To the peoples of the world, George W. Bush's second inaugural address seemed ludicrous for one simple reason: except in the area of military bullying, "the U.S. today is a follower rather than a leader," as Michael Lind demonstrates in Thursday's Financial Times (UK) by reviewing recent developments in matters economic, diplomatic, humanitarian, political, technological, institutional... -- Michael Lind is "a former Republican who voted for George Bush in 1988. He is a former editor of National Review and protégé of William F. Buckley Jr. And probably the 'highest ranking' defector from the conservative movement," as Jim Blair put it in reviewing Lind's Up from Conservatism: Why the Right Is Wrong for America (Free Press, 1996)....
HOW THE U.S. BECAME THE WORLD'S DISPENSABLE NATION
By Michael Lind
Financial Times (UK)
January 27, 2005
http://news.ft.com/cms/s/ba2dc264-6e48-11d9-a60a-00000e2511c8.html (subscriber only)
In a second inaugural address tinged with evangelical zeal, George W. Bush declared: "Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world." The peoples of the world, however, do not seem to be listening. A new world order is indeed emerging -- but its architecture is being drafted in Asia and Europe, at meetings to which Americans have not been invited.
Consider Asean Plus Three (APT), which unites the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations with China, Japan and South Korea. This group has the potential to be the world's largest trade bloc, dwarfing the European Union and North American Free Trade Association. The deepening ties of the APT member states represent a major diplomatic defeat for the U.S., which hoped to use the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum to limit the growth of Asian economic regionalism at American expense. In the same way, recent moves by South American countries to bolster an economic community represent a clear rejection of U.S. aims to dominate a western-hemisphere free trade zone.
Consider, as well, the EU's rapid progress toward military independence. American protests failed to prevent the EU establishing its own military planning agency, independent of the NATO alliance (and thus of Washington). Europe is building up its own rapid reaction force. And despite U.S. resistance, the EU is developing Galileo, its own satellite network, which will break the monopoly of the US global positioning satellite system.
The participation of China in Europe's Galileo project has alarmed the U.S. military. But China shares an interest with other aspiring space powers in preventing American control of space for military and commercial uses. Even while collaborating with Europe on Galileo, China is partnering Brazil to launch satellites. And in an unprecedented move, China recently agreed to host Russian forces for joint Russo-Chinese military exercises.
The U.S. is being sidelined even in the area that Mr. Bush identified in last week's address as America's mission: the promotion of democracy and human rights. The EU has devoted far more resources to consolidating democracy in post-communist Europe than has the U.S. By contrast, under Mr. Bush, the U.S. hypocritically uses the promotion of democracy as the rationale for campaigns against states it opposes for strategic reasons. Washington denounces tyranny in Iran but tolerates it in Pakistan. In Iraq, the goal of democratization was invoked only after the invasion, which was justified earlier by claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was collaborating with al-Qaeda.
Nor is American democracy a shining example to mankind. The present one-party rule in the U.S. has been produced in part by the artificial redrawing of political districts to favor Republicans, reinforcing the domination of money in American politics. America's judges -- many of whom will be appointed by Mr. Bush -- increasingly behave as partisan political activists in black robes. America's antiquated winner-take-all electoral system has been abandoned by most other democracies for more inclusive versions of proportional representation.
In other areas of global moral and institutional reform, the U.S. today is a follower rather than a leader. Human rights? Europe has banned the death penalty and torture, while the US is a leading practitioner of execution. Under Mr Bush, the U.S. has constructed an international military gulag in which the torture of suspects has frequently occurred. The international rule of law? For generations, promoting international law in collaboration with other nations was a US goal. But the neoconservatives who dominate Washington today mock the very idea of international law. The next US attorney general will be the White House counsel who scorned the Geneva Conventions as obsolete.
A decade ago, American triumphalists mocked those who argued that the world was becoming multipolar, rather than unipolar. Where was the evidence of balancing against the U.S., they asked. Today the evidence of foreign co-operation to reduce American primacy is everywhere -- from the increasing importance of regional trade blocs that exclude the US to international space projects and military exercises in which the US is conspicuous by its absence.
It is true that the US remains the only country capable of projecting military power throughout the world. But unipolarity in the military sphere, narrowly defined, is not preventing the rapid development of multipolarity in the geopolitical and economic arenas -- far from it. And the other great powers are content to let the U.S. waste blood and treasure on its doomed attempt to recreate the post-first world war British imperium in the Middle East.
That the rest of the world is building institutions and alliances that shut out the U.S. should come as no surprise. The view that American leaders can be trusted to use a monopoly of military and economic power for the good of humanity has never been widely shared outside of the U.S. The trend toward multipolarity has probably been accelerated by the truculent unilateralism of the Bush administration, whose motto seems to be that of the Hollywood mogul: "Include me out."
In recent memory, nothing could be done without the U.S. Today, however, practically all new international institution-building of any long-term importance in global diplomacy and trade occurs without American participation.
In 1998 Madeleine Albright, then U.S. secretary of state, said of the U.S.: "We are the indispensable nation." By backfiring, the unilateralism of Mr. Bush has proven her wrong. The U.S., it turns out, is a dispensable nation.
Europe, China, Russia, Latin America and other regions and nations are quietly taking measures whose effect if not sole purpose will be to cut America down to size.
Ironically, the U.S., having won the cold war, is adopting the strategy that led the Soviet Union to lose it: hoping that raw military power will be sufficient to intimidate other great powers alienated by its belligerence. To compound the irony, these other great powers are drafting the blueprints for new international institutions and alliances. That is what the U.S. did during and after the second world war.