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The state of the union is impressive yet dangerous

US President George W. Bush’s State of the Union message Tuesday was a comprehensive microcosm of all the issues that make the world love and hate America. The impressive aspects of the performance were many, most notably the powerful national commitment to work, and even to fight, for principles that the American people hold dear. The US determination to promote freedom, democracy, and economic dynamism throughout the world is inspiring. People everywhere have no trouble identifying with such noble goals. Bush articulated them with passion and sincerity.

Less impressive is the slightly haughty tone that the president used to define America’s self-proclaimed global mission to do all the above. His administration’s continuing confusion between the causes and consequences of terrorism has led the United States into a situation in which it risks making the “war on terrorism” a chronic and even perpetual global dynamic. If the substance of American foreign-policy goals is admirable and widely shared, the manner of American foreign-policy implementation is not. This rather jingoistic and arrogant manner ­ America does what it must do anywhere in the world ­ was evident in the president’s speech, and is highly objectionable to most of the rest of the world.

In relation to Middle Eastern issues, the president’s speech also reflected both wisdom and whimsy. One could not miss the very sharp contrast between last year’s speech and its allegations about Iraq’s multiple alleged threats against the US and the world, and this year’s more humble, almost tacit admission that most of those charges against Iraq remain unproven. People respect the US more today because of its willingness to use force to back up its threats, but they also respect it less because of two related issues that are so evident in the Middle East these days: Washington is erratic in following through on stated policies, and it uses its military force in a manner that often does not adequately take into consideration local realities.

The latter point is self-evident in the increasingly messy political situation within Iraq, where the anticipated transition from US occupation to Iraqi sovereignty in July remains mired in disagreements and imprecision. The former point is most obvious in the American posture on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the wider Arab-Israeli ones. Here Washington blows hot and cold, pledging the president’s personal commitment to resolving the conflicts, then not mentioning the issue in the president’s most important annual speech.

Bush’s speech was an accurate reflection of the state of US relations with the world: marvelous in some respects, and dangerously naive in others.


How can we manifest peace on earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both sexes) in our vision of Peace?

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