Great piece in yesterday's Times from the indispensable Gerard Baker, the newspaper's US Editor.
Mr Baker noted the longstanding tradition that the USA's most effective critics have always been home-grown. In the Vietnam era, for example, the fiercest critics were James Fonda, Bobby Kennedy and Marvin Gaye. Today the leading critics are Al Gore (on the environment), Bill Clinton (on multilateralism) and the Hollywood brethren of Michael Moore - the latest output of which includes the film Rendition. Click here for an overview of 'Hollywood's war on the Bush agenda'.
If there was any justice, the scale of internal criticism should caution those people who, as Baker writes, believe that the "wiretapping, Guantanamo-building, tourist-fingerprinting regime" of George W Bush "is terrifying Americans into quiet, desperate acquiescence."
The most important section of Gerry Baker's piece comes in the concluding paragraphs:
"The Americans who win global approbation in Oslo or at the UN are not simply critics of current American policy. They want to construct an international system that will for ever prevent the US from pursuing its own objectives, a system designed to dilute, counterbalance and constrain America’s ability to govern itself. They prefer a world in which American democracy is subordinated to a kind of global government, rule by a global elite, tasked to make decisions on everyone’s behalf in the name of multilateralism.
Al Gore wants the US to give up its economic autonomy and submit to rule by binding international obligations to curb its carbon emissions. Some of the Democratic candidates for the presidency want to tie down the American Gulliver under a web of global treaties. The British Government, if recent speeches by ministers are to be believed, is now apparently seriously committed to the idea that only the UN has the legitimacy to determine how nations should behave. In other words, that a system that gives vetoes to China and Russia and honours the human rights contributions of countries such as Syria or North Korea should be accorded a full role in the promotion of the dignity of mankind.
There’s a larger irony in all this. Even as the US demonstrates the openness of its own society, its unrivalled capacity for self-examination and self-correction, a free system based on the absolute authority of the rule of law, it is told it must submit itself to the views of Moscow, Beijing, and Brussels.
Fortunately, while the American system may be forgivingly tolerant of people with wild and dangerous ideas, it doesn’t generally let them run the country."
This is the great truth that the critics of America need to face up to. America is a flawed superpower but what are the alternatives? A United Nations that has failed Rwanda, Darfur and Burma and elevates human rights abusing nations to the head of its human rights council? European Union member states that won't invest in defence? Germany, France and other NATO countries which are not fulfilling commitments made to Afghanistan? China - which puts its oil interests with Khartoum ahead of the people of Darfur? Or Russia - which bullies its neighbours and indulges Iran at the Security Council?
Anti-Americanism will exist so long as the USA is the world's only effective policeman. There'll always be people and nations who will hate authority figures and America's superpower status. America needs to learn the lessons of recent years but it must not submit to multilateralism. America is currently hated because it has combined interventionism with incompetence. If it becomes beholden to multilateral institutions and agreements it will be enfeebled. Such an America will probably be less hated but few will regard it highly. It needs to be strong again. A strong, effective America - working closely with other key democracies - may not be loved but it might become reasonably respected again.