While the world debated whether an American guard at Guantanamo really flushed a Koran down a toilet, Robert Mugabe may have bulldozed the homes of 1.5 million Zimbabweans.
Few seem to have cared.
To do so would be a messy, complicated thing -- lecturing a black third-world leader to stop tormenting his own poor; pleading with other African states not to allow the genesis of another Rwanda; and, probably, being embarrassed by someone who doesn't give a hoot what a Western elite liberal says.
Mao, whose minions killed somewhere between 40 and 50 million, is still popular in China. That Communist country is deemed by many Western allies as less of a threat than the United States and its elected president, who routinely appears with a Hitler-moustache in European demonstrations.
The new general rule: Global morality is established by the degree the United States can be blamed. Millions of lives lost, vast corruption, thousands of refugees -- all that can't quite equate with a U.S. soldier showing insensitivity or an American detention center with mere doctors, ethnic food, and religious accommodations.
All this is not mere theater anymore, but serious stuff, since we are at war with thousands of troops in harm's way counting on our support. America should wake up to this near-religious hatred -- unless it is so far gone itself that it really believes the arguments of silly university-press books about our own pathologies and pernicious "empire."
So how does the United States navigate nimbly between its weariness with the thankless role of a superpower and the dangers of a nostalgic isolationism? We need to find a sort of Zen-like philosophical balance that brings both some maturity to our pampered critics and psychic relief to ourselves, without endangering our own security or abandoning our true allies -- while in the middle of a war and a polarized electorate here at home.
If Kofi Annan, who was in charge when U.N. peacekeepers committed sex crimes and Oil-for-Food dwarfed Enron's mess, really believes the U.S. acted illegally in Iraq, then he should petition to remove the U.N. headquarters to a more legal and civilized place, say Paris or the Hague. The U.S. should offer our genuine regrets while shrugging that we are not quite up to the moral fiber of the General Assembly or its Commission of Human Rights, thus encouraging such a relocation.
In matters that directly affect Europe -- such as worries about being in nuclear range of Teheran without a missile defense, the still-simmering hatred in the Balkans, and the new tensions among EU members -- we should really defer to its collective wisdom and back step. Again, we need not sulk, but go with the flow and extend genuine hopes for the success of the EU rapid-deployment forces and a more confident Germany to shoulder its "historic" responsibilities in the wake of the departure of U.S. troops.