Passive aggression is something with which I’m intimately acquainted. I’ve had more than my fair share of it, both giving and receiving, and it occurred to me while watching coverage of the lost CIA drone over Iranian airspace that passive aggression, a psychological phenomenon that’s dogged me for years, could actually constitute the basis of an effective foreign policy.
Let me explain. Think of the world as a big family, with each nation forming a person. The United States, in this scenario, would be the domineering father, telling everyone what to do, how to do it, and when. Naturally, the other members of the family (China, Russia, India, Japan, the EU, and everyone else) easily tires of the tirades that Uncle/Father Sam goes on, conveniently ignoring him when possible, undercutting him at every given point and silently sabotaging Daddy Dearest when able. This family dynamic has largely failed. Everyone resents Domineering Daddy, and has come to silently rue membership in the said global family. Why do we/Daddy Sam engage in such behavior? We’re control freaks.
Americans, since the end of the Second World War, have felt that we’re obligated to run the world. We don’t trust the other members in the global family to do their bit, and we, frankly, enjoy the power. As a result, noone really listens to us, and we anger easily when others don’t follow our lead. And this is where the more psychologically abusive, manipulative side of human behavior comes in handy. Passive aggression would work wonders on our foreign policy. Basically, even though we’d be lying, we should just stop caring (outwardly) about certain issues. North Korea and Iran either have or are trying to get nuclear weapons? Our response should be: ‘Fine, let China and Russia deal with it. We don’t care.’ (Even though we really, really do). Suddenly, even though we’re not taking the outward lead, our reticence would be the best possible deterrent to nuclear proliferation. In the vacuum of US involvement, other countries, those that actively oppose us, would be forced to carry out our policy perorgatives for us, by dint of us doing nothing.
As former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew said of US involvement in Afghanistan: ‘…that’s their problem. Why do you want to make it your problem?‘ And that approach, the hallmark of many a dysfunctional family, would work wonders with US policy. Passive aggression, on a personal level, is harmful. But it would work much better than the US trying to take the lead on each and every issue of global significance, or insignificance, as the case often is.