The Telegraph has a short but very useful summary of the emerging Bush Doctrine which it claims represents
the boldest challenge to the conventional wisdom of the British and European elites since Woodrow Wilson preached the rights of self-determination of smaller nations after the First World War.
The article is well worth reading because it sums up both the conventional wisdom and the challenge to it in a fairly short precis.
Of particular interest to me is Bush’s declaration of ending the old practice of supporting our sons of bitches whose ranks have included third-world anti-communist leaders who obtained Washington’s support even as they were murdering bishops and trades unionists.
in a fascinating mea culpa for years of Western policy to the region, he made clear that it was no longer enough to turn a blind eye to the depredations of tyrannical “allies” for the sake of stability.
The US policy of propping up anti-democratic leaders in the third world was said to be justified by the cold war. Both the cold war and the justification have now vanished. We live in a very different world post-1989.
The other fact that the article reminds us of is the view that multilateral fora are the best way to tackle the world’s urgent problems is less and less popular amongst Americans. The lessons of the debacle in the Balkans have been taken by some to show that multilateral bodies are as much part of the problem as the solution. I suspect the change from multilateralist to unilateralist thinking is something that had been fermenting for a while but reached critical mass on September 11th 2001. Americans ask how and when the UN would have tackled Afghanistan and the Taliban after September 11th. It’s a valid question which demands an honest answer whatever your views on the UN or multilateralism.
It’s doubly ironic then that the radical policy declarations referred to above are being made by a deeply-conservative man who began his presidency with the aim of pursuing a humble foreign policy.
I wonder if our era, encompasing as it does the dates of 1989 and 2001 in close proximity, won’t be looked back on by historians as an era when politics changed so quickly that the cultural lag has caught out the less nimble of those whose job it is to analyse, to comment and to lead society. This thought occurred to me as I read some of the sixty letters to President Bush published recently in the Guardian. Many of the contributors are members of our so-called intelligensia, or cultural elite but very few of them could dredge up the intellectual energy to cast aside their tired old knee-jerk anti-Americanism to recognise the new reality of how things actually are now rather than in the sixties, seventies, eighties or whenever it was they started to ossify intellectually.
Bush has certainly reacted quickly to the new world realities. He had to. Most of the left won’t be able to keep up because they have proved themselves to be not only profoundly conservative but incapable of seeing the larger picture which seems obvious to the rest of us – that we are at war with a variant of fascism which aims to bomb us into submission because we are different from them even if that means murdering large numbers of people who share their religion. Racist murder is always wrong but when it organises itself on a world scale, when it has millions of Pounds at it’s disposal and when it declares it’s aim of wiping us out we have to make a stand.
Those of us who believe that the enlightenment project should be vigorously defended against fascism and religious intolerance will have no problem standing with Bush on the big picture despite our political differences. The rule of law, representative government, religious tolerance and liberty belong to all of us whether we are politically radical or conservative.
The surprisingly large number of people who can’t see the big picture, and who think that what we inherited from the eighteenth-century is not worth defending are wrong and that will become clearer to us and to the more honest of them as time passes. Those who fail to understand this will become historical curiosities.
Those of us who want to be more than a footnote in history have a responsibility to stand firm against contemporary fascism. We won’t agree with our allies on important political issues but we will recognise them as allies. That means keeping these differences in proportion and not using them as an excuse to jeopardize our common fight.
Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall…..