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27.5.03

(Part 2: my response)

A charitable reading of this article would be that it's a restatement of the old saying "the perfect is the enemy of the good." So something must be done about the forces of perfection, so that their second-guessing doesn't undermine the good. What that something is is never revealed, suggesting that it's something most readers wouldn't like to hear -- perhaps a revival of the Sedition Act, or maybe just a repeat of the public scorn that brought down the Dixie Chicks. I'll be charitable and assume Naim was short on space, but it comes off sounding like a sort of veiled threat that could be averted if the lite anti-Americans get the message.

The problem with this article is that it places the blame on the lite anti-Americans. American policy is taken as given, so the question is whether the public will make the most of it by supporting it, or undermine it by criticizing it. But the lite anti-American position is based on the idea that American policy is not a given. It could get worse -- slipping away from that on-the-balance-good status -- if it isn't constantly urged to be better. And that it could feasibly be better than it is.

Naim grants the assumption that both pro-Americans and lite anti-Americans ultimately share the same ideals and differ only in their degree of idealism/pragmatism. So here's a way that America could defuse the threat of lite anti-Americanism: live up to those ideals. Instead of telling people to stop complaining, stop giving them something to complain about.

Of course, it's also possible that I'm interpreting his category of "lite anti-American" too broadly. The only concrete clue he gives for identifying what level of dissent constitutes anti-Americanism is a reference to a French book about how Republicans staged September 11 as part of some evil plot. While the book's sales were high, I suspect that a large proportion of people who bought it were motivated more by fascination with weird theories and curiosity due to the book's hype than by inclination to actually believe it.

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