The closer to the end of his term, the less funny (and more disastrous) Bush seems.
While the New York Times continues to report with a straight face the rhetoric of George W. Bush — the doofus POTUS demands that “the sovereign and territorial integrity of Georgia be respected,” as if the rest of the world listens — the real situation is shrewdly analyzed by international outlets such as Der Spiegel.
We’re not crazy. It’s the world that’s acting bipolar. Good luck figuring out why if you rely on just the feeble U.S. press.
Writing today on the German site’s opinion page, Gerhard Spörl notes:
Do you really think that Iraq and a sinking economy are the only messes the Bush-Cheney regime will turn over to either Obama or McCain?
The past eight years have crippled U.S. foreign policy in ways that go far beyond the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan. The rivalry between Russia and the U.S. would be bad enough without the Bush regime’s hamhandedness and bully bluster.
Spörl, the chief editor of Der Spiegel‘s foreign desk — and the author of a clear-headed, provocative Obama piece (“No. 44 Has Spoken”) a short while back — adds some context to this schizoid Caucasoid series of bloody events:
Who would have even bothered to try and pinpoint South Ossetia on the map or to carefully differentiate it from North Ossetia before the conflict? And this is supposed to be a world crisis?
But it is one indeed, because the crisis has given oil and gas producer Russia an alibi for cleaning up along its borders in places like Georgia, where the United States and NATO were beginning to exert their influence. It is a world crisis, because this wounded ex-superpower decided, some time ago, that it was going to put an end to a phase of humiliation and losses, of NATO and American expansion.
And what does this have to do with Bush’s “legacy”? Well, who’s been more smug about being the planet’s supposed lone superpower than the Bush regime? Spörl writes:
Part of the truth is that the United States had rather relished treating Russia and its then president, Vladimir Putin, as yesterday’s superpower and leader. US President George W. Bush withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and invented a missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland.
The revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia, reverberations of the revolutionary fall of 1989, were made possible by the gracious assistance and coaching of American foundations and think tanks. There was nothing wrong with this approach, but America, the overwhelmingly superior superpower, was petty enough to gloat over its achievements.
Spörl also notes the Cold War mentality of McCain:
I can’t resist one more interesting passage from Spörl’s piece:
It is true that there is a touch of the old Cold War to August 2008. And yet it is also true that the month’s events constitute only a subcategory of the larger complexity in which the world finds itself today. The United States is the common denominator. On the one hand, it had no qualms about tormenting Russia, and yet it is incapable of coming to Georgia’s aid. It was also apparently unable to dissuade the Georgian president from embarking on his adventure.
CNN is so enamored of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili that he is constantly asked to appear on the news network for interviews, so that he can instill his view of things — of Georgia on the road to democracy, and of Russia succumbing to revanchism — in Americans, to the delight of the White House.
Damn it, one more slice of Spörl, but this one helps explain why the planet’s behavior seems particularly bipolar these days:
The world ceased to be a unipolar place when the Iraq war began. When the neocons used the word unipolarity, they were referring to the idea that the world’s sole superpower, thanks to its military superiority, could assume that it was entitled to the role of global cop, and that the world must bend to its will, whether it wanted to or not.
Now a new technical term has come into circulation: multipolarity. It means that a number of powers can do as they please, without punishment, and no one can do much about it. China can do as it pleases with Tibet, the Uyghurs and its dissidents, and it can buy its energy where it pleases. India can sign a nuclear treaty with the United States, and can then vacillate between choosing to ditch the agreement and keep it in place. Iran can decide to become a nuclear power and then wait to see what happens, to see whether Israel and the United States, for example, will issue empty threats of air strikes while Russia and China obstruct the superpower in the UN Security Council whenever it calls for effective resolutions.
But the new multipolarity is lopsided. America is still the power without which nothing works — whether it be sensible or senseless.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 14, 2008