Tuesday, March 16, 2004

American leadership, or exceptionalism?

"In the last six or seven months, I've been in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe. I've met with leaders in all of those regions, and they have overwhelmingly — not unanimously but overwhelmingly — said that they hope that there's a change in leadership." Richard C. Holbrooke, President Bill Clinton's delegate to the United Nations

Holbrooke (who knows what he’s talking about) came to Kerry’s defense today, as President Bush asked the Democratic presidential candidate to put up or shut up about a charge made earlier this week. Obviously, Bush did not want to cite the latest poll done by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, which noted that "majorities in Germany, Turkey and France – and half of the British and Russians – believe the conflict in Iraq undermined the war on terrorism."

But would the Bush Administration really be happy if key U.S. allies started publicly hinting about the need for a change of the guard in the good ol’ USA? In other words, does the Bush Administration really want the rest of the world to act the way it does—taking partisan political positions on electoral options in different countries, whenever and wherever it deems appropriate?

Let’s take El Salvador, for example. Just this Sunday, for example, State Department Special Envoy for Central America Otto Reich was quoted in local papers (a conference call, set up in ARENA party headquarters) as saying: “We are concerned about the impact that an FMLN victory would have on the commercial, economic, and migration-related relations that the United States has with El Salvador.”

And then Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega, in a February visit to El Salvador, told the press, "I think it is fair to note that the FMLN campaign has emphasized its differences with [the U.S.] concerning CAFTA [the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement] and other subjects. And we know the history of this political movement, and for this reason it is fair that the Salvadoran people consider what type of relations a new government could have with us."

Although he was speaking to a very different subject (and from a different ideological perspective), I nevertheless liked the final lines of George Will's column today: "Monday morning's headlines suggested a loss of U.S. mastery of events. But, then, belief that events can be mastered is the root of most political misfortunes."

There is much yet to say about this issue--stay tuned.

Comments to dlholiday@yahoo.com

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