Saturday, January 12, 2008

Must America Improve its International Standing?

One of the most common criticism of the Bush administration is that it has damaged America's international reputation.

From renouncing international treaties to the war in Iraq, activists and analysts alike routinely excoriate President Bush's ideology, style, and policies. Can American foreign policy recover?

This is the topic of a symposium over at the January/February issue of Foreign Policy, "
What American Must Do?" Here's the introduction:

America’s relationship with the world is in disrepair. Anger, resentment, and fear have replaced the respect the United States once enjoyed. So, we asked a group of the world’s leading thinkers to answer one question: What single policy or gesture can the next president of the United States make to improve America’s standing in the world?
The selection of responses, by a number of prominent public intellectuals and scholars, is not as balanced as it might be. Jorge Domínguez, who is vice provost for international affairs at Harvard University, captures
the typical left-wing academic renunciations of the "Bush regime":

The United States was the leading architect of the international laws and organizations sculpted in the wake of World War II. It built this multilateral framework because it was useful and because it was right. Yet, during the last decade, the U.S. government has undermined important multilateral agreements concerning climate change, the international criminal court, and nuclear nonproliferation. It has shredded the Geneva Conventions. It has embraced dictators who should have been rightly treated as international pariahs....

Torture? Waterboarding? It is difficult to accept such dishonorable practices being used by the same country that rightly denounced the horrific abuses that its adversaries employed against U.S. soldiers during wars in Korea and Vietnam. The United States should not torture the prisoners it holds, just as it would not want its citizens to be tortured anywhere in the world.

The next U.S. president must rebuild respect for international rules and organizations, many of which the United States once helped mightily to create.
No surprises there - pretty standard stuff.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Prize winner, takes it a little further, declaring that the U.S. needs to apologize for its actions:

After the September 11 attacks, an amazing outpouring of sympathy, concern, and love for the United States sprang forth from all over the world. It was proof that there is no instinctive or deep-seated hostility to the United States, no automatic anti-Americanism. There is, of course, frequent resentment of particular policies. The Reagan White House, for example, pursued constructive engagement with the apartheid government of South Africa. Many of us in South Africa opposed this course of action vehemently, but it did not make us anti-American.

Today, the negative feelings about the United States have been provoked by the arrogance of unilateralism. The administration of George W. Bush has routinely thumbed its nose at the rest of the world and told it to go jump in the lake. It did so over the Kyoto Protocol, the International Criminal Court, and the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. But nowhere did it do so more spectacularly than in the invasion of Iraq, heaping contempt upon the United Nations and upending international law. That arrogant action has turned out to be a catastrophic disaster on all scores....

More than anything else, the United States is looked upon fondly for its remarkable generosity.... If the world’s superpower has the grace and modesty to say it is sorry, people would rub their eyes in disbelief, pinch themselves, and then smile because a new day had dawned.
Apologize? This is a strangely blinkered demand, and it's too bad, because Archbishop Tutu boasts an esteemed reputation in the fight for justice in Africa.

Indeed, given his humanitarian record, one might think he'd at least credit and praise the Bush administration for its successful African HIV project, now widely recognized as the globe's most important AIDS initiative, which has been vital in combatting the disease on the African continent and around the world. "So far, roughly 1.4 million AIDS patients have received lifesaving medicine paid for with American dollars, up from 50,000 before the initiative," according to Sheryl Gay Stolberg in
a recent New York Times report.

Tutu apparently can't see past the Bush Doctrine and our increasingly successful intervention in Iraq.
Bush Derangement Syndrome knows no international boundaries.

The symposium boasts an antidote to this anti-Bush sentiment in Fouad Ajami's essay, "
Steady as She Goes" :

There is a familiar liberal lament that the United States had the sympathy of the world after September 11, but uselessly squandered it in the years that followed. The man who most vehemently espoused this line of thinking in France, former French President Jacques Chirac, is gone and consigned to oblivion. The French leader who replaced him, Nicolas Sarkozy, stood before a joint session of the U.S. Congress in November and offered a poetic tribute to the land his predecessor mocked. He recalled the young American soldiers buried long ago on French soil: “Fathers took their sons to the beaches where the young men of America so heroically died . . . The children of my generation understood that those young Americans, 20 years old, were true heroes to whom they owed the fact that they were free people and not slaves. France will never forget the sacrifice of your children.” The anti-Americanism that France gave voice to for a generation has given way to a new order. This young leader now wants to fashion France in America’s image.

The man or woman who picks up George W. Bush’s standard in 2009 will inherit an enviable legacy. Europe is at peace with U.S. leadership. India and China export the best of their younger generations to U.S. shores. Violent extremists are on the retreat. Millions have been lifted out of dire poverty. This age belongs to the Pax Americana, an era in which anti-Americanism has always been false and contrived, the pretense of intellectuals and pundits who shelter under American power while bemoaning the sins of the country that provides their protection. When and if a post-American world arrives, it will not be pretty or merciful. If we be Rome, darkness will follow the American imperium.
Ajami argues that no great changes are required for the direction of American foriegn policy under the next administration. Indeed, the U.S. has an interest in the continued and vigorous promotion of America's historic freedom agenda, an international program boosted with ideological and military muscle under Bush 43. The U.S. will be less safe if our next leader abandons that project.


Anonymous said...

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