Observing the U.S. as a German I will even as a member of the after World War II generation always remember how the USA helped to re-establish Germany (at least the Western part of it). The Marshall plan comes to ones mind as well as the airlift to the airport Berlin Tempelhof that Berlin now finally manages to close in spite of all its historic meaning. These things among others contributed to the myth of a country that can fix problems and will always play a leadership role in the world.

After two months of travelling providing for me the opportunity to talk to a lot of Americans and to learn what they think of their own country I have realized: It might not even be the image of the USA which suffered most by the Bush administration as well as a sometimes awkward, sometimes rule breaking public diplomacy. It’s the self perception of the American people that was disarranged and shattered in many ways.

That is reflected in the polls. PEW Research Center reports that the approval rate for the federal government gets a decade low of 37 percent. Concurrently President Bush’s approval rating reaches an all-time low of 27 percent and only 22 percent of the population are satisfied with how the things are going in the country. Translation: Two third of the American people think that their country is on the wrong track. Wow!

There might be three major reasons for that I have learned about in the plenty of conversations I had for the last two months.

The Iraq war. With a death toll of more than 4.000 people and no end in sight most Americans have understood that something went wrong out there. Listening to Hillary Clinton promising that she will bring the troops back in six weeks after having taken presidency a lot of listeners just raise their eyebrows. There is no exit plan. And secretly everybody knows: there won’t be one at short sight. This war has scattered a big portion of optimism of the American people and it has ruined a big part of the ideal of freedom and democracy that has always been linked to the U.S. Because the Bush administration violated constitutional rights in a variety of ways and issued rules that allowed a treatment of a person – be it a suspect, a prisoner or a terrorist – that amounts to torture by pretty much any definition except the Bush administration’s.

The economic decline. A lot of people are hit by the mortgage crisis and have left their homes because they are simply no longer able to pay the rates. And economy doesn’t seem to catch up soon. The Dollar has lost its position as lead currency and the necessary infrastructure investments are postponed. After a visit to Europe and Asia these weeks the author Thomas Friedman describes his observations in an article for The New York Times: “If all Americans could compare Berlin’s luxurious central train station today with the grimy, decrepit Penn Station in New York City, they would swear we were the ones who lost World War II.”

One of the most extensive shocks was the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans. Why is that? Because the other drivers of decay in self -confidence are either related to foreign, i.e. exterior politics or to influencing factors that are not just or not directly combined with the creative power of the U.S. themselves. Katrina and its aftermath were.

The victims of the Hurricane and the floods could have been saved. But they weren’t. The people from New Orleans could have been helped. But they weren’t. Instead people were kept in the Superdome for almost five days without food and water, not knowing what would happen to them. New Orleans could have been rebuilt and the displaced people brought back to their homes. But that didn’t happen. The Federal Government screwed the whole crisis management up in an unbelievable way. That’s what can be heard today very often. The people in New Orleans speak up telling it, others don’t. Why not?

This disaster – man made not a natural one – holds up a mirror every day that shows a reflection of the U.S. a lot of people don’t want to see. They don’t want to cope with the cognition that it were their country’s own people that were left on their own. They don’t want to face the fact that Katrina not only wiped out New Orleans but also the myth of the ‘can do’ country. America could fix it. That was held true for a long time. Iraq did quite a damage to this image. But it’s different to fail in a country far away than to fail in the midst of one’s own country.

Kommentare (3)

  1. #1 jc tyler
    Mai 21, 2008

    The intro to this article is stupefying for someone so highly diploma-ed. Here’s why.

    The US government entered WWII for various reasons, the least of which was to help Europe. Their big effort was a precisely timed international marketing move and a national relief project. As example see Coca-Cola’s war strategy and how it was encouraged by the US strategic command. For starters you want to look at the German Ford factories, how they avoided damage in a bombed-out area and how that miracle came to happen despite Ford’s factories working full steam for the Wehrmacht during the whole war up to the very last day. Or check the WWII Basel meetings between bankers of all war parties, including banks of the victims’ groups, and how they went about business as usual.

    Before you kowtow submissively to more US war propagande, to fully assess the real impact of the US intervention on the socio-cultural and economic development of post-war UK, France and Germany, you really, really want to look up the crimes, murders and rapes committed by US military in the UK that were very bad but not as bad as what the same US military did in France which was even worse than in the UK but by far not as bad as what US troops did in Germany. To this day the US military PR uses its full power to suppress the publication of these docs.

