A less than rosy view of the United States

Posted: Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Eight years ago my wife Nadia and I moved from Juneau, my hometown of 30 years, to Perth, Western Australia, where she was raised. We have made a happy and successful life Down Under, and are now a family with the arrival of our lovely daughter, Aurora. Throughout we have been welcomed and helped along by many Australian friends and neighbors.

Aurora was born the day after 9/11, a fact that saved us from dwelling too much on the anguish of that moment in history. But I remember well the strong sympathy and sense of solidarity most Australians had for America at that time.

Sadly much of that has gone out the window over the Iraq war, when America forced Australia into the uncomfortable position of choosing between important alliances with Europe and Asia, and standing by America. "You're either with us or against us" does not work well for small and remote countries like Australia which are heavily dependent on good relationships with many other countries. Insensitive incidents like George W. Bush telling a reporter from the Asian Times that Australia was "America's sheriff" in the region don't help either. The long and the short of it is that based on what I hear on the street, on the airways, or in the polls, America isn't too popular Down Under these days, and this in the most willing country of the "Coalition of the Willing." I can't see how we are supposed to be more prosperous and safe if even our closest allies are unhappy will us.

But don't get the wrong idea. Australia is a wonderful place full of friendly people and I don't want to discourage any of you from coming to visit us. And I'm sure all the political stuff will get sorted out once America gets a much needed administration transplant come next November.

Sam Nelson

Joondanna, Western Australia

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