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Why the U.S. government is shut down: 5 theories from abroad
Our friends overseas can only watch in awe as Congress implodes
America was never all that popular in Pakistan to begin with.
America was never all that popular in Pakistan to begin with. (AP Photo/Arshad Butt)
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here's no doubt that the government shutdown has been an embarrassment for the U.S., with its friends and enemies alike looking on with amusement and/or horror as Congress descends into apocalyptic theatrics over a bill to finance the government for a mere six weeks.

The fight is particularly confusing to the U.S.'s allies in the developed world, where universal health care, another bone of contention in the shutdown fight, is as commonplace as traffic lights, clean tap water, and other hallmarks of modernity.

Here, a taste of how other countries are explaining the government shutdown.

America is insane:
In an editorial headlined, "Wake up, Jefferson, they've all gone mad!" France's Le Monde writes: "There's no rational explanation for the Tea Party's actions. It's pure hatred of the president, a conception of politics as permanent civil war."

For the French, ObamaCare is not the real issue. "This is the pretext chosen by the core extremist, fundamentalist, the Republican Party, the Tea Party, to sabotage President Obama. This reflects a growing polarization of American public life to shame the Founding Fathers of this great Republic."

America is not a democracy:
Waleed Aly says in Australia's The Age that the gerrymandering of congressional districts by Republican-controlled statehouses has rigged the system in the GOP's favor.

"To get a sense of the scale of it, consider that in the seven states redrawn by Republicans, near parity voting (16.7 million votes to 16.4 million) delivered 73 Republicans and 34 Democrats. That's a clear perversion of democracy and it's no accident."

"Freed from the need to defeat any meaningful Democrat challenge, Republican politics is now such that everyone's racing to outbid each other for the mantle of true believer. It's a classic case of a closed system encouraging ever more radical posturing."

America is a failed state — and fat, to boot:
Pakistan's Express Tribune is miffed that the U.S. will drop drone missiles on Pakistan when it can't even govern itself.

"Were the same yardstick to be applied to America that it so often applies elsewhere, it might be possible to say that it is displaying one of the symptoms of failed statehood — namely a breakdown of governance to the detriment of the populace as a whole."

"To the mystification of many, both inside and outside America, this looks like the infliction of a wound the nation — already chronically obese and with health care geared to a ruinously expensive, if you are poor, insurance system — does not need."

America has a death wish:
Clemens Wergin in Germany's Die Welt says the U.S. has made itself so ungovernable that it will lose superpower status. "America's political class has shown itself in the past few years to be as dysfunctional as we've seen European problem states to be — including Italy right now. Apparently it doesn't take old and new rivals Russia and China to shove the West down the staircase. We do it ourselves."

Americans hate their government:
Eric Grenier at Canada's Globe and Mail says lawmakers brought the shutdown upon the U.S. because they have nothing to lose — after all, America detested them well before the shutdown began.

"A political class so despised by and disconnected from the American people can hardly damage itself any further as a result of the shutdown of the U.S. government. They are likely to come out of it unscathed and as unloved as they were before it occurred."

Susan Caskie is The Week's international editor and was a member of the team that launched The Week's U.S. print edition. She has worked for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Transitions magazine, and UN Wire, and reads a bunch of languages.

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