We're the superpower everyone loves to hate

April 09, 2001|By Richard Reeves

WASHINGTON -- It's just outrageous, isn't it, that those fool Chinese don't understand what a privilege it is to be spied upon by the United States. Do you think they're upset that we have paid bounties in the millions of dollars to defectors from their country and others who have stolen their planes or codes and handed them over for American inspection?

Remember the Russian pilot who defected with a new MiG-25 and turned it over to us in Japan a few years ago? We, of course, gave the plane back -- nine weeks later, in packing crates.

By then, obviously, we knew everything there was to know about the MiG-25. You say the Russkies didn't like that? Tough. There is such a thing as the right of a superpower, the global equivalent of the 800-pound gorilla, with sleeping rights wherever and whenever he wants them.

Because of that, we are the superpower they love to hate. Frankly, we like it that way. Isn't arrogance great when you've earned it? A lot of folks are so pathetic that they can't even speak English.

The forced landing of our Navy's EP-3E surveillance plane on a Chinese island closes the circle of Yankee-hating for the moment. Our best friends are all mad at us for different reasons, mainly our insistence that there is no global warming problem -- and if there is, God is certainly not going to let anything bad happen to the U.S.A. This is His country, if you know what I mean.

And whatever the French and the Germans say -- speaking of people whose English isn't that great -- we do care about greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide and all that stuff scientists say is mucking around with Mother Nature. Why, recently at The Hague, when we were still going through the motions of talking about cutting our global emissions by 7 percent, we came up with an alternative plan: special anti-flatulence feed for pigs, sheep and cows.

I'm not making that up. It is true that passing gas -- by humans, too -- increases the amount of methane in the atmosphere, and that has some of the same effects as carbon dioxide. So we'll stick with our smokestacks and SUVs until pigs don't ... well, you get it.

Commenting on that, Lars George Jensen of the World Wildlife Fund said, in pretty good English: "If America gets its way, it won't cut emissions until its people can actually smell the carbon in the air. It will be too late for the rest of us by then, of course."

Well, America is getting its way and is going to for quite a while more. We have tremendous natural resources, a more productive economic system than most and we are making it more productive by pushing the unproductive further out of the mainstream, cutting the drag on our formidable momentum. Our people work harder, or at least they work more hours, than any other people.

The Washington Times did a story Wednesday on the perceptions of foreign journalists working here. Those foreign correspondents seemed to reach consensus on two points: (1) The United States is, by world standards, a profoundly conservative country, and they have trouble telling the difference in the ideologies of Republicans and Democrats; and (2) Americans spend too much time working, seeming ignorant of the fact that workers in other developed countries actually spend time with their children and get five or six weeks a year in vacation.

As resentment of the gorilla superpower is on the rise, from Beijing to Berlin, there are inevitably thoughts, or hopes, that the United States has peaked. There are predictions around. A couple of weeks ago, The Observer in London led its Comment page with this headline: "The Future Is Europe, Not America." The argument, by Will Hutton, was summed up in a sub-headline: "The countries in the vanguard of the new technologies will be those with powerful education systems and strong welfare states."

The piece concluded that the winners of the future will be countries "which do not place the stock market at the center of business affairs, so allowing patient, committed investment."

Perhaps. But I doubt it. Impatience is central to American dominance, and bad manners, too. Listen, China: We want that plane back right now!

Richard Reeves is a syndicated columnist.

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