Americans abroad have long been accused of such blinging arrogance and display. I find the charge generally unfair. Arrogance is incorrectly ascribed to what is really the cultural clumsiness of an insular (if continental) people less exposed to foreign ways and languages than most other people on earth.
True, America as a nation is not very good at humility. But it would be completely unnatural for the dominant military, cultural and technological power on the planet to adopt the demeanor of, say, Liechtenstein. The ensuing criticism is particularly grating when it comes from the likes of the French, British, Spanish, Dutch (there are many others) who just yesterday claimed dominion over every land and people their Captain Cooks ever stumbled upon.
My beef with American arrogance is not that we act like a traditional great power, occasionally knocking off foreign bad guys who richly deserve it. My problem is that we don't know where to stop -- the trivial victories we insist on having in arenas that are quite superfluous. Like that women's hockey game in the 2002 Winter Olympics. Did the U.S. team really have to beat China 12-1? Can't we get the coaches -- there's gotta be some provision in the Patriot Act authorizing the CIA to engineer this -- to throw a game or two, or at least make it close? We're trying to contain China. Why then gratuitously crush them in something Americans don't even care about? Why not throw them a bone?
I say we keep the big ones for ourselves -- laser-guided munitions, Google, Warren Buffett -- and let the rest of the world have ice hockey, ballroom dancing and every Nobel Peace Prize. And throw in the Ryder Cup. I always root for the Europeans in that one. They lost entire empires, for God's sake; let them have golf supremacy for one weekend. No one likes an Oswald.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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