The President’s State of the Union speech has already been published online, at Think Progress. As expected, President Bush cements his decision to not opt for an early withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, and hits back at suggestions to the contrary:
Yet there is a difference between responsible criticism that aims for success, and defeatism that refuses to acknowledge anything but failure. Hindsight alone is not wisdom. And second-guessing is not a strategy.
With so much in the balance, those of us in public ofﬁce have a duty to speak with candour. A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq would abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison, put men like bin Laden and Zarqawi in charge of a strategic country, and show that a pledge from America means little. Members of Congress: however we feel about the decisions and debates of the past, our nation has only one option. We must keep our word, defeat our enemies, and stand behind the American military in its vital mission.
This remains a touchy subject in a nation as politicized as the United States. The First Lady gave an excellent interview to David Frost not long ago, essentially stating something that if you want peace, sometimes you must wage war. She stressed that her husband was opposed to war—but that it can be a necessity for the greater good.
I took quite a strict interpretation of resolution 1441 at the United Nations Security Council at the time the US was debating to go to war—but whatever one’s political bent, America is involved. So what should America do?
A pledge needs to be carried out. History is littered with broken promises from the US Government, and I would like to see it not break this one—for the reputation of the country. The United States has won friends in the past not because it has pursued paciﬁst policies: anti-American sentiment was high during President Carter’s administration down here; pro-American sentiment was high during World War II and in the years after it. President Clinton made friends internationally while defying the UN Security Council in 1995 (Bosnia), 1998 (Iraq) and 1999 (Kosovo), with much of the public here remembering him as a globally minded leader.
Why? Was it because the Clinton presidency was globalist in its nature, wanting to help the world—even if it encountered hiccups along the way? Businesses came on board with a wish to work with other cultures, not really seeing the borders. I remember American businesses being sensitive, even caring, in their quest to form alliances. They had learned the lesson of falling behind Japan in productivity and innovation—the late 1980s and early 1990s were a period of growth in the US’s business maturity: many business books written during that time has a conciliatory, international outlook. And they were years I was introduced to dealing with the United States.
The Bush presidency did not start out with this aim, but circumstances have compelled it to nation-build and to have a more robust foreign policy than the President might have indicated during his 2000 campaign. But it has found itself at this point in 2006, having to repeat the events of September 11, 2001 as its justiﬁcation, and is in desperate need to brand the war as one of freedom and liberty.
It might be, and it might not be. I am interested in politics, but probably not enough to manage a debate on this blog this week. But from where I sit, the only course open to President Bush—or if I were in his shoes, with the same pressures—is to keep pledges made publicly to the United States’ Iraqi allies. In my book, that means staying the course.
There are good reasons not to do this. A trillion-dollar deﬁcit is no cause for celebration. It offends my Confucian—I suppose libertarian (not liberal) by western standards—nature. Americans may feel domestic problems are more pressing, and George W. Bush is the president of the United States, not of other territories. There is no immediately foreseeable harm to having a date for withdrawal, even as a target. And it is extremely hard to see why security in a foreign land can mean economic and societal prosperity in the US. Or so the arguments go: for each one there is an equally impassioned argument to the contrary.
Others will argue that the deﬁcit is a necessary evil for the time being while the country is waging war. That if the United States sorts out a foreign problem, it will lead to greater security at home. That a date for withdrawal simply gives terrorists a target date to regroup and to take over territories from which the US is departing. That the United States had no choice but to be involved in war after being attacked on September 11, 2001: foreigners made the US a global policeman, not the United States and not the President.
So in the midst of these conﬂicting arguments, I believe the job of a leader is to set an example. If the President says that promise-keeping to an outsider is the order of the day—for the sake of this argument I conveniently ignore areas where things are less clear—I can see American companies wanting to build bridges with others in foreign countries.
This happened 10 to 15 years ago, and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the innovations and the new models I cooked up with American partners in business, where we had equal input. I enjoyed the presumption that we were equals in a deal. This happened when the President’s father and President Clinton were in ofﬁce: a Republican and a Democrat.
But of late, dealing with American businesses has been difﬁcult. People talking big and not following through. Others adopting adversarial positions. Trust being eroded.
Many Americans I speak to regret how business has taken a tumble. They, too, notice it in dealings with their own compatriots.
Haven’t I just shot my own argument in the foot? If the President is so high and mighty, surely I wouldn’t have these troubles working with his nationals?
