Arrogance of Americans

23 November 1997

There are various types of arrogance. Academic arrogance is when a government financed ivory tower which has no records of excellence pretends to know better than the hand that feeds it.

It baffles me no end what makes these so-called teachers (or academicians if you insist) who have written nothing readable think they not only have the right to lecture politicians, usually in safe faculty rooms or in their canteen, and waste the taxpayers' money, but the taxpayers do not have the right either to complain about them wasting that money or their poor teaching and doing no or little research?

Then there is the social snobbery: the imperious behaviour of some royals, the haughtiness of the notes and toffs(aristocrats) and the superciliousness of the nouve riche. But the worst is the crude display of power and behaving overbearingly imperiously and these days it means American power.

The Russians have nuclear weapons and once, a long time ago, spoke menacingly and noisily about their power. Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" silenced them because Mikhail Gorbachev knew the game was over after seven decades.

The Chinese, too, have nuclear weapons but unlike the Russians of the former Soviet Union, they rarely talk much about their bombs and missiles, and their MarxMao Zedong idioms have long become Deng Xiaoping dictum: accept capitalism that works with communists in control. There lies the difference between the Chinese and the Russians.

I wrote in my weekly column in Utusan Malaysia (every Monday) last week that Jiang Zemin's visit to the United States "had brought a new era of friendship between an upcoming power and pax Americana."

I should have added that there would even be more Chinese in the US and more Americans going to China.

There i s today scarcely concealed resentment everywhere in the world of the way the US conducts itself on this earth. Following the end of the Cold War the American ascendancy is very much noted and blamed for causing offense, inducing insensitivity, arrogance and a rebirth of "American imperialism."

Some people would ask whether the US may be tempted to abuse its dominant position through what is known as American unilateralism. Oh dear!

An American might be forgiven for replying the question (or one of the essential questions) in matters lying between the US and its European allies is whether Europe may be tempted to abuse its dependent position through what is known as European freeloading or whatever (Stephen Rosenfeld in the International Herald Tribune, Nov 8-9).

I can understand the feeling of columnist Rosenfeld that to quote him "Of course it would be uncollegial, not to speak of unmannerly, to respond in that way. But one does wish that the Europeans who would be most offended by such an approach would listen more closely to the words they themselves direct at the US."

That notwithstanding Europeans as well as Asians have anxiously asked their American friends whether the US would continue to play a major role in World peacekeeping and international relations with the congress in complete control of Republican Conservatives.

I am relieved as well as distressed to read that Rosenfeld thinks "the terms of American (international) engagement may be in some contention, due especially to a Republican congress, but, due especially to a Democratic president, the broad fact of engagement is not."