"Torture from Afar"
For as annoyed as foreigners may get with America and Americans, there
have been two saving graces in the world's opinions of our country. One has been
its permeability. Anywhere you go, someone has an uncle or cousin in America.
The other, less openly stated, has been a belief that at some point there
are rules in America. Long periods may pass when the rules are ignored. Big boys
may bend the rules in their favor. Some offenses are never made right. And so
on. But in the end, the American system is supposed to recognize injustice and
respond -- including with public accountability for even the mightiest figures.
It has this in common with the British and some other systems -- which is what
Gandhi relied on in knowing he could "shame" the Brits. For all the increases in
liberty within China over the last generation, this is a striking difference
with the world's currently-rising power. No one expects China's current
leadership to conduct a "truth commission" about the Cultural Revolution or
Tiananmen. But people finally expect America to apply its own rules, even
against its own people. Fulfilling that expectation is not sufficient for
restoring America's image international standing. But it is