a sign that reads, in inked capital letters, “I AM SO SORRY NEXT TIME WE’LL GET THE BASTARDS FOR REAL O.K,” and two guys, apparently roommates in what looks an awful lot like Clark Kerr: “This one of the 55,902,001 Americans that voted against Bush would like to apologize for the 59,422,669 idiots that did.” (If that link doesn’t work, try this.)

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at]