Do we measure ourselves by the opinions of others? Parents teach their children that popularity isn’t important and overly tan daytime television actors tell us in cheesy TV ads to be our own person and to do what we believe in despite opposition. It’s been the moral of a lot of animated movies with talking rodents and the theme of, I think, every Avril Lavigne song. It’s a good message for individuals, particularly for children, but it’s a bad message if you’re a unilateralist president. President Bush has spent four years blazing his own path and dismissing all opinions differing from his freaky cabal’s. So where does this administration draw the line? When will they realize we aren’t just forging ahead despite opposition but just acting insanely?
I consider myself a deeply patriotic American, but I am not proud of our current reputation. Call me shallow, but I think it is important what the rest of the world thinks of us. When I got my first American passport, I remember my mother telling me that little book was a symbol of freedom and would protect me wherever I went. I remember she said, “I would never give up my American passport for anything.” That was then. This is now.
The Bush Administration recently announced its unilateral plan to overhaul the distribution of American troops worldwide. Ignoring the significant security and economic considerations involved for host nations like Germany and South Korea, the United States is fundamentally reorienting its global military strategy without considering the needs of her allies.
During his reign, President George W. Bush has ravaged our international reputation and made the American passport a death-mark. My dual-citizen cousins now all travel under their respective Australian, Irish and Bolivian passports and the French public considers the United States the greatest threat at-present to international security. Our ambassador to Britain has been instructed by the National Security Council basically to hide because relations with the British public now are so bad, according to the June 19 Economist. This isn’t just another pretzel-choking, mountain bike-fall level mistake by President Bush — it is a catastrophic, strategic blunder of epic proportions. It is a reflection of a group of people who it seems couldn’t really care less what the other nations of this world think. Former President Reagan, who Bush claims to emulate, had a great vision of America as the “white city on the hill.” That dream lies in ruins.
Rarely has an American president pursued such an ignorant and imperialistic foreign policy. If John Kerry is sworn in this January, his most important job will be to rebuild our international reputation and refashion our foreign policy into one of humility and gracious prestige. Little can be accomplished with a bitter and resentful international community. We need to honor London’s friendship and commitment and respect France and Germany as the oldest of friends deserve. We should strive for friendship, coordination and trade with the entire Western Hemisphere and bend over backward to aid Russia.
We need a coherent policy for trust and understanding with China as the Washington-Beijing axis is truly what this century will revolve around. We must remove our partisan prejudices in order to negotiate a credible lasting peace between Israel and Palestine. We need to internationalize the rebuilding of Iraq as soon as possible and pressure Egypt and Saudi Arabia to make real reforms. We must listen to the other peoples of the world. We need a “P.R. Foreign Policy” that demonstrates that the United States does sincerely care about the rest of the world. We must prove our commitment to solving the universal problems of humanity and show that we are capable of being a good friend and a respectful member of the international community.
No empire lasts forever — fact. Within our lifetimes the American dominion over sole superpower status will end as China, India, Russia, and a more united Europe build their economic and geopolitical strength. This is not a bad thing — this is a wonderful thing if we can get over our own pride and become committed to cooperation. Instead of fighting to remain the world’s only superpower, a silly and impossible goal, we should be striving to be the only dominant country in the history of the world to welcome the rise of other nations. We should be striving to create a world where it doesn’t matter who’s strongest at the time, because we all have the same goals and we all respect each other. This goal may prove as impossible as that of mass global domination, but it’s a vastly more worthwhile goal and the United States’ truest chance at a great and timeless legacy.
We could usher in Pax Terra. Only with many strong powers and a multi-polar world can we effectively end terrorism, preserve and restore the environment, eliminate the horror of AIDS and truly emerge as one world for the first time. We must promote and support leaders who want to work with the world. I vote for a United States people admire. I vote for a popular America. I vote for the city on the hill.
Peter Hamilton is a sophomore in Berkeley College.