Why does the world hate America so?
Because, remark several of the many interlocutors to be found here, the US has lost any moral authority it might have once had. Parts of the world came to that conclusion early on; whereas, observes Mahbubani, former Singaporean ambassador to the UN, a 19th-century Saudi citizen (never mind that there was no such thing) would not have dreamed of traveling to Afghanistan to battle the British—“He would have probably replied: ‘But the Afghans are not even Arabs!’ ”—Saudis now flock to battle America, the great Satan of the mullahs’ rhetoric. Americans don’t try to understand Islamic anger against them, and so “it comes as a shock to most American citizens to be told that their government may have, knowingly or not, radicalized Islam.” Other parts of the world are recent converts to anti-Americanism; much of the slide in the standing of the US in Europe can be traced to Iraq, while one of Mahbubani’s Chinese respondents finds that moment in the US treatment of Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners: “We Chinese have discovered that Americans are not really different from us. We thought they were special. Now we know they are just like us.” Such discoveries will be a comedown for many American readers, but Mahbubani’s chidings are well placed. Who would want to live in a village in which 4 percent of the inhabitants create 25 percent of the pollution? Who would want a neighbor who insists that it’s up to him alone to define what “neighbor” means? Who could not despise a nation that, by going to war without UN backing, “tore a hole in the very consensus that had been an American gift to the world”?
America, Mahbubani urges, needs to give up its insularity and start caring about what the world thinks, and about living up to its promise. Its leaders would surely benefit from reading Beyond the Age of Innocence—but fat chance, so get ready for more hatred to come.