Interview mit Professorin Marcia Pally - Aviva - Berlin Online Magazin und Informationsportal für Frauen Interviews im Juli 2024 - Beitrag vom 28.05.2008

Interview mit Professorin Marcia Pally
Britta Leudolph

AVIVA-Berlin sprach mit der Amerikanischen Kulturwissenschaftlerin und Journalistin über ihr neues Buch "Warnung vor dem Freunde. Tradition und Zukunft US-amerikanischer Außenpolitik",...

...den Wandel der US Gesellschaft und die Amerikanische Weltsicht.

Weltweit und insbesondere in Europa wurde die Amerikanische Außenpolitik unter Präsident George W. Bush als besonders rücksichtslos und fundamentalistisch wahrgenommen. Damit einher geht die Hoffnung, dass sich dies unter demokratischer Führung entscheidend ändern wird.

Marcia Pally zeigt in ihrem neuen Buch "Warnung vor dem Freunde. Tradition und Zukunft US-amerikanischer Außenpolitik" auf, dass diese Hoffnung unbegründet ist: Die Außenpolitik der USA folgt seit jeher einer religiösen Mission und ist tief in evangelikalen Überzeugungen verwurzelt.
Die Autorin analysiert die Geschichte der US Außenpolitik und zeigt zum einen auf, dass RepublikanerInnen wie DemokratenInnen von jeher stets in dem Glauben handelten, Gut kämpfe gegen Böse, zum anderen, dass die Außenpolitik unter Bush keine radikale Ausnahme darstellt, sondern sich in die Tradition ihrer Vorgänger einfügt. Europa habe nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg einfach Glück gehabt, ganz anders erging es Vietnam und Irak. Marcia Pally plädiert für eine Neugestaltung der transatlantischen Beziehung durch die EuropäerInnen. Mit ihrem Buch trägt sie zum Verständnis der Amerikanischen Weltsicht bei und verdeutlicht die zugrunde liegenden Werte und Normen, die die US-Gesellschaft als auch ihre gewählten VolkvertreterInnen in ihrer Rhetorik und ihren Handlungen entscheidend prägen.

Marcia Pally ist Professorin für Kulturwissenschaft an der New York University. 2003 erschien ihr Buch "Lob der Kritik. Warum die Demokratie nicht auf ihren Kern verzichten darf". Sie schreibt regelmäßig für "Cicero", die "Frankfurter Rundschau", "Die Zeit" und die "taz".

AVIVA-Berlin: Hillary Clinton is the first female candidate for the presidency of the United States and Barack Obama is the first the first black candidate. What does this say about American society today?
Marcia Pally: Societies generally move slowly, cultures change slowly but inevitably. And the presence of an African American man and a woman indicates a certain accumulation of changes over the last half a century towards gender and racial equality. This doesn´t mean there isn´t sexism or racism but certain things are possible slowly now. We have not only an African American candidate for president: we have an African American in the Supreme Court, we had two African American Secretaries of State in the last eight years, one of them a female Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. The gap between that and ordinary discrimination is the gap that society must close in the next period of time.

AVIVA-Berlin: Today women have key positions in politics in the USA, for example Condoleezza Rice or Nancy Pelosi. Do you think gender has any influence on politics?
Marcia Pally: Yes, it does. It has several influences on politics from both the side of the candidates who run to get elected but also from the side of the voters. The presence of women in key political positions does not mean that gender is unimportant. It means that the gender factors no longer absolutely prohibit a woman from acquiring something that has been associated with men and considered impolite for women to have with this power. Intelligence and talent is OK for women to have, but power is associated with male virility and virtue and often with a kind of bitchiness, crudeness and other negative adjectives in women. This is still true today. It´s part of the antipathy against Hillary Clinton. She´s been in politics for 35 years as a professional. She is interested in power, in getting, winning and keeping it, as you must be as a politician. She lacks two things which would protect her against hostility that people feel with woman and power: one is the conservative proper mother position. If you are seen like that, people behave themselves around you. They speak politely, open doors, pull out chairs, don´t curse. And actually people feel good about themselves when they behave properly. This is seen very clearly in conservative parties: often female leaders first come from those parties as Thatcher or Angela Merkel. Because the men in that parties might fight against a woman but at a certain point they have the discipline of center and right parties, they pull together and behave like gentlemen.
Hillary Clinton doesn´t have that. She comes from the more progressive parts of the US political spectrum though she is now quite a centerist. But she is running on the Democratic ticket. She hasn´t got a party that takes as a virtue `polite behavior´. She can´t make use of what I call the grandmother syndrom or Maggie Thatcher advantage. The other thing she can´t take advantage of a girlish wile. Older powerful men have no problem adopting younger attractive women in a kind of daughter role to mentor them to power positions. But Hillary is too old and also too tough for that role. She is not interested in being the adopted daughter of anybody. Even if she tried, no one would believe it. So she doesn´t have the grandmother- or the daughter-option. She is stuck right there in the middle in the unfortunate wife-option, in which you have the most to deal with men and often get the worst behavior.