Here is where I see the example being set and the message being communicated as being two different things, and this is where the problem actually lies.
A few years ago, I submitted some research to the National Security Adviser on branding. I offered the viewpoint that the US needed to have a uniﬁed brand, and that the work of Ms Charlotte Beers at the time was insufﬁcient (or, at best, it needed more resources). This was a bit before Simon Anholt became as active as he is today in nation branding, but it was at a time when I felt sure that Dr Condoleezza Rice would be asked to be Secretary of State in President Bush’s second term (yes, I predicted he would win).
I do not recall in depth the actual brand that I proposed to Dr Rice, but I touched on the disunity between the White House and the messages actually getting out of the country. Most relied on the US’s liberal media outlets, which have been shown to be biased, most recently at a university in a liberal state.
The media have created disunity, and that in turn affects the public. The fuelling of one political viewpoint has meant that the public perceives a tyrant for a president, if they rely on the network television programmes. Surprisingly, Brit Hume’s show on Fox News, blasted by some as being right-wing, has been found to be one of the most balanced; as has Gannett’s USA Today newspaper. However, not every American turns to these news sources. And not every American can believe the President when he says the economy is strong, or that he is keeping government spending in check.
So what can one do? Side with the Republicans and spread the cheer in the hope that that will balance the bias? Or simply be more selective about what we read, watch and listen to?
Or do we, too, stand out here with our own example and hope we can lead?
Maybe this is why the bloggers are rising and the mainstream media need a rethink.
And, I would even venture, actually supporting the President on some of his more visionary ideas, especially ones we can agree on. If we can start with where we agree, we can create dialogue in areas where we disagree.
Taking Iraq aside, there are positions which I believe even President Clinton would be happy to endorse:
We must also change how we power our automobiles. We will increase our research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars, and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen. We will also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips, stalks, or switch grass. Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years. Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 per cent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025. By applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy, and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past. …
Yet the destination of history is determined by human action, and every great movement of history comes to a point of choosing. Lincoln could have accepted peace at the cost of disunity and continued slavery. Martin Luther King could have stopped at Birmingham or at Selma, and achieved only half a victory over segregation. The United States could have accepted the permanent division of Europe, and been complicit in the oppression of others. Today, having come far in our own historical journey, we must decide: will we turn back, or ﬁnish well?
I say, as world citizens, let’s work with the United States on the areas that better all our lives. And even get the nation thinking of becoming not just less oil-dependent, but moving away from fossil fuels altogether.
Del.icio.us tags: George W. Bush | State of the Union | war on terror | Osama bin Laden | USA | politics | nation branding | media bias | liberal media | mainstream media | alternative fuels | fossil fuels Posted by Jack Yan, 02:13
Randy Thomas identiﬁes one aspect of American society in the President’s address at his blog: ‘To nutshell it, the two biggest themes for this non political analyst was “A Hopeful Society …” and “a life of personal responsibility is a life of fulfillment.” It boils down to the individual taking personal responsibility and a nation of people who have this ethic can lead to a hopeful society.’ He states it far more eloquently than I did.
Update: alternative fuels must be in the consciousness Down Under. It was the only part of the State of the Union address that was highlighted in the six o’clock and late bulletins on 3 News in New Zealand.
I'd be a bit wary of that survey that claims to prove the US media is biassed to the left. Its methodology is based on some questionable assumptions and measures. And its author appears to have very strong rightwing credentials, according to this:
Thanks, Johnnie! I dislike biases either to the right or to the left and the researcher’s afﬁliations now seem somewhat suspect. However, I still feel there is a strong degree of bias.
Update on political power v. will power: all it takes is an energy secretary to say that the President was just kidding when he talked about alternative fuels, according to Knight–Ridder newspapers. ‘[Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman] said the broad goal was to displace foreign oil imports, from anywhere, with domestic alternatives. He acknowledged that oil is a freely traded commodity bought and sold globally by private ﬁrms. Consequently, it would be very difﬁcult to reduce imports from any single region, especially the most oil-rich region on Earth. …
‘“In 2025, net petroleum imports, including both crude oil and reﬁned products, are expected to account for 60 percent of demand … up from 58 percent in 2004,” according to the Energy Information Administration's 2006 Annual Energy Outlook.’
A heck of a lot more needs to be done to change the Cabinet’s thinking: America has the brains and the technology, but does it have the will to move away from fossil fuels?
Spotted in The Guardian, a commentary on the energy aspect of the State of the Union address.Post a Comment
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