Monday, April 26, 2004

No One Else Wants the Job of World Policeman

Max Hastings has written a thought-provoking opinion piece in the Manchester Guardian.

Selected quotes:

Jim Steinburg, former deputy national security adviser to President Clinton, remarked to me a few months ago that for the cautious Clinton, policy-making was an intellectual game. "He'd try something, see how it played, push on if it seemed to work, pull back if it looked rough or the polls went wrong." The contrast with George Bush could not be more striking. He and his associates are driven by a set of primitive visceral convictions, from which they refuse to be budged by persuasion or evidence.

Samuel Berger, Clinton's national security adviser, writes of the Bushies in this month's Foreign Affairs: "Key strategists ... appear to believe that, in a chaotic world, United States power - and especially military power - is the only real force for advancing United States interests, that as long as the United States is feared, it does not matter much if we are admired."

* * * * *

To quote Berger again, the Bush administration believes the US "does not need to seek legitimacy from the approval of others. International institutions and international law are nothing more than a trap set by weaker nations to constrain us."

Yet the most likely outcome of the forthcoming presidential election is still a Bush victory. There is no reason to suppose this president will behave any differently in a second term. Unlike Clinton, the cynic and adulterer, Bush is a true believer. We are learning the hard way that, in power, true believers can be far more frightening and dangerous than cynics.

* * * * *

Yet I suggested two years ago that it is wrong to perceive Iraq as the real focus of this crisis, even if it is the proximate cause. What we really need to debate is the issue of how the world manages the United States, the world's only superpower. The matter of Iraq will some day be resolved, however unsatisfactorily. It will fade from the headlines. But the matter of America will not go away. Somehow, the world, in general, and the British, in particular, have to consider anew our relationship with the power of the US, granted the less-than-godlike nature of most of the presidents elected to exercise it.

* * * * *

Britain's defence policy today rests on the avowed presumption that we shall never have to engage in conflict without the Americans. This may represent reality, but it is also a huge European abdication of responsibility. If we are really fed up with Bush, if we recognise that no future US president is likely be entirely to our taste, we should surely get on with creating credible European armed forces. As it is, no European nation - with the possible exception of France - shows the smallest interest in spending money or displaying spine for this purpose. [Link] (emphasis mine)

Do you ever feel like you're trapped in a Phillip K. Dick novel? Am I the only one? I feel like a character in Clans of the Alphane Moon surrounded by councils of paranoids, schizophrenics, meglomaniacs, religious fanatics, sociopaths and fools.

Who was it that said that a sane man in an insane world is insane?

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