Why no apologies?

“Why no apologies? Because America, operating under conservative ideology, is seen as the world’s ultimate legitimate authority, whose actions define what is right.”– George Lakoff, explaining Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney frequently denounces Pres. Obama for “apologizing for America.” He never quite says that America has done nothing wrong or even that it has done nothing apology-worthy, but that no president should ever apologize for it. He named his campaign book “No Apologies: The Case for American Greatness.”

As I mentioned the other day, fact-checkers who studied the text of Obama’s statements during what Romney calls Obama’s “apology tour” or 2009 generally conclude that Obama didn’t actually, literally apologize. But to me, that’s not the main point.

In a piece for “Reader Supported News,” liberal linguist George Lakoff and co-author Elisabeth Wehling  take on the “no apologies” meme and do a good job of explaining what Romney hopes to get out of it. Here’s an excerpt:

“Romney’s use of ‘apology’ for diplomacy will continue to surface. Here is what Romney said in his book: [Obama] ‘has apologized for what he deems to be American arrogance, dismissiveness, and derision; for dictating solutions, for acting unilaterally, and for acting without regard for others; for treating other countries as mere proxies, for unjustly interfering in the internal affairs of other nations, and for feeding anti-Muslim sentiments; for committing torture, for dragging our feet on global warming and for selectively promoting democracy.’ A great many other Americans agree with Obama that such an approach to foreign policy must end because it does not lead to peace.

There is a clear division here on what American foreign policy should be. America, Romney suggests, should continue those behaviors that characterize a foreign policy based on force and intimidation as opposed to treating other nations with the respect required for effective diplomacy and the protection of human life around the world.

The Heritage Foundation, when discussing President Obama’s diplomacy efforts in 2009, used the apology frame that also Romney adopted: “Apologizing for your own country projects an image of weakness before both allies and enemies. It sends a very clear signal that the U.S. is to blame for some major developments on the world stage. This can be used to the advantage of those who wish to undermine American global leadership.”

Romney’s statement has to be seen in this larger context. It does not merely reflect Romney’s attitude and it is not just about this political moment. The frame he chose reflects a core belief among extreme conservatives about foreign policy, diplomacy, and America’s role in the world.

Romney’s framing of the events goes far beyond an attempt to score political points in the midst of a national tragedy. It is intended to strengthen extreme conservative beliefs about American foreign policy. Why no apologies? Because America, operating under conservative ideology, is seen as the world’s ultimate legitimate authority, whose actions define what is right. Therefore, there should be no need to apologize for doing what is right, and since that authority must be maintained, it would be wrong to apologize even if an apology were warranted. Even operating diplomatically, with real mutual respect, would be showing weakness by giving up the authority that should be maintained in all negotiations. That is a view that poses a real danger to peace both in the US and abroad.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 09/18/2012 - 08:38 am.

    Diplomacy

    …is so…20th century.

    In an individual, the attitude described is a fair example of megalomania, or, as I tend to think of it, “Dick Cheney Disease.” On a national or societal level, there’s little difference between what’s described in the piece –

    “…America, operating under conservative ideology, is seen as the world’s ultimate legitimate authority, whose actions define what is right. Therefore, there should be no need to apologize for doing what is right, and since that authority must be maintained, it would be wrong to apologize even if an apology were warranted.”

    – and Attila the Hun, or any number of other dictatorial and authoritarian regimes dotting the historical landscape. There’s nothing admirable or, in the historical sense, accurate, about this viewpoint. Every great power that has ever existed has fallen, and has done so while believing absolutely in that fantasy.

    “…That is a view that poses a real danger to peace both in the US and abroad” might be one of the great rhetorical understatements of the still-young century.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/18/2012 - 08:43 am.

    “Obama didn’t actually, literally apologize..”

    I think that would make an absolutely *fabulous* bumper sticker!

  3. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/18/2012 - 08:50 am.

    No apologies, ever?Sounds

    No apologies, ever?

    Sounds like a sociopath, or someone who regards themselves as approaching godhood.

    Hmmm…..Mitt does swing that way.

  4. Submitted by chuck holtman on 09/18/2012 - 09:42 am.

    Let’s consider most charitably

    The “no apology” view. We would conclude that it is not an actual moral stance, since it is plainly infantile and something for which we chastise our own seven-year-olds. Instead, it is a tactical stance: the notion being that quite obviously “we” (such as it is) have myriad reasons to apologize for the actions of those acting on behalf of our country over the years (as would those of any country, proportionate to the power their country has wielded in the world). But, the argument would go, the facts of the world are such that in the tactical pursuit of our goals, it is disadvantageous to recognize that.

    So there are two realms of debate: What are our goals, and what is the best tactical route to achieve them. As to goals, the left aspires to a world based as much as possible on mutual cooperation and maximizing individual opportunity and freedom (while recognizing that real threats to a stable order need to be managed). The right, while it speaks of spreading democracy, sees a war of all against all, a zero-sum world, and is determined to gain as much control as possible of the world’s wealth and pacify those who would threaten this effort. So the disrespect to the rest of the world that impedes cooperation and fosters destabilizing violence; the military aggression that murders innocents, victimizes one’s own young people and creates massive national debt; and the global movement of capital that dispossesses local communities of their ability to determine their conditions of life are seen by the left as tactics destructive of their goals, but by the right as the “creative destruction” that leads ultimately to achieving theirs. So the “no apology” issue wears the garments of tactical argument but is really about profoundly different goals.

  5. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/18/2012 - 09:47 am.

    More specifically, in Mormonism, a faithful male Mormon will become the God of their own planet after their death.

    (quote)
    ….According to Mormonism, there are an infinite number of planets like earth in the universe, each with their god or gods who were once men who have evolved into godhood. Mormon theologian and Apostle Bruce McConkie states, “[A] plurality of gods exist . . . there is an infinite number of holy personages, drawn from worlds without number, who have passed on to exaltation and are thus gods.”…

    http://wri.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/mormon-god.html
    (end quote)

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