Saturday, October 08, 2005

Self-Deception is Dangerous
As is Ignorance

When I taught the survey course in US history, I told students that even if we don’t agree with the assessments, we need to be able to see the US as the rest of the world does. How can we correct misconceptions if we don’t know what they are? How can we make corrections in our course if we refuse to look at our errors? In the post 9/11 era of hyper-patriotism, honest efforts at self-evaluation have been said to aid and abet terrorism. Self-deception is always dangerous for individuals or nations. Thus I find Karen Hughes’ efforts painfully embarrassing. Here is Al Kamen’s compendium and assessment of the reaction to Hughes’ public diplomacy tour, from his column, In The Loop, at the WP website:

Undersecretary of State Karen P. Hughes just finished her "listening" tour of the Middle East, and the reviews are coming in.

"Preachy, culturally insensitive, superficial PR blitz." -- USA Today.

"Faux Pas Trifecta; saying too much, saying the wrong thing, saying anything at all." -- the Washington Times op-ed page.

"Non-answers, canned message, macabre." -- the Los Angeles Times.

"Fiasco, lame attempt at bonding." --

"Painfully clueless . . . pedestrian . . . vapid . . . gushy." -- Arab News ("The Middle East's Leading English Language Daily")

"The marquee clown [in] America's circus diplomacy . . . total ineptitude . . . total disconnect." Al-Jazeerah.

This is harsh. The trip was, after all, styled a "listening tour," a chance to chat with people over there and gain some insight into their views.

And that's what she did. En route home, Hughes singled out to reporters "a really interesting meeting" with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul , who urged her to try to look at the Iraq war from the perspective of "a common man in Turkey."

"And he said: 'You know, for you all, when you're talking about Iraq, war in Iraq, and Iran and Syria, you're talking about countries over there. We're talking about our next-door neighbors,' " Hughes recalled, according to a transcript on the State Department Web site.

"And it's an interesting perspective and an important perspective that I will now try to bring to our policy debate," she said. "Not that it hasn't been present, but I consider it my job to make sure that it's really highlighted and considered."

Carrying a map of the region also might come in handy.

Hughes also defended President Bush . "I had one person at one lunch raise the issue of the president mentioning God in his speeches," she told reporters. "And I asked whether he was aware that previous American presidents have also cited God, and that our Constitution cites 'one nation under God.' "
Carrying a copy of the Constitution -- maybe also the Pledge of Allegiance -- might come in handy.


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