Faux Canadians

In the Oregonian on Saturday (11 December 2004), a teacher from the American International School in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Erik Ortman, wrote an essay about how Americans abroad are posing as Canadians rather than defend their own country’s foreign policies. Then he made a startling assertion. My letter to the editor below.

I haven’t spent any time outside of the country since early 2001, but I do participate in a number of online professional forums with an international (largely European) membership, many of whom have no compunction about sharing their opinions on U.S. foreign policy when the topic strays to world events. So it surprises me that Erik W. Ortman’s Dec. 11 “In My Opinion” makes its case that Americans abroad should provide “a few more clear voices explaining U.S. foreign policy and a few less assumed identities” solely on the basis of protecting themselves from citizens of other countries who “suggest the invasion of Afghanistan was anything other than an imperialist power grab.”

Ortman’s disingenuous thesis — that Americans are pretending to be Canadians when they’re away from home because they’re trying to avoid conflict over Afghanistan — somehow glosses over the entire Iraq conflict, which is the only foreign policy issue over which I’ve witnessed harsh words between my colleagues for the past two-and-a-half years. To pretend — as Ortman does by not even mentioning Iraq in his piece — that the invasion of Afghanistan is the primary issue an American is likely to be asked to defend abroad is simply misleading.