Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Bush from Europe.

As much as I agree that it is absurd for people to think that the US is more dangerous than Iran, the fact is that public opinion always turns in favor of the underdog, against the rich and powerful – and the US is perceived not only as rich and powerful but also as the bully in the classroom:

Another poll published this week by the Harris group shows that Europeans generally pick the US as the world's biggest threat to global security over Iran. This was true even in Britain, although Germans and Italians rank the US below Iran. (here)

Even in Britain – that should mean something.

Yes- as President Bush also said today, (see video here, via Think Progress) it is also true that the Europeans have failed to understand the impact and the trauma of 9/11 on the American mindset:

For Europe, September the 11th was a moment; for us it was a change of thinking.

That’s certainly true but the Bush administration also fails to understand the America’s unilateral actions have a great impact on today’s global world. 9/11 is America’s drama but outside the US, people often feel that they have felt sorry enough, and that it does not give the US a blank check.

When the American president says that he “made them in the best interest of our country and, I think, in the best interests of the world”, it sounds very paternalistic. It is precisely similar to what Europe used to do withAfrica and Asia : we know better what’s best for you.

In what follows in his answer is even more telling:

I’ll say, on the one hand, we’re going to be tough when it comes to terrorist regimes who harbor weapons. On the other hand, we’ll help feed the hungry.

Other than the fact that Saddam Hussein was not harboring terrorists and/ or weapons (of mass destructions at least), the rhetoric is more importantly reminiscent of the old (European) colonial prose. By using those words, Bush implies that the US government should tell the rest of the world what is best for them. That's what unilateralism is.
How much freedom is there in that? Bush may believe in the universality of freedom, but his definition of freedom does not include listening to the rest of the world. Yet the rest of the world has not voted for Bush, only America did.

This is particularly true for Europe: as Mr. Serfaty of Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) says it:

The prisoner-abuse issue and the case of Guantánamo are particularly poignant for Europeans because they suggest an America making the same kinds of mistakes that Europe made in its colonial past.

"Europeans are saying, 'Don't use your power to do what we used to do,' " he says, which was to commit widespread rights abuses in African and Asian colonies while claiming to improve the world.

Will America listen? Well, whether it does or not, the rest of the world will not take it. This is not the 19thcentury any more. If nothing else, and with a more pragmatic approach one also needs to consider tha perception matters: low public esteem for the US makes it more difficult for governments to unabashedly side with the US on international issues. And sometimes, the US needs the rest of the world - even "old Europe".


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