Although years and years of economic stagnation have thinned their numbers somewhat, Ugly Americans are still rather plentiful--including policymakers who act internationally. How can you distinguish these folks? In general, they all share the following attitudes and behaviours:
- Think all that's needed to set the world right is for it to be more like the US;
- Boss people around as if they have some god-given right to as an American;
- Compel others to undertake difficult policies they themselves would not dare implement.
All this brings me to the Ugly American du jour, Susan Rice.While she is rather better looking than a Larry Summers (hence not living down to the physically ugly part at least), she shares with him a penchant for all of the three distinguishing factors I've mentioned above. Until recently, she was the presumptive replacement for Hillary Clinton as US secretary of state in Obama's second term before things got...more exciting. Sure she has her fans, but her critics are legion. WaPo's Dana Milbank recently authored a hatchet job of an op-ed which underlines the fact that she has enemies not only amongst political correspondents but many in the Beltway crowd:
Even in a town that rewards sharp elbows and brusque personalities, Rice has managed to make an impressive array of enemies — on Capitol Hill, in Foggy Bottom and abroad. Particularly in comparison with the other person often mentioned for the job, Sen. John Kerry, she can be a most undiplomatic diplomat, and there likely aren’t enough Republican or Democratic votes in the Senate to confirm her.We then get to the crux of the matter as for cross-cultural communication: she has the tendency to use (rude) American colloquialisms while dealing with international peers. What's more, the classic American bullying style is very much evident in her interactions with peers on the UN Security Council:
Back when she was an assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration, she appalled colleagues by flipping her middle finger at Richard Holbrooke during a meeting with senior staff at the State Department, according to witnesses. Colleagues talk of shouting matches and insults.
Diplomats on the 15-nation U.N. Security Council privately complain of Rice's aggressive negotiating tactics, describing her with terms like "undiplomatic" and "sometimes rather rude." They attributed some blunt language to Rice - "this is crap," "let's kill this" or "this is bullshit."Hillary Clinton is Ms. Congeniality by comparison--various "Internet Freedom" and South China Sea hypocrisies aside. At any rate, if diplomacy has anything to do with securing national interests through being diplomatic, then Obama had better start looking elsewhere.
"She's got a sort of a cowboy-ish attitude," one Western diplomat said. "She has a tendency to treat other countries as mere (U.S.) subsidiaries."
To use the kind of language she prefers, "What the f^*k are you playing at, Barack?"