Tuesday, November 01, 2005

USA and the World

It's almost fashionable to dislike USA foreign policy under Bush these days and it has generated a lot of general anti-American feeling - especially in younger people.

It's true that USA has meddled heavily in World affairs. Some of this is perceived as very morally questionable, but there is much which was and is extremely useful to the countries in receipt. Military intervention was very welcome in Europe in WWII and the subsequent Marshall Plan. The fear of Communism was passionate in the past and was a motivating force in Korea and Vietnam of course and created rather unsavoury unwinnable conflicts.

In the business world so many of us in Western Europe and elsewhere benefit greatly from American companies setting up and trading abroad. My own company is totally dependant on US suppliers and indeed US established companies in Ireland as customers. Business is a two way system however - it also suits the US companies to trade here from all the benefits Ireland have to offer. That is not to dilute the respect and gratitude each party is entitled to extend both ways. The USA are very good trading partners. We depend on them a lot and we have strong historical connections.

One of the factors which troubles myself and others is the USA's sheer dominance as a superpower. Bush has had a rather nasty tendency to make this factor look dangerous to us all since 9/11. A lot of his rhetoric to the nations of the World just before Afganistan and Iraq invasions was along the lines of "if you are not with us - you are against us". Their military might makes you wonder what could happen if someone a bit more right wing than Bush came along and got the US people motivated enough to believe that more and more countries outside USA are dangerous. The manipulation and ultimate ignoring of the UN was also a heavy handed step which compounds this future danger. Without the UN - who is able to tell the USA when enough is enough?

It's easy to imagine the above happening. USA is a big place with great geographical, climatic and to some extent cultural diversity. In the vaste majority of American states people's idea of a foreign holiday is going to places like California or Florida or Hawaii. I've been to USA many times on business and it's incredible how little that ordinary people know or care about places external to North America. You could picture a situation where they were persuaded that more places in the World needed to be made safe as threats to Americans. 9/11 having hit the USA heavily right in their quintessential heart - had the effect of silencing any major sense of American foreign injustice - as had happened for Vietnam.

I recall in 1996 when the huge (but aging and non-nucleor) aircraft carrier JFK was in Dublin Bay for about a week. The big HSS passenger ferry looked like a small toy as it daily steamed past the JFK. Dun Laoghaire was full of sailors in crisp white uniforms. On Sunday morning in our tennis club we all stopped our tennis matches to look up in awe as a handful of powerful American jet fighters flew right over our club. I thought to myself that these jets probably had the potential firepower to wipe out much of Dublin. The impressive Dublin visitation would have represented a tiny fraction of 1% of the USA's military might.

Let's not forget that in spite of USA's warnings on the dangers of nucleor weapons that the USA are the only nation to have used nucleor bombs as a weapon - twice in fact.

There is an uneasy feeling created from the Bush administraion that we mustn't get the USA too mad. We are lucky to have all the foreign investment and the protection and we should be very grateful and be good little democracies. There was hint of this squirmy feeling when Bertie kept the refueling in Shannon arrangement going even though we are a neutral state. Our condemnation to the Bush administration's ignoring of the UN was diplomatic eggshell walking. Our little country needs all the American business.

Having said all of the above, there have been and still are disgusting activities going on in foreign regimes. Many states seem to latch onto religious extremism and Al Qaeda are an exceptionally nasty group who have completely exploited Islam. There must be unity against terror. I just think Bush's style of being a shoot-from-the-hip old wild west sherriff is grossly over simplistic, encourages the terrorists further and makes traditional allies uncomfortable. A more sophisticated long term approach is required with considerably greater intelligence and less insightment to motivate even more terror.

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