|The all-American president|
|Written by Paul Woodward|
|Monday, 02 July 2007 03:00|
n this famously optimistic nation, why would we expect anything less than an unstintingly positive president? Thus, in today's Washington Post it comes as no surprise that:
Until someone shows me evidence to the contrary, I have no problem making a judgment: Bush is out of touch with reality. This is what gives him extraordinary self-confidence.
How else can one explain the latest example of Bush's distorted vision - his definition of success in Iraq ?
According to Bush, if things turn out well, Iraq will end up as a pariah state, unable to forge diplomatic relations with most states in the region. It will remain on a perpetual war-footing, forever ready to attack its neighbors. For decades, it will be the largest recipient of foreign aid from the United States. It will engage in ethnic cleansing and discriminate against religious minorities while its highly paid lobbyists in Washington spare no effort in silencing its critics and promoting its image as a dislocated Western democracy. It will build a wall to protect itself and in the process expand its own borders. A successful Iraq will model itself on Israel.
Could Bush have come up with a more inappropriate comparison? I suppose he could have said that success in Iraq means that Iraq will become like America, but then even conservative observers like Irwin Stelzer would be left in no doubt that the president has become irretrievably out of touch with reality.
In the Hall of Fame for American blunders in Iraq, Bush's remark was as ill-conceived as was the act of draping a US flag over Saddam's statued head at the beginning of the war. He and those under his command betrayed their ignorance of the sensibilities of a whole region.
At the same time, Bush also unwittingly revealed his loss of faith in any so-called peace process. If Israel is in fact demonstrating its success as a democracy because terrorism has "not prevented [it] from carrying out its responsibilities," - which responsibilities Bush didn't specify - then apparently the status quo through which Israel maintains an occupation while denying the democratic and rights of a whole population, does not undermine Israel's claim of democratic success.
Nevertheless, what Bush displayed last week was not simply yet another symptom of his being a president who has lost touch with reality; it was the kind of cultural hubris that government officials frequently express in a multitude of ways as they strain to make themselves heard while ignoring whatever their target audience has to say.
The name for this process of one-way communication is "public diplomacy" and it is supposed to remedy the ways in which America is "misunderstood" by the world. Yet America suffers less from being misunderstood, than it suffers from cultural deafness.
In a recent post on Aaron Barnhardt's blog at Kansas City Star, he wrote:
Ironically, while many Americans still imagine that al-Jazeera is nothing more than an outlet for anti-American propaganda, the channel actually does a better job than any American cable news network in providing critical coverage on the very issues that Americans are told they should be concerned about.
For instance, while CNN and Fox News provided soundbite analysis of the Hamas takeover in Gaza, al-Jazeera ran reports such as this one from "Listening Post."
How does a report like this present a threat to the average American viewer? It does no favors for Hamas. Indeed, it presents a more penetrating critique of the organization than any of the US coverage. Perhaps the greatest threat from al Jazeera however, is that it encourages the audience to think.
Is the American enterprise such a brittle thing that it might fall apart under the scrutiny of a more reflective population? Or will the intellectual torpor of this nation eventually be its undoing?
[Describing himself as "formerly a software knowledge architect, web editor, designer and Buddhist monk", Paul Woodward is also the man behind the blog "The War in Context".]