My first real encounter with the world outside the United States came in 1962, when I spent several months working for an anti-gouvernment newspaper in South Africa. [...] The battle against apartheid was my first exposure to serious politics, and to a nineteen-year-old, as I was then, it was overwhelming. Part of the experience was realizing that the USA was on the wrong side. Fine speeches at the United Nations were one thing, but the directory board in the lobby of the American Embassy in Pretoria, with its long list of military attachés, told a different story. […] Learning something of the cooperation between the USA and the white regime in South Africa […] was my first lesson that America was not always the noble force for freedom I wanted it to be. A few years afterwards, the Vietnam War underlined that lesson, for me and for millions of other Americans of my generation.
Later encounters with the rest of the world have underlined it in different ways. Despite President Bush’s cowboy foray into Iraq, the way most nations experience American might these days is not military, but economic. Time abroad is always an education. I had not thought much about globalization until my wife and lived for six months in India in the late 1990s. To read even India’s mainstream newspapers was a revelation. Indians were outraged by American corporate attempts to patent basmati rice and a medicinal extract of the neem tree, products that Indians had been using for centuries. […]
To travel anywhere these days with open eyes is to see a world dominated by an increasingly arrogant superpower. When it comes to a different kind of international agreement, those of which the human race has reason to be proud, the United States has refused to sign almost all of them : the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court, the ban on landmines, the Kyoto accords on global warming and many others. [...]
And yet, another type of image appears in the