I have a confession to make -- last week this blog was not manufactured in the U.S. of A. No, your humble blogger outsourced his blogging to... well, himself, overseas.
In an example of real hardship duty, I was teaching U.S. Foreign Policy at the Barcelona Institute for International Studies to a truly international collection of students -- Spaniards, Germans, Brits, Americans, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Ghanaian, Kenyan, Turkish, Belgian, Mexican, Nicaraguan... you get the idea.
One mildly surprising finding from surveying my stidents was the extent to which many of them believed that the United States government was consciously manipulating every single event in world politics. Ironically, at the moment when many Americans are questioning the future of U.S. hegemony, many non-Americans continue to believe that the U.S. government is diabolically manipulating events behind the scenes (For example, the Ghanaians in the crowd wanted to know why Obama visited their country last week. The standard "promotion of good democratic governance" answer did not satisfy them, They were convinced that there had to be some deeper, potentially sinister motive to the whole enterprise).
As a result, I spent much of the week trying to point out the possibility of fundamental attribution error and the like. But I don't think I did a terribly good job. Trying to prove people convinced that conspiracies exist -- with some justification, to be fair -- that sometimes what you see is what you get is not an easy enterprise.
Going forward, the persistence of anti-Americanism in the age of Obama might have nothing to do with the president, or his rhetoric, or even U.S. government actions. It might, instead, have to do with the congealed habits of thought that place the United States at the epicenter of all global movings and shakings. The tragedy is that such an exaggerated perception of American power and purpose is occurring at precisely the moment when the United States will need to scale back its global ambitions.
Question to readers: how can the United States defalate exaggerated perceptions of U.S. power?
P.S. Just to be clear, I'm not saying that this kind of conspiracy theorizing in world affairs is only the product of non-Americans. For a good example of ludicrous American conspiracy-mongering about other countries, click here.