Here as I write, the USA is in the middle of preparing for a war. In Germany we find reasons such as world domination or control of oil to explain this, but, and this can only be seen from within, it is also a political and ideological competition between the parties that has also contributed to the position the world is in.
An opinion poll just out reveals that 47 % of the American public trust the Republicans and only 16 % the Democrats to ensure America’s safety (Newsweek, 17th February 2003, p. 72). The Republicans spent eight years enduring Clinton’s politics, a politic of openness and tolerance, oriented towards world integration, free trade and peace. This political direction contradicts the world view and principles of many Americans.
Finally now that Bush has taken on political responsibility the values of religiousness, authority and safety through strength, dominance, nationalism, and supposedly through state cutbacks, have resumed centre stage. This shift has considerable consequences.
Many Republicans hold Clinton and his relaxed safety policy responsible for the occurrences of the 11th September 2001. Likewise they are also of the opinion that the current economic crisis is also Clinton’s legacy: changes in economic direction always take several years to appear. For them, they are now attempting to repair damaged caused by a weak President.
Clinton cannot really do much in his defence. He has no political power of any worth. His party is split by the debate about terrorism between nationalism and the peace movement. In his speech in Atlanta on the 13th February Clinton explained that for him there is no escaping an interdependence in the modern world. He believes that integration is the only way to be able to tackle the problems of interdependence as quickly, effectively and smoothly as possible. A shared responsibility promotes shared values and advantages, brings the people of the world together and breeds tolerance for living together in peace. »And if you remember only one thing, the necessity of integration in an interdependent world, then I shall be a happy man,« the former President told his guests.
However clear and logical this position may seem and however much people are in favour of peace, it is difficult to maintain the courage to pitch for discussions and the comprehensive adherence to judicial means when the powers at be are threatened by unstable home and foreign safety. Who wants to be responsible for a possible terrorist attack through the unpreparedness of a too peace-oriented policy? The idea of a preventative strike pervades all areas of society, and at the moment it seems that integration has been sacrificed in favour of nationalism, or put another way, understanding has been replaced by egotism, diplomacy by the threat of violence.
Was not the unconditional solidarity of the whole world after the 11th September not enough for the US-government to feel safe? For a while it appeared so. However solidarity is not enough to counteract the essential thrust of today’s US-politics – autonomy and dominance. After eight years of Clinton, this political expression is stronger than ever. Two years are not nearly enough to recover the long-repressed need for power, to realise the plans and aims developed during the Democrat-dominated years. For the current government overthrowing Saddam Hussein is already decided – as Bush says: »The game is over«. He means for Hussein, not himself – and he is prepared to do everything to keep it that way. This is just the beginning.
The confusion, isolation and conflicts of interests brought on by current American foreign policy seems not to bother Bush and his advisors, likewise the worldwide and national protests against a strike against Iraq. Carried by his principles of national safety and international politics of strength, Bush is on a mission. It is a courageous country that is prepared to stand in his way. France and its foreign minister have demonstrated such courage. The result is a wave of anti-French feeling throughout parts of America. Two jokes by way of example: What could bring the French to make war against Iraq? The discovery of truffles in Iraq. Or: what are ten thousand Frenchmen with their hands raised? A French army. The same sentiments could equally be directed against Germany. For the moment it is not so extreme. The worldwide demonstrations against war and the reports from Blix and ElBaradei also fuel doubt in America as to whether a strike against Iraq absolutely necessary is to protect the national safety within America. However, the argument remains that Saddam Hussein is an unpredictable dictator, comparable to Hitler, and that his position at the head of the Iraqis represents a danger for the World. Neither the American Government nor the American People have heard a satisfactory answer to this question and Bush seems decided upon removing Hussein from power, wherever possible to kill him. I have heard and read this repeatedly during my stay here in America. Never a mention of a trial.
New York, 17th February 2003