I got a very nice note from Fatima Bhutto today telling me that the WitnessLA/Huff Post interview with her had been picked up by a quite number of papers in Pakistan.
“…the response has been overwhelming,” she wrote. “People have emailed me to say how much they enjoyed reading it. They were surprised” she added, “and isn’t this sad—that the interview was done for an American audience and by an American.”
Well, it was heartening to find that Pakistani readers were eager to read about Fatima’s interview for an American media outlet. But, yes, it was a bit depressing that so many Pakistanis were stunned that we might be interested.
In the past eight years, peoples of far too many countries in the world have come to believe that Americans see things only from our own point of view—and that the perspective of anything or anyone that falls out outside that point of view simply doesn’t matter. The perception was again reinforced in the past few weeks by the Bush administration’s ham handed dealings with Musharraf and the ongoing situation in Pakistan.
And it was this same issue of leadership myopia that was at the heart of the slap-fest that occurred yesterday between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
It began when Obama remarked that, should he become President, his childhood in Indonesia would be an asset. He suggested that it gave him a leg up in understanding the points of view of countries other than our own.
Hillary Clinton slapped back by declaring that one’s experience as a ten-year-old was not exactly equivalent to all the time she’d spent hobnobbing with world leaders.
Obama swung next with the observation that a long foreign policy resume guarantees exactly nothing when it comes to wise leadership. “There are a couple guys named Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld who had two of the longest resumes in Washington and led us into the biggest foreign policy disaster of a generation,” Obama said at his next New Hampshire campaign stop. “So a long resume doesn’t guarantee good judgment.”
And God knows we could use some good judgment at the country’s helm,. We also need, as mentioned above, a president who has the ability to see beyond his or her own experience to accurately imagine how cultures and countries might perceive things. Both our security, and our ability to repair our badly damaged standing in the world depend upon it.
Whether, on the Democratic side of the presidential race, it is Clinton or Obama or Edwards or Biden who is the one most likely to posses this wider framework—plus strength, clarity of purpose, and all those other good things a President needs—is in the eye of the beholder. But more and more veteran foreign policy types seem to be leaning to Obama.
“In today’s globalized world,” he said in a foreign policy speech last spring,“ the security of the American people is inextricably linked to the security of all people. When narco-trafficking and corruption threaten democracy in Latin America, it’s America’s problem too. When poor villagers in Indonesia have no choice but to send chickens to market infected with avian flu, it cannot be seen as a distant concern. When religious schools in Pakistan teach hatred to young children, our children are threatened as well.”
The people who emailed Fatima Bhutto understand that interconnectedness all too clearly. Let’s hope we get a Democratic Presidential candidate who understands it too.