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"Foreign Policy by Report Card" Blamed for "Nurturing Seething Resentment Abroad"

On September 15, 2006, the State Department released the latest International Religious Freedom Report and concludes that a "generally free practice of religion" is possible in Germany, but also has some criticism:
Although the country's religious demography grew increasingly complex, the generally amicable relationships among religious groups in society contributed to religious freedom. Important religious concerns included the organization of Islamic religious instruction in schools; social and governmental (federal and state) treatment of certain religious minorities, notably Scientologists and Jehovah's Witnesses; and bans in certain states on the wearing of headscarves by female Muslim teachers in public schools. The U.S. government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. The U.S. government placed particular emphasis on support for direct dialogue between representatives of minority religious groups and relevant government officials.
Read the full report on Germany at the State Department. John R. Hamilton, who retired last year after 35 years as a Foreign Service officer, incl. ambassadorships to Peru and Guatemala, criticizes the many annual State Department reports as
"foreign policy by report card," the issuing of public assessments of the performance of other countries, with the threat of economic or political sanctions for those whose performance, in our view, doesn't make the grade. The overuse of these mandated reports makes us seem judgmental, moralistic and bullying.
He argues that these reports "nurtured seething resentment abroad", because "the tolerance of other societies for being publicly judged by the United States has reached its limits." (I don't think Germans pay that much attention to these annual reports, but some newspapers do take notice.) Mr. Hamilton explains in the Washington Post:
Each year we issue detailed human rights reports on every country in the world, including those whose performance appears superior to our own. We judge whether other countries have provided sufficient cooperation in fighting illegal drugs. We place countries whose protection of intellectual property has been insufficient on "watch lists," threatening trade sanctions against those that do not improve. We judge respect for labor rights abroad through a public petition process set up under the System of Generalized (trade) Preferences. We publish annual reports on other countries' respect for religious freedom. And more: We seek to ensure the adequacy of civil aviation oversight and the security of foreign airports through special inspections and categorizing of government performance. (…) We report on trafficking in persons and categorize the performance of every country where such trafficking is a problem, which is just about everywhere. And we withhold military education, training and materiel assistance from countries that do not enter into agreements with us to protect our nationals from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.
Mr. Hamilton's conclusion "Our public reports have reinforced the view abroad that we set ourselves up unilaterally as police officer, judge and jury of other countries' conduct." explains in part why America is more often criticized than any other country in much of the international media. Fareed Zakaria made such an argument in Newsweek last year:
I often argue with an Indian businessman friend of mine that America is unfairly singled out for scrutiny abroad. "Why didn't anyone criticize the French or Chinese for their meager response to the tsunami?" I asked him recently. His response was simple. "America positions itself as the moral arbiter of the world, it pronounces on the virtues of all other regimes, it tells the rest of the world whether they are good or evil," he said. "No one else does that. America singles itself out."
The State Department does a good and necessary job of criticizing human trafficking, lack of religious freedom and other human rights violations around the world. However, while some countries get punished, some U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia do not. Nobody should be surprised that many of America's critics are not fair and balanced either. That's how the cookie crumbles. (As always, emphasis in bold was added)


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David on :

Scientology is a dangerous cult - not a religion. The German government is correct in treating it as such.

Anonymous on :

Presidential Debate- October 12, 2000 GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: "If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us; if we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us. And our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that's why we've got to be humble, and yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom."

ROA on :

So Mr. Wilson thinks we should do nothing if other countries permit unlimited copying of the newest Hollywood movies, prescription drugs, or software. And that we have no interest in determining if certain airports are terrorist havens as far as baggage screening is concerned. It makes no difference to him if an international flight bound for NY or Los Angeles stops in a country that consistently does inadequate screening before it proceeds to the US. What harm could that cause?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Other countries manage to take care of their security needs witout issueing public reports. Does complaining about Scientology's treatment in Germany and about human rights problems in countries like New Zealand, Switzerland, Japan etc make the US safer? I don't mind those reports, but I can see Mr. Hamilton's argument that "Foreign Policy by Report Card" is "Nurturing Seething Resentment Abroad". This might explain in part (!) why America is more scrutinized in the media than any other country. The article was not written by Mr. Wilson. Was that a Freudian slip? Do you feel haunted by the Plame scandal? ;-) The article was written by another ex ambassador: Mr. Hamilton. And I think you have misunderstood him. Due to time constraints we can't provide comprehensive summaries and due to copyright we cannot quote entire articles in the Atlantic Review, we but always hope that the excerpts encourage readers to read the entire article on the website we link to. I certainly understood his conclusion in a different way than you did.

