Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Don’t Hate Me Because I’m A Hyperpower

Fareed Zakaria has an interesting (and brief) article in the current issue of Foreign Policy. I used to subscribe to this magazine back in the late 90's when Zakaria was the managing editor and when it tended to lean a bit too far to the right for my tastes. I did, however, usually enjoy Zakaria’s editorials which seemed more ideologically nuanced. In this article, he asks us to consider, in this time of rampant anti-Americanism, what the world might look like if the U.S. wasn’t leading the way on issues such as trade and nuclear proliferation.

It’s a provocative question, especially for those of us feeling upset and shamed by the way our country is currently viewed throughout the world. (Is this shame I feel due to some unexplored undercurrent of nationalism I harbor, even if, in my better days, I want to claim I'm a universalist? But then, I can't create too much change in the far flung parts of the world- I do, however, have a small chance to change things here, damnit!) Certainly, my own feeling is that this countries trade policies in, for example, the area of agriculture (heavy subsidizing for U.S. agricultural interests, high tariffs on incoming goods, the charade of "free" trade when we dump our surplus on other countries), can and often do have ruinous consequences on struggling third world farmers. Or, certainly, when it comes to nuclear proliferation, the current administration has all but neglected the sensibility of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction programs and virtually turned their back on the the numerous Russian nuclear facilities that remain under funded and in need of security upgrades, which is to say nothing about the potential nuclear threats of N. Korea and Pakistan. Zakara’s article begs the question, just how effective has the U.S’s leadership been in these crucial areas and who, if anybody, is better suited to take the leading role?

Nobody, I presume- at least not unilaterally. The best bet is a collective effort- a multilateral response to these challenges. This current administration, as Zakaria points out, by crudely asserting U.S. power and disregarding international institutions and alliances... has pulled the curtain on decades of diplomacy and revealed that the United States’ constraints are self-imposed: America can, in fact, go it alone.

At what price?

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