Last fall I saw this article about a poll taken of British voters about which world leader they felt poses the most danger to world peace. Apparently, George Bush was seen as the #2 threat to world peace, behind bin Laden but ahead of the Iranian and North Korean heads of state. At first, this seems shocking to Americans (U.S.). Aren’t we the ones fighting for world peace? Oh wait… that’s a bit of an oxymoron, isn’t it?
After I considered this for a bit, I began to see the unfortunate truth in it. Bush has lead the U.S. in to two wars in two separate countries, which are now both dragging on. Iraq at least (Afghanistan is uncertain) is less stable than before, meaning for one that it’s easier for radicals to have their way there. And we don’t like to talk about this, but how many people, and both sides, have died as a result of these conflicts? In addition, Bush has strained ties with our allies, and, on the other end, aggravated relations with countries which we have significant disagreements with. Calling various countries an “axis of evil” isn’t exactly being friendly is it? And here’s the thing, Bush has certainly showed that if he wants to attack a country, there isn’t much that is going to stop him. (I think we should consider that we went against the decision of the U.N., which was set up after World War II in order to attempt to have countries work out problems peacefully, rather than resorting to war.) I don’t buy the weapons of mass destruction and Iraq being a threat reasons for the war there. I don’t think anyone really believed this. I think that it was simply an excuse do take action which was motivated by other factors. Now, considering this, is it surprising that now all of a sudden North Korea and Iran are interested in nuclear weapons? I haven’t heard anyone else talking about this connection, but I don’t believe it’s coincidental. (My understanding is that we were starting to make positive progress in warming our relations with Iran. The Iranian’s disposition towards us took a great step forward when we sent a significant amount of aid to them after the devastating earthquakes there. However, all of these gains have been lost now.)
Often times we make a moral argument for our military action around the world. While this might be the reason we act sometimes, I don’t think it’s our main motivation most of the time. We say that Saddam needed to be taken out of power because he was a ruthless leader. I’m not arguing the fact that he brought harm to many people, but was that our motivation? If our motivation was to fight on the behalf of oppressed people, why didn’t we do something sooner. There have recently been two cases of genocide in Africa, in Rwanda and Sudan. But we’ve done virtually nothing about it. Probably many people in the U.S. are barely aware this is happening at all. We bemoan how bad the Holocaust was (which is certainly terrible) but then ignore what’s happening currently. I don’t believe we can say our current military actions are for the good of the world or the people in the countries were fighting in. We are there for our own self interests, partly at least in the name of chasing the phantom of national security. When will we learn that trying to control what’s going on in the world politically generally turns out badly. Don’t forget that we supported both Taliban, Osama bin Laden, and Saddam Hussein at different points.
Beyond all of that, we’re contributing to a stalemate in a search for peace in another nearby country: Israel. Bush has made almost no effort that I’m aware of to resolve conflict here. (Making significant progress here was one good thing Clinton did as I recall.) The U.S. in general has been almost blindly supportive of Israel, at the cost of potential progress towards peace. My brother has been living in Israel for the past year and a half, and so has a close view of the situation. The Palestinians are suffering much because of Israel, which takes a stance that can only be described as racism and apartheid according to my brother. (It’s especially insulting for Muslim Palestinians to suffer under the leadership of the Jews, because from my understanding, Jews lived peacefully under the leadership of Muslims for many years.) If the U.S. were to care about these Palestinians, and therefore to put more pressure on Israel, which we could certainly do, I believe great steps could be taken towards bringing peace to that area. This would also make great gains for peace in the Middle East in general.
So to conclude, I wish I didn’t have to say this, but I’m forced to agree with the results of this survey. I believe it shows poor leadership that Bush was reelected primarily because of his support for issues of marriage and abortion, yet he has little or nothing in those areas. Rather he has taken his reelection as justification for continuing the war in Iraq, which fewer people may support. I also think it’s a big problem that now days the U.S. president can decide to go to war, without approval of congress, which has the sole power to declare war. This means that really, the wars we are currently fighting are illegal. In fact, the last legal war we were involved in was World War II. (More on this here.) It’s just something else to think about.