At War with Ourselves: Why America Is Squandering Its Chance to Build a Better World

At War with Ourselves: Why America Is Squandering Its Chance to Build a Better World

At War with Ourselves: Why America Is Squandering Its Chance to Build a Better World

At War with Ourselves: Why America Is Squandering Its Chance to Build a Better World

Synopsis

As correspondent for Newsweek, Michael Hirsh has traveled to every continent, reporting on American foreign policy. Now he draws on his experience to offer an original explanation of America's role in the world and the problems facing the nation today and in the future. Using colorful vignettes and up-close reporting from his coverage of the first two post-Cold War presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Hirsh argues that America has a new role never before played by any nation: it is the world's Uberpower, overseeing the global system from the air, land, sea and, increasingly, from space as well. And that means America has a unique opportunity do what no great power in history has ever done--to perpetuate indefinitely the global system it has built, to create an international community with American power at its center that is so secure it may never be challenged. Yet Americans are squandering this chance by failing to realize what is at stake. At the same time that America as a nation possesses powers it barely comprehends, Americans as individuals have vulnerabilities they never before imagined. They desperately need the international community on their side. In an era when democracy and free markets have become the prevailing ideology, Hirsh argues, one of America's biggest problems will be "ideological blowback"--facing up to the flaws and contradictions of its own ideals. Hence, for example, the biggest threat to political stability is not totalitarianism, but the tricky task of instituting democracy in the Arab world without giving Islamic fundamentalists the reigns of power. The only way for Washington to avoid accusations of hypocrisy is to allow the global institutions it has built, like the U.N., to do the hard work of promoting U.S. values.

Excerpt

I write this from Baghdad, where George W. Bush's grand vision for American foreign policy is dying. The life is draining from it day by day, in the tally of thousands of young Americans killed and wounded, in the vast sums of money that American taxpayers are spending with little appreciation from the Iraqis, in the arbitrary detentions of thousands of Iraqis as U.S. forces fight an insurgency they don't understand.

Americans are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on Iraq. Yet we cannot show our faces here. When we Americans, we liberators of Iraq, go out in the streets, we must cower in the back of cars to avoid detection. We pretend to be some other nationality to avoid being kidnapped or bombed or shot at by the people we have liberated. The Iraqis who work for us do not tell even their wives and children that they are employed by Americans, so great is the stigma of the botched U.S. occupation. The occupation has lasted, at this writing, less than a year, but it seems as if a generation has come and gone since Iraqis cheered the arrival of American tanks. The Bush administration consciously invited this state of affairs; the president sought to put an all-American stamp on the occupation, disdaining the need for UN or multilateral cover and international . . .

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