Distinguish apologies from diplomacy


Is apologizing "un-American?" That seems to be former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's opinion, as he has expressed his disdain for what he perceives as President Barack Obama's tendency to apologize for America's actions. In an interview with CNN, Rumsfeld stated, "I think he has made a practice of trying to apologize for America. I personally am proud of America." There are two problems with Rumsfeld's statement. First, Obama's "practice of trying to apologize for America," which Rumsfeld complains about, may in reality be Rumsfeld's misperceptions about Obama's willingness to engage in considerate diplomatic discussion. Second, even if Rumsfeld is correct in saying Obama often apologizes for America, does that mean a person who is proud of America cannot — or should not — admit the nation has made mistakes?

President George W. Bush, who Rumsfeld served under, was fond of a much different style of leadership than President Obama. Bush always walked a far more headstrong and seemingly infallible path. It seemed that, every time Bush made a speech or met with foreign leaders, he was confident that America never erred. Perhaps this is why Rumsfeld views Obama's style of leadership — one that is much more diplomatic and open to the opinions of the opposing side — as a tendency to apologize. It is not necessarily that Obama has made a habit of apologizing for America. Rather, it is that Obama rarely, if ever, purports to walk the same "righteous path" that Bush was so fond of. If Rumsfeld were to consider this, he may change his mind about characterizing Obama as eternally contrite.

But let's assume that Rumsfeld is right, and that Obama really has made a habit of apologizing for the country. Does that necessarily mean Obama is acting in an "un-American" way, or that Obama is not proud of this country? It is absurd for Rumsfeld to insinuate that, because he is proud of America, he does not want anyone to apologize for it. Has Rumsfeld forgotten that the bigger person is the one who admits when he has done wrong? Maybe he never learned it in the first place. Being proud of one's country does not mean that one cannot point out the country's mistakes and attempt to make them right. In fact, in some ways, the person who does this is even more proud of his home, because he is the one aiming to make it the best that it can be.


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