America’s global influence
evaporates along with
its moral authority
Jeb Bush was tongue-tied when asked about brother George’s disastrous invasion of Iraq.
As if we need a reminder that George W. Bush irreparably damaged US moral authority, we discovered this week that not even Jeb Bush wants to own his brother’s legacy.
More than a dozen years on from the disastrous invasion of Iraq on false pretenses, the week began with a presidential snub by the king of Saudi Arabia and ended with a repudiation of the 40-year US war on drugs in South America.
These international setbacks come after more than six months of racially charged police violence which has laid bare a corrupt criminal justice system; a continuing debate in Congress over illegal government spying on Americans; and the unseemly money race now fully engaged by 2016 presidential hopefuls.
Its no wonder the US ability to influence global events is at its lowest ebb in generations. It is setting an example few should want to emulate.
The no-show of King Salman at Thursday’s summit of Arab leaders with President Obama at Camp David is just the latest in a series of unsuccessful attempts by the US to influence events around the globe – from the Middle East to South America and Eastern Europe.
Beginning with the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria, the collapse of any semblance of government in Libya and now the proxy war in former US ally Yemen, the list of failed US interventions is long and growing.
President Barack Obama with Gulf Cooperation Council leaders at the conclusion of a summit meeting at Camp David, Md., on May 14. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
In the Middle East, Obama is placing all his bets on negotiating a deal with Iran on its nuclear ambitions, but this is one of the proximate causes of angst among longtime allies like Sunni Saudi Arabia and Jewish Israel.
“Saudi Arabia is so angry at the emerging nuclear agreement between Iran and the major powers that it is threatening to develop its own nuclear capability,” The New York Times said in an editorial on Friday.
King Salman was not the only Arab leader to miss the summit; Bahrain’s king, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, was also a no-show.
The Israeli opposition to the Iran negotiations was center stage in March during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress when he warned that a proposed agreement between world powers and Iran was “a bad deal” that would not stop Tehran from getting nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, two reports on Saturday underlined the waning US influence abroad in two disparate spheres.
In the story Latin American Allies Resist U.S. Strategy in Drug Fight The New York Times reports that countries across the Americas are tired of the 40-year-old “war” on drugs which has in many cases ripped apart their societies without accomplishing so much as even a decrease in the drug trade.
“Across the Americas, governments are increasingly resisting the tenets of the United States-led approach to fighting drugs, often challenging traditional strategies like prohibition, the eradication of crops, and a militarized stance to battling growers in a fundamental shift in the region.”
The latest to resist is Columbia, where aerial spraying of coca crops was halted this week. As its justice minister so astutely pointed out, if nothing has been accomplished after 50 years, it’s time to try a new approach.
Across the globe, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Thursday, the first such high level meeting since the annexation of Crimea more than a year ago and the continuing low-grade war in eastern Ukraine.
The New York Times headlined its analysis A Diplomatic Victory, and Affirmation, for Putin and left no doubt about public perceptions of the capitulation.
“[The meeting] was widely interpreted here as a signal of surrender by the Americans,” wrote David M. Herszenhorn from Moscow.
These recent pokes at the world’s only superpower come long after it has proved powerless to stop the carnage in Syria; its intervention in Libya led to another failed state; and its multi-trillion dollar wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have left both countries in ruins.
But they cannot be isolated from domestic events like the dozens of widely reported incidents of police abuse, the racism exposed in the criminal justice system or the debate over illegal government surveillance playing out in Congress.
The world has had a ringside seat to the underbelly of US domestic woes with recent violent outbursts in Baltimore, South Carolina and Ferguson. It has not been a pretty picture, but it has done much to tarnish the image of the American brand as the “land of the free.”
Domestically and internationally, it is becoming ever more clear to growing numbers of people that the US has lost the moral authority to claim leadership of the free world.
We should not be surprised that America’s interests are playing second fiddle to those of dictator-wannabees like Putin and religious zealots like King Salman.
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