Thursday, December 28, 2006

Decline and fall of the American empire 

Steve Clemons writes:
What many Americans fail to understand, is that George W. Bush's swaggering pugnaciousness and invasion of Iraq justified by the president with contrived and false excuses made much of the world very, very angry with us. That anger has been measured by the well known Pew Global Attitudes Project but by others as well.
While Bush scoffed at this global reaction, it has since hardened into power strategies -- and global leaders know that they can achieve greater legitimacy at home now by thwarting American preferences -- like in the latest UN sanctions against Iran.
American diplomacy needs to take this into account. Everything we want in the world is more expensive now -- not only because of a weakened dollar -- but because of our deteriorating political position and the anger that so many have at this country and our president.
But we do need to win some battles, or at least put things on hold, until there is someone in the White House who can begin turning around the tattered state of America's foreign policy position.
What Steve Clemons fails to understand --or perhaps just doesn't want to mention because its too upsetting -- is that the rest of the world is not going to wait around for the United States to take over again.
Nobody is going to let Commander Coo-coo Bananas and President Cheney "win some battles". Nor is the world going to "put things on hold" waiting for the American electorate to come to its senses and vote in a president who isn't a warmongering moron.
Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.
We waited for the American people to come to their senses in 2004.
They didn't.
And we have no guarantees for 2008 either.
It was really all mostly smoke and mirrors anyway -- all the stuff about how America was the shining city on the hill, the world's only superpower with the world's best military and the world's greatest democracy, and the president was the world's natural leader. It's really only been since FDR that America took on this reputation for world leadership anyway -- Woodrow Wilson was an oddball exception, but Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover were happy enough to let Europe entangle itself in Africa and Asia and the Middle East; they wanted America to remain aloof and independent.
After World War II and during the Cold War, FDR, Eisenhower and Kennedy really did seem to think the US could run the world. But since Vietnam, American presidents had realized that American exceptionalism was more myth than reality.
In reality, America was actually more like The Emerald City, and the President was more like the Wizard of Oz -- hiding a Rube Goldberg machine behind the curtain, pushing and pulling levers and setting off fireworks and puffs of smoke, making unearthly groaning noises and calliope music.
It was a useful myth while it lasted, valuable at keeping everybody else in line, particularly after the Cold War ended -- nobody dared challenge the US because, after all, it might be true. So the nations of the world continued to tip their hats to the American president.
Now the world has watched as America elected a meglomaniac ignoramus as President. Twice. Who has demonstrated that the American military is apparently still incapable of winning a war against a bunch of teenagers making bombs in their basements.
We've all seen that behind a curtain is just a deeply flawed man who doesn't know what he is doing.
So now the world is shaking itself loose from the American myth.
Maybe this will turn out to be good for the world, when everyone has to stand on their own.
Or maybe not.
But either way, the world won't go back.
The American empire has fallen and it can't get up.

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