Success Breeds Resentment
To the Editor:
James Kirchick’s excellent article “The Global Popularity Fetish” [October], about the desire to appease world opinion, calls to mind a common marketing error. Many years ago I was professionally involved in the marketing of a cleaning product. Cleaners must be seen as effective, and this one was, but we also found that a fair number of people considered it “harsh.” This I identified as a problem, but in hindsight I may have been wrong. If a cleaner is considered effective, it will inevitably have some negative connotations of harshness; it’s the other side of the coin.
The same goes for a powerful empire that outperforms the rest of the world in many ways, not the least of which is doing much of the world’s “dirty work.” I have no doubt a lot of people resented the Roman Empire, but we can’t send Pew back in time to poll it. A lot of countries resented the largely beneficent British Empire enough to want to break ties with it; one notable example comes to mind. We aren’t required to choose decline because of the resentment of less successful nations—especially those who depend on us more than they like to admit to pollsters.
Wim de Vriend
Coos Bay, Oregon