October 1, 2004

What's Wrong with Americans, and Bush's Holy War

Two highlights jump out at me in the aftermath of last night's debate. First, Bush views the problems in Iraq as a personal test of his faith in God. Second, that Americans have no idea what "foreign policy" is.

On the first point: Bush kept using terms like "this test" to describe what's going on in Iraq. He finished with the very biblical "We've climbed the mighty mountain. I see the valley below, and it's a valley of peace." He may very well recognize the problems in Iraq right now, but he's stuck in a place of faith--he's the type of person who sees these as trials from God to test his faith, not as problems in the world to be dealt with by changing policies and tactics. Very scary when the most powerful man in the world thinks of the world as his own grand test of faith.

On the second point: The rest of the world overwhelmingly thought Kerry won the debate and would make a very good leader of America. Why would they think that when so many Americans think Bush is better on foreign policy. I think it's because most Americans, particularly in the "red state" areas and rural regions, have been so isolated in their thought, their experience, and their education that they simply don't understand the nuances (that word again!) of the world. The rest of the world--Europe, Asia, Africa, pretty much everywhere--has had thousands of years of tribal and inter-country conflict, commerce, and diplomacy. European monarchs were visiting the Pope on political errands a thousand years before the Declaration of Independence was signed. Treaties were being forged and broken and re-forged a thousand years before the first pilgrims settled in Plymoth.

Most Americans are woefully ignorant of geography beyond their own state, let alone in the world. These same Americans suffer from an arrogance born out of that ignorance, an arrogance that makes America right whenever the rest of the world disagrees, that says Americans are more intelligent and capable than the rest of the world because we've been so economically powerful for the past hundred years.

Yet foreign policy is more than bluster, arrogance, and declaring the United Nations "irrelevant" as Bush did before blundering into Iraq. Bush is a bully in international politics, not a diplomat. Americans seem to prefer the bully role, however, so Bush does well in the less cosmopolitan and more politically immature parts of the country. The rest of the world, matured on thousands of years of living in small, disparate areas and populations, has learned that Kerry's approach is the only one that can be effective in this new global economy, the new global political environment, the new global power structure.

Bush, the arrogant bully who views the problems in Iraq as his own personal faith-test from God, is the wrong choice for America. The rest of the world sees it. Why can't Americans? Sometimes the rest of the world can be right.

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