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A Real Bridge to the 21st Century
Paul Corrigan

30 September 2001

World support for America after the bombings in New York and Washington appears high. I would caution Americans that appearances are not always what they seem. Business Week recently reported that beneath the surface of international solidarity with the U.S. in this time of crisis lurks a deep and growing resentment of America and its policies:

The sentiment is serious enough that it could pose major challenges as President George W. Bush solicits worldwide support for a war on terrorism. Across the 22 nations of the Arab world, strong anti-U.S. undercurrents breed tolerance of terrorist networks like those of Osama bin Laden. And as the U.S. fights back in the coming months, domestic opinion could weaken the support in Europe, Central Asia, and moderate Muslim states for sustained military action, especially if U.S. strikes kill Muslim civilians.

Business Week highlights "how much the world has changed since the end of the cold war." Consider the areas of the world that in the late 1980s and early 1990s reflected America's ability to be a positive catalyst for change. The breakup of the Soviet Union gave hope for democracy in the many of the countries that became independent. American democracy was a beacon for student protesters in Beijing at Tiananmen Square. The Iraqi army was expelled from Kuwait. The Oslo accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization gave legitimate hope for peace. American influence appeared to be taking hold. Now we see a rise of anti-Americanism. How can that be? How could we win the cold war only to see our position in the world slide?

America turned a blind eye to the world for much of the 1990s. We were consumed with a soaring economy and rising stock markets. Domestic politics took center stage when the party voted out of the White House by the people sought to regain it through a morals clause that they themselves could never pass. They then stole the White House by judicial edict. Throughout this period, America was self-indulgent. We thought of and treated the rest of the world with paternalism at best and inhumanity at worst. Foreign policy was dogged by domestic considerations. Republicans were ever quick to challenge Clinton's motives even when it was clear he was working to bring about peace in the Middle East. God forbid something positive might take place, leaving Clinton a legacy other than the one Republicans stained with impeachment. The House Managers and their cohorts all seem so pathetic, while at the same time ignorant to the damage they did to the presidency, America, and to the world. Bush took office like a family monarch and effectively told the world to "eat cake."

It looks like corporate America may finally be getting a reality check. There appear to be a number of cracks in the American Empire and that is not good for companies that want global marketplaces and cheap foreign labor. Historically, when business spoke the GOP listened. Given the Bush family ties to the corporate wing of the Republican Party George W. should be listening now, despite the pressure he is getting from the right wing of his party to retaliate and expand the military intervention. Corporate America wants stability in the world, not World War III. American capitalism has gone from an administration with Robert Rubin guiding the economy to one with Dr. Strangelove in the War Room. We all should be concerned.

The part of the story that Business Week missed is that these events also create an opportunity for nations to approach the world and each other in a different way. To date, Bush has exhibited great restraint, despite his bellicose rhetoric. Bush and the United States should seize that opportunity to pour water on the world's hot spots and show the world America stands for peace and prosperity. It is time for our new president to take bold action. Here is what Bush should do immediately.

  1. Tell the world that fragile economies, not terrorism, are the greatest threat to world peace and that America is committed to economic growth. Prove it by redirecting massive amounts of defense spending, foreign military aid, and tax cuts to infrastructure projects at home and abroad.
  2. Isolate the terrorists, move to apprehend them, and prosecute them as criminals in an international court. Acknowledge that they are a greater threat to the Middle East than to the United States and stop the rhetoric that the terrorism is state-sponsored. If evidential matter indicates states have sponsored terrorism, the world court will address it at the appropriate time.
  3. Pledge that America will not use retaliatory air strikes that would endanger civilian populations and pledge that America is committed to stem the flow of arms to the Middle East and the world. The United States, along with the United Nations, should commit the money and resources required to resettle the estimated 1.5 million Afghan refugees.
  4. Acknowledge and reverse recent foreign policy errors. Pledge American support for human rights, acknowledge our mistake in not signing the Kyoto global-warming accord, terminate the recent missile defense initiatives and recommit to past treaties, and lift sanctions on Iraq and Cuba.
  5. Appoint Jimmy Carter as America's emissary to the Middle East. Pressure both the Israelis and the Palestinians to accept Carter as arbitrator of an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement based on the gains reached at the Taba meetings. Obtain firm commitment from the world community and the United Nations to protect the future security of Israel and Israeli citizens.
  6. Pledge to rebuild the World Trade Center with the United Nations as the major tenant. Include a museum and exhibition center that will pay homage to all of the world's people that have lost their lives to terrorism. To ensure that it not just a memorial to the past but a reminder to the world community of what we share in common, include the finest children's hospital in the world for children from all countries through UNICEF.

Bush should deliver the speech from the site of the World Trade Center. World leaders and religious leaders should be invited to stand with Bush, including leaders from nations that we have defined as "rogue states," despite the domestic political considerations. Bush often refers to Churchill as the man he most admires. Churchill brought the world together at a time of crisis and helped save democracy. It is time for President Bush to lead the world out of war and into prosperity, and fulfill the legacy of Roosevelt and Churchill.

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