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Save the World—Dump Bush

Laura Carlsen
Date Published: 
January 01, 0001

Who would have thought the candidate who confessed to rarely setting foot outside the United States and promised a more “humble foreign policy” would be the president who put international affairs at the top of the US political agenda? The September 11th attacks changed everyone’s vision of the US in the world, but the alacrity and brutality with which the Bush administration took up the gauntlet revealed a grand strategy of US supremacy designed well before the attacks.

The National Security Strategy of George W. Bush, his cabinet, and right-wing advisers has shaken the foundations of the global polity. The US has long been an interventionist and domineering power, but this is the first administration to build an ideological framework for actions most countries consider globally destabilizing, to say the least.

Bush failures

The Bush foreign policy based on preemptive strike, unilateral action, and ally bashing has not only made US citizens more insecure than ever. It has caused various degrees of suffering, fear and indignation throughout the world. Today’s victims of US counter-terrorism campaigns have been mostly Afghans, Iraqis, and Palestinians, whom the mainstream media has obligingly stereotyped as fanatics and uncivilized heathen so their dead children won’t pierce our hearts like our own. But their numbers are growing, and their sorrow will one day cross the barriers of culture and geography. By then it will likely have distilled into hatred.

We are just beginning to see the political and financial costs of this truly radical apologia for imperial power. The US has lost and will continue to lose important allies. US unilateral action and arrogance have alienated France and Germany, and the British government confronts a crisis of legitimacy stemming from its unconditional allegiance to the US invasion of Iraq. The Bush administration’s disdain for multilateral institutions has been reflected not only in the UN, but also in the World Trade Organization, the International Criminal Court, and international environmental conventions.

Financial costs mean a US deficit rapidly approaching $500 billion. A growing part of the deficit comes from increased military spending and overseas deployment of US troops. Recently the president announced he needed an additional $87 billion to continue to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan. As it turns out, the “giant sucking sound” of US-led globalization is not free trade, but military expansion abroad.

The question of whether the Bush Empire is dangerous to the world because it’s strong or because it’s weak has a simple answer: both. The US now has unrivaled military dominance, but a demonstrably weak capacity for conflict resolution and peace building. This is a major shortcoming for an imperial cop. Coupled with refusal to negotiate the exercise of power and control of resources; this one-dimensional approach means that military solutions are favored over diplomatic means, as demonstrated in Iraq.

Deadly agenda

Likewise, increased trade has enhanced US global economic power as the headquarters and representative of many of the world’s largest transnationals. However, the US budget deficit and dependence on foreign markets to peddle huge surpluses in some products and import others has caused serious unbalance in the national economy.

Perhaps the most dangerous weakness today is the precarious political position of the president himself. Unable to offer real solutions as the 2004 elections approach, Bush must find ways to enhance his heroic image as the global avenger while distracting from the shaky economy and social infrastructure in his own country.

Many countries fear they may be the scapegoats of the Bush team’s macho image-building. Mexican and Central American immigrants have already been fingered as terrorist threats and fallen victim to “homeland security” measures that include massive deportation, prison-like fencing on the border, and death in the desert. As US dollars directly underwrite counter-insurgency activities in Colombia, that country is suffering a rise in human rights violations and intensification of its decades-long civil war.

Bush’s “endless” war on terrorism has heightened the climate of violence around the world, thereby placing us all—US and foreign citizens—at significantly greater risk.

Simple choice

“Save the World, Dump Bush” may sound more like an airport sandwich board than a campaign analysis, but it sums up a grave moment in the world today. Instead of ushering in harmonious convergence as promised, globalization has created a very fragile interdependency among nations and peoples. A perilous gap has widened between the haves and the have-nots that leads to instability and anger against unilateral action and economic imposition. If we do not seek equity in global relations, and strengthen multilateral institutions able to express the interests of the world’s poor and excluded, this volatile situation will surely explode.

George W. Bush and his team of neo-conservative empire builders have amply demonstrated their dangerous ineptitude in managing international affairs. No longer can the choice for president be dismissed as a choice between “the lesser of two evils”—as if the candidates were merely placed at different points along the same political continuum. Three years into the Bush administration, we know enough about it to know that it is qualitatively different—and far more dangerous to the world—than anything the Democrats are likely to offer.

Laura Carlsen is the Director of the Americas Program for the Interhemispheric Resource Center, which works to make the US a more responsible member of the global community, by promoting progressive strategic dialogues that lead to new citizen-based agendas. She is also co-editor of Confronting Globalization: Economic Integration and Popular Resistance in Mexico (Kumarian Press).