    You want to especially research the rapes committed by US soldiers in post-war Germany and how they were (never) punished. The US in this respect was at least as bad as the Soviet occupation force was ever said to be. Look up the US Army’s records on how many of these rapes were viewed (viewed, not judged) by US military court in Germany. It’s less than a dozen. It is estimated that amongst the age group between 12 and 50, AT LEAST every FOURTH female was raped by US soldiers, that the US army’s take on this was that these were German females and as such Nazis without human rights. Do NEVER underestimate the influence of these crimes on the development of Western Europe.

    Why is this so very important? Forget the crimes and murders. If you only bring the rapes of hundreds of thousands of German females into the social, cultural and economic equation, it might give you a very different perspective as to what shaped post-war Germany or indeed Western Europe and why US troops were intensely disliked in the UK, France and Germany.

    Or consider this: since the US military did not behave better than the Wehrmacht, many German war criminals hid behind that fact to absolve themselves from any guilt. “We did what they did. We are as good and right as they are. Why should we feel guilty?” Because it explains in part how so many Nazis could return to top political functions right after the war. And there is no denying that Nazis substantially shaped post-war Germany at the highest level. The unpunished criminal behaviour of so many US troops made it easy for Nazis to be re-accepted by the surviving Germans. Now go ahead and tell me that this was beneficial and that we should be grateful.

    War turns very fine humans into despicable monsters. It’s true for every war, it’s true for every footman at the front, it’s true for US troops. Fine young Americans turned into rapists and criminals by war while their commanders never shot at anyone and never waded through mud and never risked their lives and never took any blame. I don’t blame the soldiers, I blame their commanders. The guilt of the injustices they commit as soldiers are often what kills them when they come home. Ask any shrink. I deeply feel for any youngster who is thrown into a war that serves the interests of the old idiots who stay behind the lines and act as willing tools for a few filthy rich gangsters and their political croonies. But this is your intro. No wonder the rest of your article is of the same intellectual quality.

    Do your homework if you want respect. The US intervention was a matter of business and political domination and the US military accepted the rape of thousands of British women, of tens of thousands of French women and of hundreds of thousand German women as a negligeable detail of this effort. In all fairness, the Germans did the same thing while they were in charge. And if you think it through logically, French women were raped twice, first by the Germans, then the US. Do you think the French hated the US and the Germans for so long after the war simply because de Gaulle didn’t trust them? Rape is a most despicable war tool and the US military command is as guilty as any army command. In the long run, war rape has killed more people than bombs did. Unless you too consider rape a minor and temporary health detail.

    Too lazy to do a simple net search on the subject or read up on it? Then get this book: “Taken by force” by J. Robert Lilly. I checked for you, it’s available on every amazon site for approx € 25. Extreme good value for the price. It will change your view on many things.

    I dare not detail the rest of your post. “The Iraq war: with a death toll of over 4000 people…” ??? Excuse me ??? Only US military personel counting as people? How about the dead 1000+ US private security, not to mention the, er, handful of Iraqi civilians? Even US citizens start to integrate the loss of private life into their opinions on the Iraq war and you still stick by US troop numbers only? Where do you live?

    The present US economic decline? It’s the price the US pays for its long-lasting greed and ego-tripping. How can a whole nation rely on cheap creditcards and criminally irresponsible home loans and expect to get away with it forever? Come ON.

    As for New Orleans, they voted Nagin back into office. They RE-elected Nagin? How stupid can you be? It simply means they do not want to learn or they are too dumb to learn. Get a grip.

    I start to wonder about the kind of people you know in the US.

    BTW, what would you think if one out of five adult Swiss would believe that the Sun turns around Earth?


    Way to go, lady.

    Unless your article is part of your career plan, or unless you are comfortable with and/or actively supporting war lies, I expect you to have the academic integrity to let this comment stand to balance your factually wrong opinion or remove the whole thing altogether.

  2. #2 jc tyler
    Mai 21, 2008

    The link doesn’t work but the study can be easily traced. Simply google for “american adult sun earth”.

    This study reveals that one adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth.

    (From a 2006 study by Dr. Miller, a political scientist who directs the Center for Biomedical Communications at the Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago in which he researched the general science knowledge of the average American.)

  3. #3 Tobias
    Mai 24, 2008

    @jc tyler: Fine. Now, what in the post are you actually commenting on? To sum it up for you: She is trying to analyse why people in the US think, their country is on the wrong track. The arguments she brings up are debatable, but this post is not about the reasons, causes or consequences of US troops in World WarII.