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American Autocracy

March 2003
American Autocracy

No amount of fervent digging into history books of this century could possibly uncover a parallel to the kind of foolhardiness and downright chauvinism that is being exhibited by the current administration as it continues to bungle diplomatic as well as coalition building efforts that are so crucially needed in dealing with Iraq.

Whether a preemptive war is the best course of action is still highly debatable. From respected media pundits and policy wonks to high level officials from the senior Bush administration, many have cautioned against such an approach. Yet, if we were to accept at face value the current administration's dogmatic stance that such a preemptive war is the only solution, then too, one wonders if we have juvenile school boys leading us towards such an end.

Infamous phrases such as 'The axis of evil', 'Old Europe,' and - what started it all - 'You are either with us or against us' are the antithesis of the sagely advice of President Theodore Roosevelt: 'Speak softly but carry a stick.' The current administration's haughty and divisive language would be scoffed at even in corporate boardrooms, let alone in the international arena. It is a blemish to our times that such elementary elbowing and name calling comes from two of the highest statesmen of the free world.

Worse still are the attitudes of the administration that stomachs dissenting opinions about as well as a two year old. If the UN differs with us, it is labeled as 'irrelevant' (Never mind that one of the central justifications cited for going after Iraq is its breach of UN resolutions!). Ditto with NATO. The masses that have taken to the streets in protest, the likes of which have not been seen in decades - both in the U.S. and the world - are too labeled as 'misguided.'

Impatience, expediency, and downright arrogance have thus far characterized our approach in the critical area of coalition building. Murat Mercan, a member of parliament from the majority party in Turkey, which has now denied use of its space for American bases, has been quoted as saying. 'The Americans dictated to us. It became a business negotiation, not something between friends. It disgusted me.'

To be fair, President Bush seems to mean well. He has an unfathomable responsibility of protecting American lives in an increasingly nuclear age. Under such intense circumstances, room for errors must be granted. The challenge however, is not the occasional lapse, but rather the very modus operandi of the administration that seems to have confused bravado with leadership.

Not a posse of our worst enemies could have brought about a state of affairs that we have ourselves wrought upon us - alienation, rift, and mistrust in the world community. Sadly, even if the administration is right and even if it succeeds in its operation in Iraq, it is raising the cost to us, both in cash and kind, with each such diplomatic blunder. Time only will tell if such a stance will induce the very calamity that we are out to prevent - the terrorist attack we most fear.

- Parthiv N. Parekh

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