Magazine article The American Conservative

Message in a Ballot

Magazine article The American Conservative

Message in a Ballot

Article excerpt

On his first foreign trip after the "thumpin'," President Bush headed for Hanoi. Prior to departure, his lame-duck Republican Congress gave him a reminder of the election-a swift boot, setting aside his trade treaty with Vietnam.

It is a harbinger of things to come, and Bush senses it.

At the National University of Singapore, a chastened president took to resurrecting the familiar bogeymen of all Bush Republicans: "We hear voices calling for us to retreat from the world and close our doors. ... These are the old temptations of isolationism and protectionism, and America must reject them."

But unlike his father, Bush is not coming off a triumph like Desert Storm. He is a repudiated president, with an army mired in a chaotic mess in Iraq. And the trade deficits, industrial ruin, and job losses his free-trade policy has produced have just helped lose him both houses of Congress.

With the ascendancy of James Baker and Robert Gates, pundits are declaring victory for the "realists" of Bush 41 over the Vulcans and neocons of Bush 43. And surely they are partly right.

Scooter is preparing his defense. Feith, Wolfowitz, and Perle are gone. The rest of the crew will not survive a Pentagon purge by Gates, who will strip the Intel portfolio from the cherry-pickers and stove-pipers and hand it back to Langley.

So are we witnessing a revival of Baker-Scowcroft realism? Was that what America voted for? Not hardly. For the "realists" are NAFTA-GATT free traders, while free trade took a "thumpin'" as bad as Bush. Moreover, the world in which George W. leads America today is a far different place from the unipolar world of 41, where America was sheriff, assembling and leading international posses to ride down the outlaws of the world.

Multipolarism is back. Europe rejects U.S. leadership. Russians, reverting to autocracy, are putting Russia first. China has become a great power rival in Asia and Africa. With the Iraq and Lebanon wars, America has never been more isolated in the Middle East. Bush would not dare visit the region as Nixon did. Iran and North Korea are defying us and the UN openly. Anti-Americanism is rampant in the hemisphere, and neo-Marxist populism has triumphed in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia and was only narrowly defeated in Mexico and Peru.

The post-Cold War world of 41, where America led the world into an internationalist era of free trade and collective security is gone. …

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