The peculiar notion held buy a large sector of the American electorate that George W. Bush is a strong world leader is utter nonsense. This delusion exists primarily in the minds of self-conscious sycophants and befuddled provincials without passports. For this misguided belief to have any validity, one must entirely discard the idea that the USA needs to have willing allies among the historically most significant democratic nations. Such prominent nations that were induced to sigh on for the 2003 Iraq invasion and occupation feel duped, used and embarrassed. They now huddle around the exit looking for a polite way to excuse themselves. In any conceivable future “preemptive attack” by the USA, Bush’s only potential allies would be authoritarian regimes oblivious of domestic public opinion (e.g., Uzbekistan) or quislings willing to sell their name to a project so long as it really requires no tangible commitment (e.g., Costa Rica, which joined the Iraq military coalition without the benefit of having an army).
In Western Europe, home of most of the world’s highly evolved democracies, Bush couldn’t get elected dog catcher or lead children across the street for free ice cream. Polls in country after country show his approval ratings flirting with single digits. In France, historically the most influential country in the creation and growth of the now 25 nation strong European Union, Bush lost a hypothetical election poll against a not particularly well liked John Kerry by 87 to 13. That’s 5% less than the neo-fascist Le Pen received in the last French presidential election. And that meager 13% includes the truly anti-American elements who recognize that a Bush led USA is an isolated and, thus, weakened USA. Hatred and fear of Bush is ubiquitous throughout Western Europe, particularly in the cosmopolitan capitals. He is widely regarded as a buffoon or a liar or an aggressive imperialist or, more likely and even worse, all of the above.
With all of his prior justifications for invading Iraq in shambles and with mounting evidence that the neo-conservative cabal around him always knew the mendacity of their claims, Bush’s credibility nears zero. Even Tony Blair has told Bush to please stay as far away as possible because his proximity is “toxic” to Labour Party electoral prospects.
In Latin America, Bush’s leadership has just produced the greatest defeat for US foreign policy since the Cuban Revolution with the resounding victory of Hugo Chavez in the presidential recall election in Venezuela. That event vividly demonstrated that the US government can be effectively confronted by a popular leader with a socialist program. Thus emboldened, future challenges to the US’s traditional dominant authority in the region are certain. As a direct result already apparent, the organization of Caribbean states and the Organization of American States (OAS) are still refusing to recognize the legitimacy of the government that Bush, CIA and friends recently imposed upon what was at that point democratic Haiti. That’s the same OAS that was originally organized by the US to be a bulwark against the potential bad example of Cuban communism. Now, when the organization meets, Fidel Castro attends as a revered icon and George Bush as an embarrassment with whom one must pose for pictures only because very serious payoffs are involved.
Try to really imagine Bush building and leading a new coalition of nations to go after “axis of evil” Iran on whatever pretext. Israel, whose economic survival and military might have been gifts in perpetuity from US taxpayers, might want to sign up, but that would pour salt in the Middle Eastern wound. Perhaps increasingly authoritarian Russia, with it’s own long standing ulterior motives in regards to its oil rich southern neighbor with warm water ports, would want to jump in for a slice of the eventual proceeds, taking on the UK’s role as imperial junior partner. But it would be too historically ironic and otherwise problematic for anyone else to swallow. Japan and Australia would lend their names and little else.
Under very heavy public pressure, Italy will jump ship on the next round. So just what important country would be likely to provide real military muscle to another Bush led misadventure in the Middle East? Even Tony Blair will balk. And where also are the US divisions to go it alone in the mountains of Iran?
On the campaign trail, Bush makes the hollow boast that he would never put the issue of US “security” up to a vote by foreigners, i.e., the United Nations Security Council. That means that he would never again demand an international rubber stamp approving acts of American aggression. He knows quite well, given his current deflated position, he couldn’t get it if he tried. After the debacle of Iraq, Bush has no credibility to persuade, only weakening dollars to buy ever more grudging international cooperation.
That’s not enough.
A Kerry/Edwards bumper sticker says, “For a Stronger America.” Given the alternative, that’s very accurate, but almost anyone could make the same claim. By a worldwide near consensus, “Anybody but Bush” has already won the worldwide public opinion show down in a landslide, and some consequences are immutable. A vote for Bush is in fact a vote for the US standing alone and exposed, with most of the rest of the world united against the aggressive, unilateral policies of the Bush government. It will also destroy the American model as one to emulated. And it is easy to envision the political isolation of the USA spreading to economic realms as well.
For those who see US imperialism as a scourge on human society, that could be a strong argument to support Bush’s re-election.
DAVID HAMILTON lives in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org