I hope you realise that this “friend of Freedom” rubbish turns off people in other countries who are otherwise friendly to the United States. Forget Indians, even liberal Pakistanis hate this stuff. The crazies are pissed off anyway. No wonder we hear the “there is no alternative” refrain from smart Americans.
Nitin, not only do I realize it, but it makes me tear my hair out in frustration.
There is an imperative in American politics that requires us to lionize corrupt apparatchiks, thugs, time-servers, and double-dealers, as if they were paragons of moral rectitude. I recognize this necessity, but George W. Bush has taken it to an embarrassing new level. The florid nonsense that he spouts as a matter of course about foreign leaders makes the average American conservative wince. We all know that he has to pretend, but does it have to be this overblown?
An American president, even if he is of the utmost moral probity, is sometimes required to do business with repugnant people. It goes with the job — to protect the United States and its interests, deals must often be struck with brutal and corrupt foreign leaders.
Normal punctilio requires that the real state of affairs not be publicly acknowledged. But why go all the way to the “true friend of freedom” extreme? Why not have a businesslike relationship? A meeting in the Oval Office, followed by a brief public statement: “I was happy to meet with Generalissimo Thumbscrew. We had productive discussions on issues of mutual interest to our respective countries.”
What’s wrong with that?
This compulsion to paint a halo on thugs and hacks debases the coinage of international political discourse. The “true friend of freedom” sobriquet should be reserved for… well, for true friends of freedom, countries like Australia, Denmark, India, and Britain. Colombia, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine could be “working partners”. As for Pakistan and Saudi Arabia — we need to come up with some new euphemism for sinkholes such as these, one which does less damage to the English language.
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But administration after administration, Republican or Democrat, falls into the same glossolalia of wishful thinking. Who is the intended audience? Not conservatives, who know a flim-flam job when they hear one. And President Bush’s excesses gain him no points with liberals in the media or academia, no matter how high-minded the rhetoric.
And, as Nitin pointed out, literate people in foreign countries are not impressed with such flights of fancy. They know the leaders in question are corrupt and brutal. Americans end up sounding stupid, naïve, or cynical, or a combination of all three.
So why do it? Cui bono?
I admit to bafflement. I can only conclude that our President likes the sound of what he’s saying, and hopes that his saying of it can somehow make it true.