A Real Bridge to the 21st Century
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.
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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