Friday, May 21, 2010

Defending the Right to Criticize

Boz makes a persuasive case for foreign leaders pointing out a nation's foibles:
Just like the Republican critics, whenever US politicians (and sometimes pundits) call for reforms in various Latin American countries, some leaders complain that the US is interfering in their domestic politics. I disagree. I've long thought those claiming violations of "sovereignty" over verbal criticisms are really just trying to avoid legitimate and uncomfortable debate.

I think it's an excellent demonstration of our democracy that we let a foreign leader address our Congress, criticize some of our laws and call for reforms. When asked, "How would you feel if a Latin American leader made criticisms of the US domestic politics?" the answer is that I think it's great. I encourage it. I may not agree with them, but I'm open to hearing their opinion.

The hemisphere needs to get over the "stop interfering in my politics" mentality as a way to dodge criticisms. Many of these "domestic" issues actually have transnational effects and even ones that don't are worth discussing. No country should let another country control its public policy, but that doesn't mean that they can't have opinions. It's good for hemispheric democracy and public policy to have more debate, not less.
He's absolutely right on the merits, and I definitely agree that many of the embraces of sovereignty and anger about interference are just covers so as to "avoid legitimate and uncomfortable debate". Were I a congressman, I'd like to think I'd feel the same way. Whether or not Calderón was wise to attack SB 1070 and call for an assault-weapons ban is another question. Perhaps he made the calculation that he has only two years left, and that he wasn't going to get anywhere on those issues anyway, so he had nothing to lose (and much to gain domestically) by opening fire with both barrels. But if he wanted to open Americans' eyes and tilt the debate on immigration and arms trafficking in a direction more sympathetic to Mexico so that in the not-too-distant future progress may be possible, this probably wasn't the best way to go about it, especially with a Republican congressional majority likely on its way in November.

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