Nuke ‘Em

As a European of greatly mixed European ethnicity I am always surprised at the ignorance of ordinary Americans when it comes to places that are outside the United States. Of course the USA is a great country, but it is not the only country nor is it the most important country, nor is it the country that has contributed the most to civilisation; no great religion started there and its contribution to philosophy has been distinctly on the lightweight side. These are not intended to criticise the USA, merely to differentiate it from other nations.

The ignorance of most Americans about the rest of the world is a factor that seems to determine its foreign policy; most Americans thought that the war against Iraq was to punish Iraq for their involvement in the destruction of the Twin Towers, whereas Iraq had no such involvement and was an enemy of the organisation that was responsible. Never mind the niceties of the politics, America with its brave allies brought death and destruction to Iraq in ways that far exceeded the late and unlamented Saddam Husain’s methods.  Americans then seemed to shift responsibility to Afghanistan and after the Iraq debacle turned their attention there, bringing more death and destruction.

Perhaps, some thought, that ignorance guides US foreign policy. Three American academics (Kyle Dropp of Dartmouth College, Joshua D. Kertzer of Harvard University, and Thomas Zeitzoff of Princeton) decided to find out whether there was a relationship between what Americans thought the USA should do about the crisis involving Ukraine and at the same time asked them to identify Ukraine on a map of the world. Perhaps it was mischievous but great truths can emerge from mischief.

16% of the 2,066 polled correctly identified Ukraine’s location. The further Ukraine was thought to be from its real location, the more aggressive those polled were about the USA’s military options, the greater they thought of the Russian threat to US interests and the more they thought that using force would serve the USA best.

I wonder if better teaching of geography in US high schools would lead to a more mature understanding of world affairs and in turn more sensible US foreign policy.

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