`I sit here at my computer just one hour before the kickoff of the first presidential debate, which is centered on American foreign policy and the War in Iraq. For weeks, we have listened as each candidate attempted to convey to the public that he is most apt in dealing with the War on Terror, as each took personal jabs at the leadership abilities of the other, and claimed to have a better plan for America in Iraq.
We have heard to the point of nausea that Kerry is a flip-flopper and that Bush is a cowboy who irresponsibly led our nation into war. Now they will address us without media interruption, in an event that could very well make or break this election. Yet, as the candidates square off on the issue of foreign policy, there is one issue they have sorely overlooked: the key to America’s security is much more than defeating terrorist organizations.
I’m not sure exactly how many students bothered to listen to Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International, when he spoke at Ira Allen Chapel on Wednesday night. If you missed his speech, you missed hearing about the things that make America so great as well as the areas in which the U.S. has gone off track. Zakaria’s speech focused on America, once a beacon of light to all within her borders and to all foreign people, but is now but a fading star in the international realm. Once looked upon for guidance, we are now feared due to our lack of regard for other peoples’ beliefs. Our military might is no doubt stronger than any other nation’s in the history of mankind, but instead of spreading our ideals of democracy and capitalism, we are spreading a new ideology: anti-Americanism. Since World War II, America has had a history of helping other countries. After Europe was torn to pieces, we gave them the monetary aid needed to rebuild their infrastructure and invited them back into world relations. But only a few decades later, America finds itself on the outside of world alliances. We must ask ourselves “how did this happen?” The country that invented foreign aid is now hated. It seemed to have occurred so fast. It can all be traced back to the morning of September 11th, when our homeland and citizens were viciously and brutally attacked by a group of terrorists who have no regard for the value of human life – a breed of people willing to sacrifice themselves for a cause that they could not themselves complete. Their goal was to disrupt and divide the American people, and more broadly all Western nations; a goal that they failed miserably at accomplishing because American citizens came together in a way that quite possibly none of us had seen before. Support from around the world flowed into our borders.
Everyone walked around asking “what can I do to help?” The phrase “United We Stand” had never rung more true. Just a little while later, our own commander-in-chief crushed that unity, dividing our country apart, and leaving America standing alone in a world that has only become more globalized. Mr. Bush’s goal was to rid the world of terrorism and spread democratic ideals worldwide. To virgin ears, this sounds beautiful. After all, democratic countries have never gone to war with one another. We are installing a democracy while alienating a portion of the Iraqi people, which has led to a huge insurgency. As Zakaria stated, the only way to create stability is to let the Sunni and Shiite communities in Iraq have a voice in the government. We must bend our version of democracy if it is going to work for others. We went to war with a country that had no ties to the people who had attacked us. We went to war to destroy weapons that the Iraqis never had and because of it, we are hated. China, Russia, India, France, and Germany- not one of these countries was in favor of the war effort. If only we had asked the way we had always done in the past. Imagine if Mr. Bush had said, “America is in danger and we need your help to fight terrorism worldwide”.
Instead, he stated that America had no problem going in alone and that whoever wasn’t for us was against us. With those words, America had officially become the bully of the world. But America can’t fight terrorism alone. We might have extreme military might, but, as we found out in Iraq, terrorism is not a country. We need other countries to work with us in the fight on terror. They should not be threatened by our power, but should feel like they are being supported. Henry Kissinger, known as Richard Nixon’s right hand man, made a speech just a month after 9/11 about America’s direction in foreign policy. He ended by saying, “When I was a young professor, in an indescribably long ago past, I once called upon President Truman who had just left office. I asked him what he had done of which he was most proud and he said: `of the fact that we totally defeated our enemies and that then we brought them back to community of nations as equals. In a way we have the same opportunity as the leaders who created the post-war worlds between 1945 and 1950; but we have got to get the sequence straight; we have got to defeat the enemies; and then we will be able to create a community of nations.'” A community of nations, what a thought. The world fighting terrorism, and then bring them back into the world. Not as one, but as a whole. Kissinger talked about our European allies as well as Russia, China, India, and some Middle Eastern countries playing a big role in the coalition forces. Instead, we now must fear that the citizens of those countries view us as egotistical maniacs, attempting to spread our beliefs to the entire world. We can only hope that these countries band together in an effort to balance out power. They have already stopped listening to us. George Bush might as well have not spoken recently at the UN simply because most people didn’t care about what he had to say. America, healer of world problems, is now on the outside looking in. It was a choice that Bush made; he took world unity and spread ignorance and hatred. So as these debates get underway, keep in mind that both leaders are committed to the War on Terror, and to solving the War in Iraq. There remains one fundamental difference: Bush wants to do it alone, and Kerry wants to begin to heal the wounds that Bush has created. But you can’t form peace around the world if you don’t care about the world’s opinions. That is, in essence, the danger that looms in America’s future: we are now alone.