February 22, 2007

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Nashua Publisher's Note: The ultimate reality show
By Jeff Rapsis

Today we’re talking geopolitics. With 2008 presidential candidates already prowling Main Street, why not?

OK, so we have this war in Iraq that’s become a real mess. We’ll eventually get out of it, but only after paying a huge price not only in blood and treasure but also in image.

Maybe we’ll have shown the bad guys we mean business. Great! But we’ll also have succeeded in transforming the United States from a beacon to a bully in the eyes of much of the world.

I don’t know about you, but this matters, and not just because I’m worried about image. Rather, it’s bad for the humanitarian ideals that I’d like to believe this country still represents.

What to do? It’s a big question, I’d like to hear from the candidates what their plans are to repair this nation’s tattered image abroad. With all the billions we give away, we aren’t doing it in a way that benefits our nation’s image—not that I can see.

We’re supposed to be so good at marketing and public relations, you’d think we’d have avoided this image crisis. But now that we’re in it, let’s use some of that savvy to stop the United States from being the nation everyone loves to hate.

Here’s a plan. Take a tiny percentage of the money we’re pouring into the Iraq effort. Then pick a relatively small nation where things are really tough—some place in West Africa, maybe. It would need to be a nation that wasn’t hopelessly corrupt or riddled with ethnic strife, a place that could hold some reasonable hope for improvement.

Then make a deal. Tell them that if they’ll agree to it, the United States will “adopt” them for 20 years. The goal would be to improve business conditions, healthcare, education, transportation and legal systems—the works, all while respecting the local culture and traditions.

People here could help. We could offer a six-month homestay in America to anyone in our “adopted nation” who wanted it, just to open their eyes about what’s possible.

The idea would be for the nation to eventually prosper on its own. Yes, we would pour money into the place, but it would be peanuts compared to what Iraq is costing us. And instead, we’d be the heroes.

It’s the same dynamic on those reality shows where a family has their house rebuilt and is then overjoyed. We could try that as a nation!

Even as the planet’s only self-styled superpower, we can’t do it all. But we could focus our efforts and make a highly publicized effort to show the world what America really stands for.

It just might be enough to wipe the bad taste of Iraq from the world’s collective palate. We now return you to your regularly scheduled local focus.