AVIVA-Berlin: In your new book you explain that beside economic interests American foreign policy was, and is, especially influenced by the American world view, such as the belief in liberalization and liberation. In contrast you describe how the US supported dictatorship or brought down democratically elected governments in a lot of countries in the last hundred years. How does that fit together?
Marcia Pally: It fits together directly. The American world view stresses individualism, self-reliance, can-do-ism, future orientation, the possibility of improving and bettering oneself and mankind - these come certainly from our frontier experience, self-reliance, individualism, make it by yourself comes from inheriting British liberalism and also from evangelicalism, which is the factor least familiar to European audiences. With this belief of individualist liberty and the possibility of bettering oneself when one is free also comes the Americans feeling obligation to improve other people through liberty. And liberty in the USA emerges also from this 18th century idea that liberty is economic and political. The 18th century was very progressive and in its concept economic and political liberty go together because they went together then. This vision of liberty remains very deep and very powerful in the US outlook. Such that economic liberalism is thought to bring political liberty. If not immediately then soon or eventually as it did in America. Political illiberalism - socialism, communism - is assumed to be not only bad economically for America and for the target country but also bad for political liberty in the target country. So the "Verschmelzung" from economical liberalism to political liberty is very fast and very deep in the American outlook.

When the US have seen governments in the developing world that didn´t have as a priority economic liberalism, the US felt not only free but obligated to get rid of that government and bring in a government that would establish economic liberalism. Of course in every case certain corporate business interests had very crude and direct aims in many developing worlds but a few corporations could not move a country as large and variegated as the USA unless the population itself in some very deep way also believed that economic liberalism is fundamental to political liberty. And cases where that is not true do not crack the belief. Beliefs are very strong and change slowly.

AVIVA-Berlin: What is the American public view on interventions like this?
Marcia Pally: The US started intervening in the developing world directly with military force at the end of the 19th century. Prior to that we intervened with lots of military force for our continental invasion and in 1848 we also went to war against Mexico to steal half of its country - under a pretext. So, I would say roughly since the first half of the 19th century Americans have not been uncomfortable with any of these interventions. Not because they are cynical but because in a very deep and straight forward way they believe that - and even if this belief is not articulated in words - there is a cultural assumption that economic liberty is better for America, its better for the target country, it is a pre- or co-condition for political liberty and as America expands its liberal economic circle so too does the experiment in liberty and freedom expand, eventually. So the only instance of mass protest against this long history of interventions was against the Vietnam war. And we saw a similar discomfort with the Iraq war as the Iraq post-war became a military mess. When Americans do not see themselves as liberators they get extremely uncomfortable. They don´t want the kids dying unless it is dying for a good cause. Perhaps the rest of the world doesn´t see it as a good cause, this liberalism-liberty-cause Americans see it as good.
But in most of the cases the US people have not felt overwhelmingly uncomfortable. When a portion of the population was protesting against Vietnam, there were many other US-interventions that the US was engaged with in the developing world, in Indonesia and Latin America that the American public in any significant way didn´t respond to.

AVIVA-Berlin: Is America able to learn from mistakes in the past?
Marcia Pally: Yes. America learns from mistakes in two ways: it learns from tactical mistakes so it changes, improves, modifies its tactics to get to its goals. It also learns about its goals. For example about the goal to liberalize the world economy and thereby liberate the world. But much more slowly and it´s also not clear what we are learning, because tactics are easier to adjust. But to ask cultures to change its basic world view is asking a lot and usually folly to expect. It takes a long time of evolutionary accumulation of changes.

