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ignorant America

Posted on February 11th, 2012 at 14:21 by John Sinteur in category: News -- Write a comment


In a fascinating discussion on PBS News Hour, Zbigniew Brzezinski, (US National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981) promoting his new book, Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power, criticizes the American public’s understanding of world affairs as the least-informed of the developed countries of the world.

We see the consequences of an American public’s ignorance of world affairs in America’s foreign policy. How did this happen and what can be done to turn the tide? To enable real understanding of world affairs by the American public?

JEFFREY BROWN: Do you think the American people, the American political system is prepared to respond to this crisis you’re talking about? You’re talking about when you use words like diminishing power or a partner, rather than leader, balancer, these are sort of new terms that I wonder if people are prepared for or are able to respond to.

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: I think you’re really raising the fundamental question, because the part that’s dealing with America focuses not only on our economic social problems, but very much on what you have just right now said.

We are a democracy. We can only have as good a foreign policy as the public’s understanding of world affairs. And the tragedy is that the public’s understanding of world affairs in America today is abysmal.


ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: It is ignorant. It is probably the least-informed public about the world among the developed countries in the world.

  1. I am fairly sure that the average populace is just as ignorant in every single country, from France to Sweden to the UK.

  2. Most Americans think so too, evincing the problem.

  3. I have been to exactly one Western country other than the US, so I don’t know much. But living in Thailand I tend to meet a lot of people from all kinds of Western, developed countries. Just the other day I met a man who stopped going to school at 14 or 15 from Denmark. He was way more informed just about foreign affairs than 90% of my graduating class at the “Honors College” that I attended. (Graduating class of 2011.) A whole host of other people who consider themselves very under informed about politics and world affairs will still run circles around me, and I certainly know more than 90% of Americans. People from every Western power that I’ve met have very informed opinions about US politics, both domestic and foreign. By any measure, we are way behind the curve.

  4. Well your graduating class is probably back in the USA, and you’re meeting people who are travelling abroad from other places, a somewhat self-selecting group of people interested in the world, but I take your point. And I think Mr. Big is saying something that everyone knows but is afraid to talk about. Ignorance is very easily misled. Lack of critical thinking is dangerous.

    On the other hand, the foreign policy of the US has been made, over many years, by a bewildering variety of brilliant, well-informed minds*. And it’s been a horrible, horrible process, with horrible results. I suppose it could have been worse. C-.

    * Of the top of my head, McNamara, Kissinger, Shlesinger, Mr. Big, Rumsfeld, Mme. Clinton. Lots of smart people with (perhaps) good intentions.

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