Tuesday, March 18, 2003

READ FAREED: My favorite part of the Fareed Zakaria article everyone's linking to:

President Bush’s favorite verb is “expect.” He announces peremptorily that he “expects” the Palestinians to dump Yasir Arafat, “expects” countries to be with him or against him, “expects” Turkey to cooperate. It is all part of the administration’s basic approach toward foreign policy, which is best described by the phrase used for its war plan—”shock and awe.” The notion is that the United States needs to intimidate countries with its power and assertiveness, always threatening, always denouncing, never showing weakness. Donald Rumsfeld often quotes a line from Al Capone: “You will get more with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone.”

But should the guiding philosophy of the world’s leading democracy really be the tough talk of a Chicago mobster? In terms of effectiveness, this strategy has been a disaster. It has alienated friends and delighted enemies. Having traveled around the world and met with senior government officials in dozens of countries over the past year, I can report that with the exception of Britain and Israel, every country the administration has dealt with feels humiliated by it. “Most officials in Latin American countries today are not anti-American types,” says Jorge Castaneda, the reformist foreign minister of Mexico, who resigned two months ago. “We have studied in the United States or worked there. We like and understand America. But we find it extremely irritating to be treated with utter contempt.” Last fall, a senior ambassador to the United Nations, in a speech supporting America’s position on Iraq, added an innocuous phrase that could have been seen as deviating from that support. The Bush administration called up his foreign minister and demanded that he be formally reprimanded within an hour. The ambassador now seethes when he talks about U.S. arrogance. Does this really help America’s cause in the world? There are dozens of stories like this from every part of the world.

In diplomacy, style is often substance. Consider this fact: the Clinton administration used force on three important occasions—Bosnia, Haiti and Kosovo. In none of them did it take the matter to the United Nations Security Council, and there was little discussion that it needed to do so. Indeed, Kofi Annan later made statements that seemed to justify the action in Kosovo, explaining that state sovereignty should not be used as a cover for humanitarian abuses. Today Annan has (wrongly) announced that American action in Iraq outside the United Nations will be “illegal.” While the Clinton administration—or the first Bush administration—was assertive in many ways, people did not seek assurances about its intentions. The Bush administration does not bear all the blame for this dramatic change in attitudes. Because of 9-11, it has had to act forcefully on the world stage and assert American power. But that should have been all the more reason to adopt a posture of consultation and cooperation while doing what needed to be done. The point is to scare our enemies, not terrify the rest of the world.

The phrase "Mayberry Machiavellis" keeps running through my head. Something about having unsophisticated weirdos running the country. And how I can't wait to vote for anybody else in 2004. But I can't, like, prove any of that. Except that last part.

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