Back to why I dislike Bush. In a nutshell: because of Bush, the world hates us more.
That opinion is predicated on two things: that the world hates us more and that it’s Bush’s fault. The former point is unquestionable. All the polls and statistics show this, that people think less positively of the U.S. now than say 4 years ago nearly across the board. Colloquially, we went to Paris, London, and Korea this year and in every place, we encountered anti-U.S. sentiment (or more accurately, anti-Bush sentiment). And this is a very very bad thing.
As to whether Bush is responsible, I think he is. Although I actually don’t think it’s fundamentally related to Iraq.
I read an interesting article in Foreign Policy that could enrage Democrats and Republicans alike, but the basic gist is that Bush’s foreign policy, with things like preemptive striking, unilateralism, etc., is not all that different from past presidents (including Clinton). So what Bush has done is not qualitatively different from what we’ve always done. I wouldn’t attribute the world’s lower esteem of us to what Bush has done, nor am I particularly against certain things he’s done. Like, I’m not against Bush for going to war in Iraq.
My feelings on Iraq are fairly complicated. I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, as if anyone cares. But yeah, the situation in Iraq now is horrendous, but the question is, was it wrong to go in the first place? Like with most things, I like to be informed by people smarter than me. And the opinions of intelligent informed people on this issue are really interesting.
Like, I read Fareed Zakaria (foreign affairs editor of Newsweek) regularly, and he supported the war. I also heard a talk randomly given at Yahoo by Thomas Friedman, foreign affairs editor of the New York Times, author of The Lexus And The Olive Tree (also an unabashed liberal and hardcore Democrat), and he was also in favor of the war – this talk was given about a month ago, long after we actually went in (although it’s worth mentioning that they, like most everyone, thinks Iraq is a disaster now). I’ll explain why exactly they were in favor of it someday (doubtful), but the point is, objective, intelligent people who know foreign affairs way more than almost anyone alive and who even have liberal leanings had thoughtful, compelling reasons for supporting the war in Iraq. And that means something to me; it’s foolish to just ignorantly dismiss the opinions of people so in the know.
At any rate, I don’t think the problem is what Bush does so much as it is how he does it, how he does everything. And that is, he alienates the world by defiantly asserting that the U.S. doesn’t need the world and that it will do whatever it wants. And that pisses the world off.
I read a column that wrote about this. In a sense, Bush is right about certain things. The Kyoto pact probably hinders us. The U.N. kind of is a creaky relic from a different world. The U.S. as the sole superpower doesn’t strictly need anyone. But it’s still to our advantage to pretend that we do, to work through these systems even if it’s just a game. When the sole superpower asserts that it doesn’t need anyone, that makes it seem a bully and makes people hate us. And that’s Bush’s style. He consistently asserts that the U.S. will do whatever it wants and disparages broad cooperation, like in the campaigns disparaging Kerry as a weak multilateralist.
That’s a mistake. We need to work multilaterally not because we need it but to make other countries feel better. I think that was Wilson’s insight with the League Of Nations? Maybe I’m making that up. But I think he realized that nations need to feel empowered, that that contributes to peace. Bush does the exact opposite, making it clear that other countries are irrelevant, and that’s why I think we’re so hated. And he’s done that his whole term. The world was starting to hate us even before Iraq, which is why certain countries were so antagonistic about us going there. And how Bush has acted after Iraq, still denying that we need help and so forth has just made things all the more worse. We had the world’s sympathy on 9/12 and just 3 years later, the world hates us. And that sucks.