What is it with George W. Bush and his insistent demand for the gratitude of foreigners?
In São Paulo, Brazil, last week, on the first day of his Latin America tour, the president said, "I don't think America gets enough credit for trying to improve people's lives."
The complaint was reminiscent of earlier expressions of pique.
In his memoir of his year in Baghdad as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, L. Paul Bremer recalled that President Bush once told him that the leader of a new Iraqi government had to be "someone who's willing to stand up and thank the American people for their sacrifice in liberating Iraq."
Yeah, what is up with that? What does this say about President Bush?
There's a skewed view of the world reflected in these remarks. Does Bush really fail to recognize that even the most pro-Western Iraqis might have mixed feelings, to say the least, about America's intervention in their affairs—that they might be, at once, thankful for the toppling of Saddam Hussein, resentful about the prolonged occupation, and full of hatred toward us for the violent chaos that we unleashed without a hint of a plan for restoring order?
Bush may have had a political motive in making these remarks. He may have calculated that Americans would be more likely to support the war if the people for whom we're fighting thanked us publicly for the effort. By the same token, their palpable lack of gratitude, and the war's deepening unpopularity at home, might have heightened his frustration and impelled such peevish outbursts.
But this peevish imperiousness is precisely what's most disturbing about Bush's incessant concern with the proper level of fealty. The word that he repeatedly uses when discussing what he wants from nations he thinks he's helping—"gratitude"—implies a supplicant's relationship to his lord.
Sounds about right to me.