It’s not a natural inclination of mine or of most people, I suppose. But there’s a sort of American rhetoric about their own exceptional character and role in the world that would tempt even their most stalwart friends. Fareed Zakaria, an editor of Newsweek, writes in this month’s Foreign Policymagazine bq. In this post-ideological age, anti-Americanism fills the void left by defunct belief systems [but] … On terror, trade, AIDs, nuclear proliferation, U.N. reform, and foreign aid, U.S. leadership is indispensable. (“Foreign Policy”:http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/files/story2670.php) When writers such as Zakaria venture into these hyperbolic regions, foreigners are prompted by nothing more than respect for historical fact—not by anti-American animus—to ask: “Are you kidding?” Exactly how has the US been an “indispensable” leader on terror? By ditching multilateral cooperation and the pleas of close allies in favor of a self-interested, and it “appears”:http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2004–04-16-woodward-book_x.htm an a priori campaign against Saddam Hussein that has, if nothing else, spread the infection of terror? There can be no international trade reform without the United States. But to what degree has it been an “indispensible”—or even a consistent—leader? What sort of leadership brought it to compromise its “principles”:http://www.inquit.com/article/196/trans-atlantic-trade-deal in the preparations for the WTO Cancún meeting? Should a leader have doggedly fought grubby rear-guard battles on drug patents and “cotton subsidies”:http://reason.com/sullum/110703.shtml, diverting attention from the main struggle for the liberalization of global markets? Did it show leadership by “dramatically increasing”:http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2002/05/13/farm-bill.htm it’s support for its own farm sector over the past two years while decrying support in other markets? Or by “giving the Byrd”:http://www.caltradereport.com/eWebPages/front-page-1094251285.html to the WTO over it’s refusal to amend its “costly”:http://www.inquit.com/article/47/the-cost-of-the-byrd-amendment protectionist, illegal anti-dumping action? The US has been generous—and some of it’s private philanthropists more than generous—in funding the fight against AIDs, particularly in Africa. But the same imaginative leadership has been completely absent from it’s posture in the United Nations which, for two decades or more, it has treated with an ill-disguised contempt that finally became overt when it “decided to pre-empt”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/3134032.stm continuing multilateral action on Iraq in early 2003. Finally to claim that the USA, which under President Bush has # Abandoned the historic ABM treaty
# Ensured that the START II arms limitation agreements—to cut nuclear weapons by two-thirds by 2003—will never become binding
# Accelerated spending on arms in space through it’s ‘Strategic Defense Initiative’ (Star Wars)
# Begun a public evaluation of the tactical use of nuclear weapons is a ‘leader in nuclear non-proliferation’ is simply false (“here’s”:http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/history/A0857772.html a nice summary of the recent history of agreements on nuclear arms).
Peter Gallagher is student of piano and photography. He was formerly a senior trade official of the Australian government. For some years after leaving government, he consulted to international organizations, governments and business groups on trade and public policy.
He teaches graduate classes at the University of Adelaide on trade research methods and the role of firms in trade and growth and tweets trade (and other) stuff from @pwgallagher