Earlier this month, The Nation and The Economist held a debate in New York City. Billed as “America’s Role in the World: Protector or Predator,” it was a wide-ranging discussion about US foreign policy, the Bush Administration, American intentions and neo-liberalism.
WNYC’s Brian Lehrer was an artful moderator and Economist editor Bill Emmott a civil and informed adversary. While he and I disagreed on many issues, we did agree on the importance of independent media in this era of consolidation. CSPAN, which broadcast the debate on June 21, plans subsequent airings and is selling copies of the videotape on its website. (You can also listen and watch on your computer.) Below is an adapted version of my opening remarks:
These are perilous times, ones that raise large and fateful questions: What kind of country does the US want to be in the 21st century? Empire or Democracy? Global Leader or Global Cop? I believe that in pursuit of global dominance, the Bush Administration is endangering the world order abroad and the republic at home.
Consider that this Administration is as disrespectful of the US Constitution as it is of the UN charter. Its policies have widened the rift between the US and the rest of the globe, further inflamed the Muslim world and weakened the international coalitions so crucial to the fight against terrorism. In short, this Administration is making the US and the world a more dangerous place.
Yet, in history and politics there are always alternatives. The question is how America’s unparalleled power might be used, how it might engage the world so as to become a source of hope, not fear. What needs to be stated clearly is that there is no mandate in the US for the extremist policies of this Administration. Our Foreign policy has been hijacked by a small neocon cabal, whose models appear to be Hobbes and John Wayne (in his later period, after The Searchers), which has been busily working to remake the world in its image for the last decade.