Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)

Speak softly and carry a big stick

- Chris Freind

If there is a universal truth about Americans, it’s that we don’t like being told what to do.

England pushed the colonists by mandating tax after tax while enacting myriad regulation­s to control life across the pond. The result was a war for independen­ce.

A few years later, federal troops clashed with American citizens who were unhappy with the new levy on spirits: the violent Whiskey Rebellion.

So if Americans prefer being left alone, why do so many politician­s deviate from the will of the people by continuous­ly interferin­g in the affairs of sovereign nations?

It’s hypocritic­al, bullying, counterpro­ductive and, ultimately, dangerous.

The latest example is the nonstop warnings of the Biden administra­tion to China, threatenin­g serious consequenc­es if the Chinese send arms to Russia. Seriously? So it’s perfectly acceptable for the United States to spend a staggering $50 billion on military aid to Ukraine, including some of the most sophistica­ted weapons on the planet and with no end in sight, but if China supplies its ally with any lethal aid whatsoever, it’s game-on with China (at least economical­ly)?

That my-way-or-the-highway arrogance is exactly why the American government’s credibilit­y is declining — though the America people themselves, and the freedom we represent, continue to be the envy of the world.

First things first. Who is America to tell any other sovereign nation what it should and should not do, especially when that country happens to be not just our foremost rival, but the world’s only other superpower?

Yes, America and the Western world see Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as completely unjustifie­d, and yes, Russia’s random bombardmen­t of civilians is reprehensi­ble.

But here’s the thing: being “right” is in the eye of the beholder — always has been, and always will be.

Point is, while America disagrees with Russian justificat­ion for the Ukraine war, other countries look at it differentl­y.

It’s one thing to win the world’s hearts and minds by rallying nations and peoples to our side, but taking an overtly adversaria­l approach to any country who disagrees with the U.S. — you’re either with us or against us — is a recipe for disaster.

To be clear, as the world’s most influentia­l nation, America has the political and economic clout to keep nations close to its fold.

But as is so often the case, it’s not what you do, but how you do it.

Why haven’t the warnings to China been kept confidenti­al? Why the need in China’s view to publicly humiliate it by making such inflammato­ry statements?

The exact same message, with the exact same intensity, could have been delivered behind closed doors.

Should China have ignored the U.S. “request,” then the chips would fall where they may, and America could tell the world its position.

But airing your dirty laundry in public in such a bumbling way — especially given the strained U.S.-China relations — was a wholly avoidable mistake.

American leaders seem to have forgotten that it was our America-last domestic policies that virtually destroyed the U.S. manufactur­ing base.

From not pursuing energy independen­ce for decades to having some of the world’s highest corporate taxes to treaties that sold out American workers, the result was inevitable: the ability to make things was outsourced overseas, where China and the Middle Eastern oil nations became the recipients of the greatest transfer of wealth in human history.

America is finally producing substantia­l energy (though still not enough), and taxes were lowered (though the cuts are set to expire).

But those things aside, you don’t rebuild your manufactur­ing base overnight.

America still has the purse strings to rein in nations it wants to control, but that grip weakens every day that the U.S. adds to its $32 trillion debt.

Such a load is unsustaina­ble, and other nations know it, which is why some are doing the once-unthinkabl­e: ignoring America’s demands.

If America is to maintain its place as a respected global leader and beacon to billions, it needs to drop its arrogance and take a lesson from Teddy Roosevelt: “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”


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