My own theory about these resentments includes the fact that, yes, we have done some things that were hurtful, but generally when our choices weren’t good in any case. One instance is our interference in Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s. We were engaged in an existential struggle with communism and, as part of that struggle we opposed communist dictatorships and supported other types of dictatorships. It is clearly resented in Latin America, but I can’t say I would do things differently given what we were facing. The whole world was a chess board with us playing the Soviet Union in a series of proxy conflicts, at least in part because if we fought one another, the outcome would have been horrendous.
My other theory is that much of this comes from envy. Some of it is relatively benign, like French politicians using the U.S. as a whipping boy to get elected. I’m sure that stuff doesn’t go unnoticed, but most people understand that’s how politics works. The other things, like the African dictator’s son damning us for acting in one instance (Bosnia) and not in another (Rwanda) is simply throwing up things to see if they will stick. There is a market for this kind of nonsense in Europe and elsewhere, and given the detachment from reality and/or stupidity of the accusers, I’m not overly concerned with that either. We will be resented by someone no matter what we do simply because of our current place in the world.
One instance that demonstrates what we should do is the tsunami. We figured out the right thing to do, and we did it with the help of Japan and Australia. We had ships on the scene shortly after the catastrophe to help by flying people out of soaked areas, bringing fresh water and food to others and various other things. While we were doing this, to distract from their own incompetence, the UN had Jan Egeland complaining that we didn’t give enough of our GDP to international institutions. While they were having conferences about setting up more conferences, we were helping people. That’s how I believe we should handle these matters: Decide the right thing to do and do it; let others bicker over insignificant side issues. We should probably accept that no gratitude will be forthcoming when we do help. It’ll be another reason to criticize us later on.
We should help anyway.
In case you’re wondering, I agree.
But I also think that we have to be working toward international institutions that work as they should and have some measure of effectiveness and legitimacy.