Obama’s world diplomacy is undeserving of criticism

Our View

Critics from the Right have been voicing outrage over President Obama’s bow to the Japan’s Emperor Akihito while on a recent trip to Asia. We here at the Hi-Line, however, applaud President Obama’s efforts towards improving our image to the world and conducting dialogue in a respectful, appropriate manner.

Growing up in the melting pot that is America, we have always been taught to respect other customs and ways of life. For example, if we normally wear shoes around our house but find ourselves in a place where shoes aren’t allowed on the carpet, we respect that request (assuming we want to make a favorable impression). The principle also applies to how we go about diplomacy. Obama’s deep bow from the waist is considered a sign of respect in Japanese culture, and nothing could be more appropriate while we are trying to regain a sense of legitimacy from the rest of the world. What better way to strengthen friendships than to show interest in and understanding of the other’s culture?

Not only is the criticism inappropriate, it is also hypocritical. Take this example: In an interview with Politico.com, former vice-president Dick Cheney stated, “There is no reason for an American president to bow to anyone. Our friends and allies don’t expect it, and our enemies see it as a sign of weakness.”  Nearly two years ago, however, Cheney was a bit more understanding when then-President Bush sword danced with Wahabists, or when he famously held hands with Saudi Royalty three years prior to that.

Countless historical examples further mirror Obama’s actions.  In 1971, Nixon bowed to Emperor Hirohito. In 1989 George H.W. Bush attended and respectfully bowed at the emperor’s funeral. Clearly, the gesture has been repeated many times throughout our relations with Japan.

Building congenial relationships with our neighbors is crucial as globalization rapidly increases our contact with the outside world. Finally, it seems, we are carrying out prudent diplomacy that is terminating the stereotype of an America that acts separate from and superior to the rest of the world.

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