This is well said:
When we wonder why our leaders, journalists, and deep thinkers so often have a silly view of the world, the content of their education is high on the list of explanations. As Jay says, this may well be one of the basic failings of American civilization; Tocqueville was at pains to note that Americans prefer "big theories" to the hard work of learning the facts about the world at large. Tops among these "big theories" is the twofold delusion that peace is the normal condition of mankind, and that men are everywhere the same, and basically good. So long as these follies dominate our "debate," there's little hope of getting the policies right.
Obama is a man of sweeping ideas that are not based in reality as it is. For example, he is apparently adamant about closing Guantanamo and moving those fundamentally good prisoners into the US court system or back to their fundamentally good countries so that we will enjoy universal goodwill. To him it is symbolic, important, high-minded and necessary. To me it is ignorant, dangerous, naive and stupid. From a national security perspective we are in trouble I think if most Americans are thinking like him. Bush thought like me and his approval is 28 percent or whatever it is, so I am not hopeful. I can only hope I am wrong because if I am right people blow up.
It would be fine if the people of the world were as charitable in their thinking about us as we are in our thinking about them - to the extent that we think of them at all. But they are not. The fact is they are not. I am constantly telling clients to craft their strategies based on facts and not on emotion. Emotion is no match for facts when it comes to policy making if the policies are meant to be implemented in the real world. (Not all are.) This is the major challenge of an Obama presidency. "Change we need" is not policy. Soaring rhetoric is not policy. And external conditions do not permit him to not make policy the way he was able to not address a lot of things during his campaign.
Back in the age when American schoolchildren learned to read (and so much else) from reading the Bible, we shared as a culture the understanding that humans are essentially self-centered and prideful, that the manifestations of those qualities are generally not honorable, that we war within ourselves to restrain our base impulses, and that policies should be crafted with the reality of human nature and the proper restraint of those impulses in mind. In our postmodern world such talk is silly. We have drifted a great distance in a relatively short time, and in all likelihood there is no going back, and it is what it is. There is no point in pining for the past, the task is to deal with the present as it is, the facts on the ground. I don't know what it all means except that a resurgent conservative majority is no sure thing and that the proper education of my children is my own responsibility.