Saturday, September 18, 2010

A new American Moment?

"Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton declared Wednesday that `a new American moment` has arrived in international relations, `a moment when our global leadership is essential, even if we must often lead in new ways.`"

That seems just more of the very old American jingoism. Why does America have to lead?

Are we more intelligent than anybody else? Do our leaders display more wisdom than the leaders of other nations? Do we understand politics and economics better than people in other countries? Everyone knows that the answer to            these questions is negative.

Is it because we have more money? A lot of people would be inclined to say that if we help out other countries, we should be allowed to tell them what to do. But that's a pretty unattractive idea. Imagine the Good Samaritan of the New Testament not only binding up the wounds of the stranger he finds injured by the side of the road but also telling that stranger what to do and criticizing him for making himself vulnerable to bandits. That kind of bossing around of the recipients of one's generosity does a great deal to poison the good feeling generosity otherwise produces.

Besides, having more money may only show that you are more lucky, or more ruthless than the rest. It doesn't show that you are any smarter.

Our money does not make us into automatic leaders of the world. What does?

Is it our large arsenal of nuclear weapons? To be sure, we could wipe out life on Earth, but North Korea and China, India and Pakistan, Iran and Israel, Britain and France could all set back civilization for eons. Does that entitle them to be leaders?

Sec. Clinton's answer to the question why Americans should be leaders of the world consisted of diplomatic gobbledygook: "the world looks to us because America has the reach and resolve to mobilize a shared effort needed to solve problems on a global scale -- in defense of our own interests, but also as a force for progress. In this we have no rival."

We should be leaders because we can. But can we? The world is full of war and conflict, much of it begun by us. The world needs peace and we have not shown ourselves to be very capable peacemakers.

The world economic system is teetering on the brink, largely due to the machinations of the Anerican financial sector.

Our traditional foreign policy has been to intervene in conflicts by giving weapons to one side as we did with Osama bin Laden when he was fighting the Russians in Afghanistan. Sometimes we gave weapons to both sides as we did in the bloody war between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and its neighbor Iran in the 1980s. We arm the people who we think will support us and often we regret these actions bitterly 10 years later. In recent days our government has announced that it will sell advanced aircraft to Saudi Arabia -- clearly because the Saudi's do not like Iran. Will we regret this, the next time we have a falling out with Saudi Arabia?

Sec. Clinton's American Moment is no more than a reaffirmation of the very traditional American foreign policy whose motto has always been "America First."

A more acceptable version of American leadership would be a genuine dedication to peacemaking. A first step towards that kind of American leadership would be to stop talking about our power, our capability, our resolve. We need to become less self-centered, less narrowly egotistical in our foreign policy. The Secretary of State should ask: `how can we help?` and stop asking:` what can we get for ourselves.`