The radioactive president

In his best column in months, Thomas Friedman sums up just how isolated and alone America has become under bush, who is “radioactive” to nearly all of the world’s leaders — even to be seen next to him can be the kiss of death.

Europe, for its part, has gone so crazy over the Bush administration that the normally thoughtful Guardian newspaper completely lost its mind last week and published a column that openly hoped for the assassination of President Bush, saying: “John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr. – where are you now that we need you?” (The writer apologized later.) Meanwhile, French and German leaders seem to be competing over who can say more categorically that they will never send troops to help out in Iraq – even though the help needed now is to organize the first U.N.-supervised democratic election in that country.

How do we begin to repair this jagged hole? There is no cure-all, but three big things would help. One is a different U.S. approach to the world. The Bush-Cheney team bears a big responsibility for this hole because it nakedly exploited 9/11 to push a far-right Republican agenda, domestically and globally, for which it had no mandate. When U.S. policy makes such a profound lurch to the right, when we start exporting fear instead of hope, the whole center of gravity of the world is affected. Countries reposition themselves in relation to us.

Had the administration been more competent in pursuing its policies in Iraq – which can still turn out decently – the hole in the heart of the world might not have gotten so large and jagged.

I have been struck by how many foreign dignitaries have begged me lately for news that Bush will lose. This Bush team has made itself so radioactive it glows in the dark. When the world liked Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, America had more power in the world. When much of the world detests George Bush, America has less power. People do not want to be seen standing next to us. It doesn’t mean we should run our foreign policy as a popularity contest, but it does mean that leading is not just about making decisions – it’s also the ability to communicate, follow through and persuade.

As much as bush despises the notion of a “global test” (a concept he can’t begin to understand), we are a member of the planet, we are a part of the world, we are one of many. But we wanted to do things alone, with a with-us-or-against-us mindset, and we wanted to exact vengeance on those who refused to follow bush off the cliff. We succeeded, making us weaker and more vulnerable than at anytime in our history. We have to join the world again. We have to get down from our high horse. We have to win back the respect of a world that sees a second bush term as an unsustainable blow to hope and world peace.

We have to. And we will.

The Discussion: 2 Comments

A lot of people in Europe see America as being incredibly arrogant and self serving right now, they are afraid that the US will contnue to do what is best for America without seeing the large issue, and as we all know, what’s best for America is not what’s best for the world.

I know many people living in Europe right now and have lived there myself all be it some time ago, this thought isn’t new, and it has been magnified many times by the Bush administration, and not just over terrorism and Iraq. There is a lot that Europe is not happy about and some of them go back several decades.

The hegomony over world oil supplies, non ratification of the Kyoto accord, the use of chemical weapons against the vietnamese, maintaining troops in Japan and Germany 60 years after they surrendered, US middle east policies, a refusal to stop producing biological weapons, spying on the United Nations, the suppression of blacks and hispanics, the list is very long.

People in Europe are exposed to more cultures and more international news than people in the US, so they can see that US foreign domestic and policy is very short sighted, while people in America can’t. This is an issue going back a very long way, right to the end of WWII.

What people are angry about is that the US is only acting in its own interests, it refuses to meet others on common grounds, instead insisting that it is right no mater what and it continues to do things that it says other nations should not be doing.

America is only a member of the international comunity becauseof its wealth and influence, and not because it is acting like a member. If Amaerica wants to join the internatinal comunity as an equal it must get a grip on workd history and opinion and start to think beyond its own importance.

The US must follow Germany’s example after WWII. Admit to the damage that it did, put in place barriers to stop these things going on, and to meet workd opinion of civilised and neighborly conducts.

October 28, 2004 @ 7:32 pm | Comment

I don’t disagree, but I wonder if your expectations are a little high. Does France, for example, put the world’s interests ahead of its own when there is a conflict? How much of their opposition to the Iraq invasion was due to high-mindedness, and how much to do with their own interests- weakening US power, and positioning themselves for trade opportunities in the Middle East? I suspect that the reason France is seen as a better international citizen than the US is not because they are better than them, but because they don’t have the power to do as much harm.

October 29, 2004 @ 7:22 pm | Comment

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