BLAME HIM, NOT AMERICA; Greedy, Self-Interested and Arrogant, America Is Also the Most Incredible Social and Economic Machine in History. A Shamefully Ill-Defended Europe Has No Right to Sneer SATURDAY ESSAY

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Byline: MAX HASTINGS

PRESIDENT George Bush's trip to Britain next week is perhaps the most unpopular state visit since that of the late Emperor Hirohito of Japan.

Indeed, the emperor attracted protests only from those who remembered his nation's ghastly past. The President provokes outrage among those dismayed by his present follies, and fearful of worse to come.

A friend, a highly intelligent middle-aged woman of liberal rather than Leftwing views, intends to be out there on the London streets next Thursday, determined to do her small part to show how unwelcome is George Bush in this town.

She will not, of course, be able to throw tomatoes at him in the traditional open carriage with the Queen, even were she so rude as to wish to do so.

There will be no open carriage.

This visit is to be conducted according to Bush custom, not British.

Unless our hapless monarch takes a firm line, she is liable to find herself asked to serve some Texan delicacy like okra with black-eyed peas at the state banquet.

'If only,' a Whitehall acquaintance with some marginal responsibility for The Visit observed wistfully, 'we could arrange it so that the President did not have to speak. It is when he opens his mouth that things go wrong. The rhetoric is awful.' Tony Blair was, of course, foolish to encourage Bush to come. The trip was planned in the faraway days before matters went pear-shaped in Iraq. But it has been evident for a long time that this President and the British people are not soulmates.

Britain, amid the misgivings of many of its people, stuck its neck out for the sake of the Atlantic Alliance, in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

Even if it is wrong to regard international relationships entirely as a matter of horsetrading, it is dispiriting to observe the absolute lack of payback from Bush's administration for his sole important ally against Saddam.

BLAIR pressed Washington to couple military action against Iraq with a much tougher line towards Sharon's Israel.

Instead, the White House has simply washed its hands of any responsibility for Israeli excesses.

On a wide range of bilateral trade issues, Bush has beavered away at building protectionist dams, offering no more concessions to Britain than to the rest of the world.

The multibillion-dollar contracts for reconstructing Iraq have been handed without shame to American cronies of the administration, because that is the way they do things in Texas. British companies are pecking about at the foot of the bird table, for a few crumbs that may fall off.

Bush is willing to put $87 billion into Iraq, yet offers almost nothing to the rest of the impoverished world. He is spending more on defence than did his predecessors at the height of the Cold War, yet giving scarcely a dime in aid to the nations whose misery feeds the terrorism against which he believes that he needs cruise missiles to defend himself.

This is the foreign policy of South Fork. Indeed, it is scarcely a foreign policy at all, but rather the exercise of an amazingly short-sighted military doctrine, founded upon hubris that can generate only more hatred for the United States.

Yet Bush's self-belief is, so far, undiminished by reality. His predecessor, Bill Clinton, a much more intelligent man, adopted a cynical and tentative attitude to policy.

Clinton would try something - brokering Israeli-Palestinian talks, or aiding Africa - and see what happened. If polls showed that people liked it, if his plan seemed to be going somewhere, he would persist. If not, if he ran into difficulties, he would back off.

Many Americans today respect Bush's very different attitude to his office - one founded upon religious principle. In that huge society which may still be called God-fearing, there are plenty of people who say: 'Praise the Lord that the adulterer has gone from the White House! …