ROA on :

Re: Wilson/Hamilton. Definitely not. I always thought it was much ado about nothing. I still think so. All it did was expose the hypocrisy of the left. As far as understanding what Mr. Hamilton meant. I think I really do, but as far as I am concerned he significantly weakened his case by including reports on IP and airport security. Movies, pharmaceuticals, and software are three of our largest industries. Not protecting them would be absurd as would lack of concern about airport security. It may be true that other countries take care of their security needs w/o issuing public reports, but part of their effort probably involves reading our reports. Do we gain anything by issuing human rights reports about countries like New Zealand, Switzerland, etc.? Since many current Muslim extremists come from countries like Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, and England where Muslims were not integrated into society, they could have. Unfortunately, I am sure none of the issues that are causing problems today would have been identified 20-25 years ago. The human rights reports started in the 1970s in response to legislation enacted by Congress. Did it really take 25 years for the world to seethe with resentment about these reports. I thought everyone loved us until G. W. Bush was elected president. The world seethes with resentment about the US because we exist. The only thing that would reduce this resentment would be for everyone in the US to walk into the sea and drown themselves. And even if we did that, I am sure people would be seething with resentment because we disturbed some endangered fish.

Assistant Village Idiot on :

Oh, I think there's plenty of judgement of the other nations of the world coming out of a variety of countries. Our judgements are noticed because we are a large and powerful nation. I think that America positioning is as much a result of what other countries do to us as we do to ourselves. As to the Plame scandal, JW seems to suggest that it ended as an embarassment for Bush and the neocons. Quite the contrary. There remains an effort to find some vile thing to pin on the administration, but as usual, once the facts slowly settle in, the accusers turn out to have been wrong. There is a long collection of damages to impressions about this administration, but that is the result of the tactic of ongoing accusations, not evidence they are true. People remain very unsuspicious of accusations against Bush. I don't know of any that his critics have ever backed off and said "okay, we were wrong about that one." Law of averages alone would suggest that some accusations were false.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"Oh, I think there's plenty of judgement of the other nations of the world coming out of a variety of countries." From citizens, media and NGOs yes, but from governments as well? What government is writing annual reports evaluating religious freedom, human rights, etc in the United States? Having said that, I like the State Department reports concerning many countries in the world. I disagree with their criticism of how Germany deals with Scientolgy. Scientology is not a religon, but a business, I believe, but that is -- as always -- just my personal opinion of course. "As to the Plame scandal, JW seems to suggest that it ended as an embarassment for Bush and the neocons." Oh, please! Mr. Assistant Village Idiot, relax! ROA called the ambassador who wrote this article, Mr. Wilson rather than Mr. Hamilton. I made a joke that this was a Freudian slip. I know many Americans think Germans are always dead serious and incapable of joking. Therefore I have marked the joke with this sign: ;-) Even if I was serious, you are reading far too much into it. Please reread what I actually said.

Don on :

I'm afraid I can't agree, Joerg. Those stupid reports have been around since the 70's and have never been a point of friction before. If there is cause for 'seething resentment' it should be on the part of the American taxpayer - whose money is wasted producing reports which nobody reads anyway. So if 'seething resentment' suddenly spings into existence I think there must be another cause. Hpwever if you are correct - then the EU should look to it's back - because the EU produces plenty of this kind of thing itself. Of course the EU aren't nazis and 'war criminals' like us Yanks are - if you want a good example of 'seething resentment' you can begin with that staement....

JW-Atlantic Review on :

What EU reports are you thinking of? I know that the EU publishes such reports about countries who want to join the EU, but I am not aware of any EU report about religious freedom in the United States, Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand etc. "Those stupid reports have been around since the 70's and have never been a point of friction before." So you know how these reports were perceived in 70s...?

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