In Search of What You Resent
The Maliki government in Iraq fueled anti-Americanism as it systematically destroyed the coalition government that the Americans had created and protected by the surge. Maliki, who had once been hunted by the genocidal Saddam Hussein, in a sense was a creation of the United States and its commitment to consensual government in Iraq. So was the pluralistic idea of a Shiite majority for the first time gaining ascendency on the principle of one person, one vote -- and through the blood and treasure of American soldiers during the surge. No foreign leader in recent memory has been so lucky to have an American patron.
By 2011, Maliki thought he could pose to Iraqis with cheap anti-Americanism while bluffing the Obama administration into agreeing to a status of forces renewal agreement that both sides knew was in their mutual interest. But the fool Maliki did not realize that politics for the Obama administration (“ending one war, winding down another”) was even more a first principle than it was for Maliki. The result is Obama pulled every American out of the hard-won and stable Iraq (“stable” is Obama’s characterization, not mine alone), found his reelection narrative, and now Maliki is close to losing his country.
Maliki failed to grasp that Obama had even less trust in the influence of America to do good things abroad than did Maliki himself. But the larger irony is that now Maliki is begging for a return of American hard power to save his government from those killers that his policies helped create. In extremis, he understands that no other country would depose an oil-rich tyrant, stay on to foster democracy, leave the oil to its owners, and then leave when asked -- and finally consider coming back to the rescue of an abject ingrate.
The Latin America narrative in the age of Obama -- often best characterized in Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Peru, or Venezuela -- is little empathy south of the border for the Yanqui paradigm of free-market democratic capitalism. The stale 1960s rhetoric of colonialist, imperialist, racist, etc. is back in vogue in much of Latin America, and Mexico as well, encouraged by an administration that itself is unlikely to defend present or past U.S. conduct.
Likewise the themes of most Chicano-Latino studies programs in the U.S. are American culpability, racism, and colonialism -- the same old, same old whine of the myriad faults of the U.S. In my community, the time it takes a first-generation foreign national to cross the border illegally, and then to develop a sort of resentment toward the U.S. and a romance about the birthplace he abandoned, seems about five years.
Why then are tens of thousands of Latin Americans willingly flooding into a supposedly racist country where cutthroat capitalism ignores the poor and the oppressed such as themselves? In most past polls of Mexican citizens, two general themes often show up: the majority of Mexican nationals believe that the American Southwest still should belong to Mexico, and a sizable minority would like to leave Mexico for the U.S. You figure out the mentality. I cannot but I do detect the vague paradox: Mexico wants Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California back so that it resembles Mexico, which many Mexican citizens would then leave because it had become, well, Mexico. What is this strange attraction toward a country that, in so many formal announcements both south of the border and among open-borders advocates north of it, is supposedly suspect?