Ever wonder what our nation looks like to folks from afar? In this feature, Home News From Afar, we look at how a uniquely American story--the kind of news we have trouble explaining even to ourselves--is being told overseas.
Let's be honest, this Petraeus thing is just odd. So odd that we are having trouble giving it a name because it's basically an undulating charybdis of adultery, ill logic, adults acting stupid, and embarrassment involving people, some of whom who are supposed to be the most upstanding Americans in the country. And it's because of that—that this involves America's most respectable citizens—that had us wondering how this all looks to everyone who doesn't live here. What does this funny business look like to a French, German, or an Iranian columnist? It's just our luck that Google Translate can get you some answers.. Here are some of our favorite bits of of international opinion on the scandal with a stranglehold over the United States.
Germany: This Doesn't Bode Well for White Guys "White man, what now?" is the title of Susanne Koelbl's column on the Petreaus affair for Der Spiegel. Oh boy. "What does Mitt Romney's election defeat have to do with the fall of America's greatest general?" Koelbi asks. "Both fates attest to [the fact that] the white man, who currently still governs the world, is facing his evolutionary end." Whoa. Harsh. Evolutionary end? Seriously? Well, yes, we don't need Koelbl to explain that both Petraeus and Romney are both Caucasian. What we do need a bit more is what their skin color has to do with their defeats or falls, which she explains is having to do with adhering to puritan, white, elite ideals—not being in touch with minorities for Romney; being the perfect example in Petraeus's case. "The two men could not be more different. Yet that which brought about their downfall was the same: They existed in their own world with elitist ethics, absurd and remote from everyday life, with halos. In the end, they got carried away in the labyrinth of their own sparkling ideologies," Koelbi writes. "In the end Romney and Petraeus had to bend the rules of their own ideologies, Romney his ivory tower aloofness, Petraeus his ruthless perfectionism; self-destructive traits of the white elite.”
France: Americans Are Nosy Hypocrites "In a few hours, as if all of a sudden, the knights of the American virtue had awakened," writes Fabrice Rousselot, French publication Libération's New York correspondent, who was surprised that we all care so much about Petraeus's love life if national security wasn't at risk. "Yesterday, in a surreal press conference, a reporter asked the spokesman for the White House if the president was not 'disgusted by it all,'" writes Rousselot. Rousselot uses surreal not to describe of the crazy circumstances, but to describe the gall of the reporter and the audacity of someone asking the president to give us the lead on how morally outraged Americans should be.
The U.K. Would Be Laughing If We Weren't So Mind-Numbingly Incompetent "How does this comedy relate to the horror of Benghazi, when four American citizens were killed at the tail end of what increasingly looks like an intelligence operation gone bad?" writes The Telegraph's Tim Stanley, who is a historian that recently penned a biography of Pat Buchanan, which sort of explains why he has such a divergent view from Rousselot. "Petraeus’ fall from grace looks innocent as much as adultery can be innocent. But its proximity to the Benghazi disaster makes it a lot more important," he adds.
Iranians Want to Remind Everyone That Petreus and Broadwell Used Al Qaeda Email Tricks: "The illicit couple apparently used a trick, known to terrorists and teenagers alike, to conceal their email traffic," writes Iranian state-sponsored Press TV. You have to remember that this is the news team that used an image from Day After Tomorrow to give Iranians a "realistic" view of the damage Hurricane Sandy wreaked on the East Coast. So in this news report, they're driving home the fact that what Petraeus and Broadwell did (use dummy e-mail accounts) is something al Qaeda operatives do even though they fully admit teenagers do the same thing. They also ran and interview with journalist David Lindorff, a contributor to Businessweek and Salon. "[H]owever an American investigative journalist maintains that the real "moral failure" is the conduct of 'imperialist wars' by the U.S. military." they write. That isn't exactly Lindorff said—he was making a point that calling something a "moral failure" like this is a slap in the face compared to the number of deaths of civillians at the hands of the military in countries overseas.