President Bush says the “state of the union is strong and confident.”But Americans and the rest of the world have good reason to be skeptical about the president’s claims that his domestic and foreign policies are producing widespread prosperity and peace.
Dividing the union–and the world–was the main accomplishment of the first Bush administration. The president’s State of the Union address, despite the flurry of commitments to diplomacy abroad and improving the well-being of Americans, outlined a new policy agenda that is a commitment to endless war and confrontation abroad. Bush’s foreign policy vision, with its emphasis on the role of the U.S. as a global cop and cultural missionary, will make America less secure and further alienate our country from the international community of nations.
At home, his policy recommendations will deepen the economic and cultural divide that is tearing the national union asunder. On the economic front, the president pitched a plan to privatize Social Security and to continue the tax cuts that favor the wealthy. Appealing to his constituency of traditionalists, our president embraced the agenda of the Religious Right, namely a proposed constitutional amendment on marriage, government-subsidization of “faith-based initiatives,” and a thinly veiled promise to nominate abortion opponents to the Supreme Court.
The president’s description of the state of the union and of the challenges of international relations was deceptive and dismissive of the facts.
On the state of the economy, the president hailed his record of job creation when in fact more jobs have been lost than created during his first administration. He promised to cut the record budget deficit–about $450 billion this year–in half by the time he leaves office in 2009. But he made no mention of the fact that he came into office with a budget surplus, or that he recently asked Congress for an additional $75 billion to support the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Neither did his description of the state of the union include mention of the plunging value of the dollar, the record trade deficit, or the debilitating $4.3 trillion national debt.
The president has outlined major increases in the military and homeland security budgets, but he promises to cut 150 unnamed programs. Given the record of his first administration, it’s likely that many of these programs that “do not fulfill essential priorities” will be ones that provide services to the disadvantaged or protect the environment.
The president’s goal of increasing the country’s energy self-sufficiency is a laudable one that deserves widespread support. But as seen during his first term, in practice this policy will lead to increased government support for energy industries, the abandonment of environmental regulations, and further penetration of wilderness areas by coal, uranium, and petroleum corporations. The president’s emphasis on government support for the nuclear power and coal industries is particularly worrisome. By no means have they proven to be “safe” or “clean.”
Most worrisome, however, is the president’s resolve to stay the course in his “war on global terrorism” and his “forward strategy of freedom” in the Middle East and elsewhere. No doubt that America needs a national security strategy that targets international terrorism or that we should ally ourselves with democracies and human rights activists.
But the nation’s true interests and security have been sidelined by the new idealism and ideological fervor of the Bush presidency. The president praised the “idealism” of our troops in Iraq, but U.S. men and women in uniform enlisted to protect our nation’s security–not to participate in quixotic crusades to rid the world of tyranny or to attempt to fashion U.S.-style governments in ethnically and religiously divided countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.
A year ago we were told that we were waging preventive war to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and cut its ties to Osama bin Laden. After we invaded Iraq, we found no WMDs or any evidence linking Iraq to the al-Qaida terrorist network that attacked us on September 11th. The global war on terrorism has since been turned into a global crusade to promote freedom and liberty–lofty rhetoric to be sure but Osama bin Laden has not yet been captured and Iraq has now become a magnet for anti-American militants. Meanwhile, our chief regional allies in the war against terrorism and for freedom are such international pariahs as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Israel.
President Bush’s depiction of the state of the union and global affairs is delusional. The United States is not going “forward with confidence” and unity either here at home or in Iraq.
Yes, “God bless America,” as the president said, but God help us if we continue on this path of arrogance and self-delusion.
TOM BARRY is policy director of the International Relations Center, online at www.irc-online.org He is the author of books on U.S. economic aid including The Soft War: Uses and Abuses of U.S. Economic Aid in Central America (Grove Press).