AVIVA-Berlin: For a long time the American foreign policy has been distinguished by a rigil denial of Communism as well as a number of proxy wars against the Soviet Union. What is the cause of this anti-communist position?
Marcia Pally: Communist economics appeared from the outset to contravene Americas basic belief in free markets - economic liberalism. In a socialist economy, a centralized planned economy, the basic premises were against that and so it seemed illiberal and economically and politically unfree to Americans. Stalin, Mao and other leaders gave America a lot of evidence that certainly these sorts of government could be very unfree. What America didn´t distinguish was between socialist totalitarian governments and other sorts of socialist proposals. The US reacted very strongly against a wide range of economic proposals. And under this category fell a wide range from minimum wage, land reform or nationalizing movements or nationalizing businesses. Places like Guatemala or the Domenican Republic under Bosch and others are examples of non-communist democraticly elected governments with some socialist policies. And the US could not make the distinction between that and what they saw as dangerously unfree: communist economics and authoritarian politics. Not making that distiction they just targeted all for destrucion where possible, isolation, overthrow.

AVIVA-Berlin: The media is said to be the fourth power beside legislative, executive and judicative in a democratic state. Which role does the American media play in the intermediation of foreign policy to the public? How critical or independent is the American media?
Marcia Pally: America has a fairly wide range of media, wider now even with the internet. You can see many links to highly critical sites on the internet. The pictures from Abu Ghraib were released through the media. We have a range from right wing to centerist to left which influence audiences. The important thing to remember about media in any society is that the media do not land from another planet. They come from that society and they will have some underlying assumptions, values, beliefs about how the world works as the rest of the society does. They are inside of the society they are talking about and function inside what I call the limits of the possible within any society, there are deep cultural limits of what is possible because of the deep world view. That´s as true of Germany as it is in the US.
I should give an example about the media: right now, there is a video circulating all over on YouTube in which the MSNBC´s host on "Hardball" really rips apart a representative of the Bush administration and exposes that he does not know what the 1938 "Munich pact" was, who did it, why they did it and what was wrong with it. And therefore he does not know the meaning of the word "appeasement" which was brought up by President Bush in his talk in the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel. This topic came up because of something direct that the President said and the talkshow host absolutely ripped this Bush representative apart. He made an absolute fool out of him and it´s all over the internet. The picture that the US media is onesided is too simplistic.

AVIVA-Berlin: Foreign policy in the US has been driven by the effort to keep the US independent and powerful. Which possibilities do you see for the EU to influence and critizise the US foreign policy?
Marcia Pally: I would like to see the EU to take a larger role in global affairs. Not as a critic of the US: we´re not your kid or ward. Criticising the US can happen from time to time also through NGOs or others. The US isn´t the source of all evil in the world. It does many good things under its obligation to liberalize and liberate and it did spectacular things in many ways in postwar Europe as Europeans know. So often it is thought that if Europe is going to take a larger role in the world they would have to decide to take a pro- or anti-American role. I think that´s not necessary and realistic because it´s reactive. The EU is its own entity, has more people than the US, is enormously rich, and technologically expert.
The US can take care of itself. Europe has its own ideas about how to perceiving the world, how to address problems from the environment to the globalized economy to hot spots if there is political violence.
Europe is a mature culture. It has learnt especially in the last 100 years how to become a model for people instead of imposing ideas or to let other people work on their own but giving technical, educational, economic assistance. It knows a lot about engaging people as a way to keep them in the game of moving away for example from violent positions. The EU potentially has a lot to offer. Just do what you think is the most productive. If it won´t work, you´ll modify your approach and learn from your own ups and downs.

AVIVA-Berlin: In the future it is possible that countries like China, Russia or India could take a leading role in the world. How well is America prepared for the future?
Marcia Pally: What it looks like now is that we are already having dispersed power and that the US isn´t going to be replaced by a single hegemony: China obviously, possibly India, some Third World countries as Brazil do exercise some power or will in the future. We don´t know what will happen with Russia. There is no reason to think that because the behavior of other political actors change that the US will change. Again, cultures and assumptions change slowly. Assumptions or world view may limit the degree to which the US can change. On the other hand cultures are not static. But they don´t change at the speed of politics or elections. So what one might expect is that the US will for a long time continue a good deal of behavior from a framework that it has had for the last 150 years. And slowly in interacting with the rest of the world certain things may change or will change.

AVIVA-Berlin: Do you plan to publish your book in America, in the English language as well?
Marcia Pally: Right now there are some English language publishers considering it. This version is written for a non-American audience, primarely for an European audience. And to publish it for an American audience would require a change in perspective because outside the US people are the recipient of the US foreign policy. In the US ultimately Americans are responsible for US foreign policy. The research and the history is the same but the perspective on all of this would be different. That will have to be reformulated. We will see what happens.

AVIVA-Berlin: Thank you very much.

Please do read our review on "Warnung vor dem Freunde. Tradition und Zukunft US-amerikanischer Außenpolitik".


Beitrag vom 28.05.2008

Britta Leudolph