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Why America Must Change

Basil Enwegbara

There is no way one can spend over two years in the United States without falling in love with its great people; they are visionary, energetic, and compassionate. Populated by people of all races, America’s diversity remains its unique driving force that makes it cherished and admired by the rest of the world.

But why is it that upon these great attributes and admirations, America is today hated by the rest of the world? How come most people in the world today see America as no different from Imperial Britain or Rome? What is it that has brought America this growing hatred? Can America reverse this trend and embrace the rest of the world as a leader, to be admired for what it was throughout the twentieth century?

While America has spent a lot of time projecting the greatness of American values -- its democracy, its capitalism, and its military -- to the rest of the world, the same America has in most occasions obstructed these same values from taking root in other countries. America also has done little or nothing to learn the values and civilizations others bring on board. Since the demise of the Soviet Union, America has projected more of its national interests and cared less about the rest of the world; it’s either an American way or no way at all.

But why has America overnight turned its back on the rest of the world? Or wasn’t it the same America that helped the world fight the last two world wars; that helped rebuild Europe and Japan after World War II; that helped create the United Nations; that helped establish the World Bank; that helped liberate the rest of the world from European colonialism; that helped the world eradicate polio; and that helped bring communism to its knees? Why has today’s America fallen short of these past glories and responsibilities? In short, why is today’s America destroying the very multilateral and international institutions it helped build? Or can America build strong economic, social, and political bridges with the rest of the world by being the bullying brother?

Fighting China, India, or any developing country, with millions of poor mouths to be fed for the migration of labor intensive and environmentally polluting companies, will not be in America’s strategic interests. After all, without finding some form of economic attraction, these countries will not find any reasons to accept American leadership. America will be hated more if it only wants to look after itself.

America needs a total rethinking of its long term economic growth because there is no way it will pretend that in today’s global economy it can compete in the old, dirty industrial economy and still lead the 21st century. Doing so or thinking so is only an impossible dream of reliving the past; it is impossible in an era when the rest of the world has come a long way almost fishing in the same pond America does today.

As I have written recently, if America wants to be in this century what it was in the last century, it must invest massively in building the next generation of human capital. This new investment in the education of the next generation of scientists and engineers, who will lead groundbreaking new knowledge, will mean funding its leading research intensive universities such as MIT, Caltech, Stanford, and Johns Hopkins to focus more research in such fields as biotechnology and nanotechnology. It is only upon such investment that America can lead the new knowledge economy.

If America wants to leave a great legacy its future generations will be proud of, America must see the world beyond immediate national interests. America cannot achieve long-term security for itself in isolation, or by bashing and intimidating the rest of the world. It needs the collaboration of other nations acting as partners and stakeholders in the war against terror, whether the battlefield is at home or overseas. Truly winning this war against terror will require more political and diplomatic solutions and less reliance on the military. It will require global solutions.

America must endeavor to make more genuine friends. It needs friendship built out of persuasion, shared belief and values. Supporting a just global economic order where America shows that it really cares about the well-being of others will not only help defeat terror and restore security, but also help revive an American economy which operates within a global system.

Over these years, I have come to discover how good and compassionate Americans are. As a young nation America can learn and grow from its present mistakes. Especially given it is a country populated by compassionate men and women, America does not deserve to be hated. So, let Americans present a new and shining American image; an America that cares about the rest of the world; an America that makes efforts to reach out to others, understand others, and make others understand it.