Daniel W. Drezner

All political understanding is local

I have an essay in the latest issue of The Spectator (U.K.) that starts from a basic premise:  politicians in one country are utterly hopeless in comprehending the domestic politics of other countries.  The opening paragraph: Ever since the United States rose to great power status, it has displayed bouts of appalling ignorance about the ...

I have an essay in the latest issue of The Spectator (U.K.) that starts from a basic premise:  politicians in one country are utterly hopeless in comprehending the domestic politics of other countries.  The opening paragraph:

Ever since the United States rose to great power status, it has displayed bouts of appalling ignorance about the politics and cultures of the rest of the world. Pick a region, any region, and one can find quotations and policies that demonstrate a breathtaking ability to think that other countries were just like the United States. During the Cold War, US policymakers continually misread the Pacific Rim. In the 1940s, Senator Kenneth Wherry of Nebraska vowed that ‘with God’s help, we will lift Shanghai up until it is just like Kansas City’. It turned out that the communists were more successful in that endeavour than Chiang Kai-Shek.

This isn’t merely an American phenomenon, however. 

Why is all political understanding local?  You’ll have to read the whole thing to find out. 

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