George Bush is losing some of his best global buddies. Junichiro Koizumi stepped down last month as the Japanese prime minister, just in time to leave North Korea’s nuclear test in the hands of his successor, Shinzo Abe. Tony Blair will be shortly handing over the reins of the British government to Gordon Browne. And then there are all the friends in Congress that the U.S. president may lose as a result of the upcoming mid-term elections.
Wisdom can be very powerful, but the powerful are rarely very wise. The United States is currently going down a well-worn path with its foreign policy. Previous empires have passed this way before, and their wreckage should be visible to the observant. James Fallows titled his book on the Iraq escapade Blind into Baghdad. But the Bush administration has a more global problem with its vision.
North Korea claims to have tested a nuclear weapon. Iran refuses to halt its uranium enrichment program. The non-proliferation regime teeters on the brink. Washington’s uncompromising tactics with both Tehran and Pyongyang have failed to achieve anything but the most radioactive results.
There is so little room in the American consciousness for Africa.
The Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano writes about foreign policy with the flair of a poet. He also writes poetry with the geopolitical knowledge of a foreign policy analyst. His one-volume treatise on the colonial pillage of Latin America (Open Veins of Latin America) is a must-read classic, and his three-volume literary meditation on the continent’s history from its mythic beginnings to the Reagan years tells true tales in a laughter-through-tears style reminiscent of Marquez and Gogol.
George Bush held a summit last week with a key ally. But if you blinked, you might have missed it. It lasted for about an hour. There was no joint statement or big press conference. It was one of the least newsworthy events in Washington.
When President George W. Bush admitted finally on September 5 that the CIA held suspected terrorists overseas and interrogated them according to an “alternative set of procedures”—an intriguing euphemism for torture—he gave the speech before a hand-picked audience. No pesky journalists were allowed to interrogate the president. In the audience were relatives of those who died on September 11.
According to the Pentagon, the latest generation of landmine will liberate the military from all those messy civilian casualties that have so upset the international community.
All of this information is enough to make anyone’s head spin. And create a new syndrome: info vertigo. Now everyone can be as time-crunched and info-inundated as the average policymaker.
Nation-building is a bloody affair. Just ask the Angles or the Visigoths.