We Americans like to differentiate our playbook from the one Russia and China uses. Their foreign policy we view as self-serving, while ours is designed to serve as a beacon for human decency across the globe. But, according to the writers Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore, a whistleblower like Edward Snowden shows us the two faces of Washington, exposure which makes it harder for the government to continue to “act hypocritically and get away with it.” (The End of Hypocrisy,” Foreign Affairs, Nov/Dec 2013 pg. 22.)
Because we’ve set such a high bar for our public image, Snowden’s revelation about the depth of government spying on its citizens and allies is damaging, not to our security, but to our claims to be guided by the rule of law. We have used that moral authority to embed corresponding values “in the multilateral institutions that the country helped establish after World War II, including the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, and later the World Trade Organization.” (Ibid 23) Having been caught blatantly pursuing our self-interest, we have given our detractors grounds to question our leadership and have provided China, whom we’ve long accused of spying, with political cover.
When the distance between what our leaders say and what they do becomes too great, citizens who love their country shouldn’t ignore the doublespeak. They should insist upon an apology, coupled with assurances that the error will be corrected. As Farrell and Finnemore suggest, now that the hypocrisy has been exposed, Washington has an opportunity to decide to do better and recover its image as the defender of truth, justice and the American way. A vocal citizenry can spur that recovery along.
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