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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions
Basic Books 05/03 Paperback $15.95
America has become a rogue nation in the world community. The term “rogue” refers to a wave that runs contrary to the direction of other waves. Because of its size, speed, and unpredictability, it is often very dangerous. The author of this hard-hitting work uses the term to refer to the size, wealth, and power of the United States in its present mode of unilateralism.
One would expect criticism of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy to only be coming from the Left. Think again. Clyde Prestowitz is founder and president of the Economic Strategy Institute and served as counselor to the Secretary of Commerce in the Reagan Administration. He is the author of the best-selling book on U.S.-Japan relations Trading Places and co-author and editor of several other books on international trade and business strategy.
Although many people in Europe, the Far East, and Latin America genuinely like Americans, they are growing increasingly hostile to those who are running the country. In the past, we had a foreign policy that saluted global cooperation and the rule of law. Not anymore. Prestowitz reels off examples of American disdain for working with other nations on important problems: walking away from the Kyoto Treaty on global warming, not signing the treaty to ban land mines, not signing a treaty to control the world traffic in small arms. Whereas Europeans have a major interest in environmental issues, the Bush Administration does not. The United States has 4 percent of the world’s population and creates 25 percent of global pollution; we are not shouldering our share of responsibility in this area. The treaty on land mines was rejected because the President claims to have an obligation to protect American troops stationed in other countries. The United States doesn’t want to ban weapons traffic because it uses arms deals to solidify arrangements with allies.
All of this, Prestowitz concludes, makes it very clear where our priorities stand: America’s share of the total defense spending of all countries in the world is 40 percent; we spend as much as the next nine countries combined. The author hits the mark when he concludes: “The United States relies very heavily on one card in the international poker games, the military card. We don’t like to think of ourselves as a warlike people, but can we expect others to accept us as ‘peaceful’ when it is really only arms that we trust?“
The author makes a convincing case against the arrogance and wrong-headedness of the power plays and aggressive unilateralism of the Bush Administration. “Strange as it may seem to many Americans, many people abroad feel that despite all our talk of democracy, human rights, and free trade America’s real aim is to control the destiny of other nations in pursuit of its own short-term interests or ideological preoccupations.” Prestowitz as a true conservative calls for the return of limited government and a multilateral approach in foreign policy where once again we take our place in the global commons working together for the benefit of all.
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