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Friday, October 15, 2004

What's so wrong with Bush? Part 2.

Continuing with highlights from the New York Review of Books section on "The Election and America's Future," here are key sections from one of the two essays I found most compelling. Former U.N. Undersecretary-General Brian Urquhart explains why the world has recognized the United States as a legitimate international leader for generations:

Like many people all over the world, I had long taken for granted the unprecedented international position of the United States. History's most powerful state, lacking conventional imperial ambitions, was widely accepted as leader and mentor, and was respected as a generous source of aid and support in times of trouble. Since World War II, in spite of one or two notable aberrations, the United States has been a source of hope and a vitally important contributor to stability and progress for most of the world.

Guided by Franklin Roosevelt's vision of a world of collective security, justice, and law, his successors, despite the constraints of the cold war, worked with other governments to build a structure of international agreements and institutions that would eventually make such a world possible. This emerging international structure provided a setting for America's leadership.

But President Bush has sharply turned away from that tradition, harming the ability of the U.S. to lead:

In striking contrast to the pragmatic internationalism of FDR, Harry Truman, George Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower, and the leaders that followed them, the ideology of the George W. Bush administration is basically unilateralist, exceptionalist, and anti-internationalist. . . .

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, unleashed a worldwide outpouring of support and affection for the United States, a country that had traditionally done so much for others. When the dust cleared away, however, the Bush administration's exceptionalist approach to international affairs was as rigid as before. In fact, its scope was dramatically broadened by the announcement of a new national security doctrine—unilateral preventive or preemptive war—to replace the longstanding policy of deterrence and containment.

While the world was still in shock from September 11, the United States action against the Taliban government in Afghanistan, the unrepentant host of al-Qaeda, received wide support as a legitimate act of self-defense. However, the evident determination of Washington to attack Iraq, allegedly to deal with Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction, revived and intensified international concern and resentment. . .

The false rationale for the second Iraq war, and Washington's openly expressed contempt for those who questioned it, has antagonized international opinion at a time when worldwide solidarity against fundamentalist terrorism is desperately needed. . .

The stature and credibility of the United States are at their lowest ebb at a time when the world is greatly in need of wise and steady leadership on many vital global problems. It is also a time when the United States itself desperately needs the confidence and cooperation of other nations to deal with terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the related threat of rogue or dysfunctional states, and other emerging dangers.

To have drastically eroded, in less than four years, the position of respected international leadership built up by the United States over the past hundred years or more is an extraordinary achievement. With its existing worldview, the current administration cannot hope to restore that position.

That's damning.

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 15 October 2004 at 5:51 PM

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