Friday, March 14, 2008

Kouchner's call: the thrill has gone

Asked whether the United States could repair the damage it has suffered to its reputation during the Bush presidency and especially since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Kouchner replied, "It will never be as it was before." "I think the magic is over," he continued, in what amounted to a sober assessment from one of the strongest supporters in France of the United States. Bernard Kouchner, French Foreign Minister
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I've been living abroad for many years and have had a good opportunity to evaluate America's image in the world. I think it is important to note that, although Bush has aggravated the situation and hastened the deterioration of America's image, he was not a primary cause, only another symptom.

Symptom of what?

In one word, "decadence".

The general view is that the United States is a power in decline. Some are happy at this decline, while others are saddened by it, and still others, like the Israelis, are terrified by it, but all are in agreement that the USA is decadent.

What Bush has done is to cause a significant number of people to evaluate the USA in a Chomsky like manner. It could be said that Noam Chomsky's critique of American power is now mainstream. We owe that to Bush's clumsiness. A majority of people in the world (if we are to believe the polls) see America as the "problem", not the "solution". Its desire to project its power by any means is considered the prime destabilizing factor in the world.

To compare the foreign policies of Clinton to Bush II, would be like comparing two magicians: Clinton would be David Copperfield, brilliant, perfect execution, but only smoke and mirors in the end and Bush would be like a children's birthday magician that reaches in his top hat and instead of a rabbit, come up with only a handful of rabbit poop. Both are fakes, but one is a pro and the other is incompetent.

It would behoove the United States to not think about ordering and cleaning up other people's messes, but to engage with all its resources in cleaning up its own mess: health, education, infrastructure, governance, corruption, etcetera. It would be good if it reduced its military spending and reconstructed its manufacturing sector. The list is endless. In the meanwhile America's foreign policy should be minimalist, realist, and not engaged in Wilsonian tilting at windmills.

If Bernard Kouchner, who is one of the world's most enthusiastic "liberal interventionist", thinks the "magic" is gone, believe me that the magic is gone: gone to where, to use a Spanish expression, "the wind turns around to come back."

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