There is every possibility that for all the damage he’s done to the world and the United States, George W. Bush will be reelected this November. As the US Republican Party wound up its national convention yesterday (Thursday in the United States) and nominated Bush as expected, he’s in fact likely to take the lead from his Democratic Party rival John Kerry.
A Bush victory in November would not be due solely to Kerry’s failure to excite US voters. It would primarily be because Bush represents a stream in US politics that appeals to the racism and chauvinism that more than anything else define most Americans’ views of themselves and the world, and which regard as an offense to human nature anyone and anything that dare oppose US power.
Bush’s simplistic explanation of the September 11, 2001 attacks—that those who struck at the US envied it its freedom and prosperity—thus appealed, and still appeals to the vast majority of Americans. Contrary to certain equally uninformed quarters in this country, the US majority is not made up of academics, artists and intellectuals, but of white supremacists, Christian fundamentalists, and know-nothing plain folk.
This majority—uninformed despite the most developed media system in the world, and mostly ignorant about what their government is doing abroad—sees the United States not only as paradise on earth, but also as the innocent hate target of the benighted peoples of the rest of the world.
They are unfamiliar with the death, destruction and misery that the US empire has unleashed on many parts of the world in the last 50 years, and even if they were probably would not care. What matters to them most are themselves. The Americans in the US heartland of the Mid-West are not a people sympathetic to the suffering of others, especially people of color.
In the current US election campaign, the economy has taken a backseat to US national security against terrorism as the major issue, specifically on which candidate can best assure it. At the heart of this concern is most Americans’ outrage that a people as chosen by God as they are to prosper and lead the world even if it be at the expense of its billions should be so endangered.
Bush, whose inept policies have led to the loss of three million US jobs since 2000, has thus focused on his supposed capacity as commander-in-chief to assure US national security even if it means acting alone and launching pre-emptive wars.
Last Wednesday (Thursday in the Philippines), Bush’s vice president Richard Cheney thus attacked Kerry as weak and vacillating, and unfit to lead the United States.
Cheney said Kerry had “a habit of indecision…” and that his “liveliest disagreement is with himself.”
“In this time of challenge,” Cheney, one of the architects of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, said, “America needs—and America has—a president we can count on to get it right.”
As far as the Republicans are concerned, however, being decisive includes acting alone should its allies resist US wishes. The convention’s keynote speaker, Democratic Party senator Zell Miller who has switched to Bush, made it clear why he’s abandoning Kerry: “Sen. Kerry has made it clear that he would use military force only if approved by the United Nations. Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending. I want Bush to decide.”
Bush decided unilaterally to attack Iraq in 2003, and the reference to “Paris” alludes to France and Germany’s refusal to sanction an attack on Iraq given the absence of evidence that it had weapons of mass destruction. Bush’s decision thus damaged the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as well as other US alliances in other parts of the world. His reelection is likely to continue the process. That could result in the US’ further isolation, and inability to wage the pre-emptive wars Bush favors.
Although Bush’s reelection seems to be the worse-case scenario, the worse may actually be better for the world, says US historian Gabriel Kolko.
In an analysis published in the Sydney Morning Herald (“Alliances and the American Elections”) Kolko argues that “alliances have been a major cause of wars throughout modern history, removing inhibitions that might otherwise have caused Germany, France, and countless nations to reflect much more cautiously before embarking on death and destruction. The dissolution of alliances is a crucial pre-condition of a world without wars.”
Kolko believes that continuing US intervention is the gravest danger the world faces, and is likely to lead to another century of war. He argues that the Bush doctrine of “pre-emptive war” is not new, and that in fact the US has attacked other countries in the past as a matter of choice rather than self-defense.
It didn’t matter whether the US was under a Republican or Democratic administration. “Regardless of whether the Republicans or Democrats were in office,” says Kolko, “since the 1890s the US has intervened in countless ways in the Western hemisphere—from sending Marines to supporting friendly tyrants to determine the political destiny of innumerable southern nations.”
Kolko points out that “it was the Democratic Party that created most of the pillars of postwar American foreign policy, from the Truman Doctrine in 1947 and NATO through the institutionalization of the arms race and the illusion that weapons and firepower are a solution to many of the world’s political problems.”
What Bush, his vice president, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the other ultra-conservatives in the Bush administration do not understand is that their unilateralism and heavy- handedness shock US allies. Under Bush the US has insisted on alliances based on blind, unquestioning acceptance of US wishes, rather than on mutual agreement. Under those terms, the US’ allies have become increasingly leery of being overly identified with the US, given their own political and other concerns at home. (The war on Iraq, for example, has led to the toppling and unpopularity of governments allied with the US in Spain, the former Soviet Republics, the United Kingdom and Australia.)
“The Bush administration, through ineptness and a vague ideology of American power that acknowledges no limits to its global ambitions, and a preference for unilateralist initiatives and adventurism which discounts consultations with its friends much less the United Nations, has seriously eroded the alliance system upon which US foreign policy from 1947 onwards was based,” Kolko continues.
If Kerry is elected, predicts Kolko, his administration will try to reconstruct the alliance system, and abandon the chauvinist rhetoric favored by Bush and company. If it succeeds, it will mean an end, though only in the short term, to the problems that the US now faces in terms of manpower and resources and which prevent it from attacking other countries. The result would be continuing US expansion and wars, this time in the name of “progressive internationalism” and under the flag of alliances and even the UN.
On the other hand, a Bush victory will continue the process in which the alienation of the US’ allies by the ineptness and arrogance of the Bush style has forced a halt to the US attempt to remake the world and dominate it completely. A Kerry win would arrest the process.
In other words, the goals of both the Democratic Party and the Republicans being the same, the prospects for peace in the world would significantly suffer in case of a Kerry victory. A Bush victory would mean that the majority of Americans who want re-assurance that US power will continue to dictate to and remake the world shall have been the key to achieving the opposite: a world in which US power would be diminished enough to prevent at least some, if not all, the wars it wants to wage.
US voters would thus be getting the bumbling government all ignorant and arrogant electorates deserve. Equally part of the good news is that the rest of the world would be getting a US government hobbled by its own ineptness, and forced to leave at least parts of the planet alone and in peace.