Coping With the Consequences of Blind Fear | Harper's Magazine

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Coping With the Consequences of Blind Fear


“Where there is no vision, the people perish,” says Scripture (Proverbs 29:18). For six years, America has been in the hands of a team of fear-mongers, who claim to have vision, but who are indeed blind. In fact this crew suffers from what psychiatrists call Tolstoy’s syndrome, that is, they think they know all the answers, so they neither see nor listen. And the consequences of their misrule have been staggering. The current issue of Harper’s features a series of essays on “Undoing Bush”, an attempt to chart the vital work that will start on January 20, 2009. I fancy that Fareed Zakaria just finished reading it, because his current Newsweek essay shows the influence of the Harper’s pieces at several points. And consider this:

America… will have to move on and restore its place in the world. To do this we must first tackle the consequences of our foreign policy of fear. Having spooked ourselves into believing that we have no option but to act fast, alone, unilaterally and pre-emptively, we have managed in six years to destroy decades of international good will, alienate allies, embolden enemies and yet solve few of the major international problems we face.

In a global survey released last week, most countries polled believed that China would act more responsibly in the world than the United States. How does a Leninist dictatorship come across more sympathetically than the oldest constitutional democracy in the world? Some of this is, of course, the burden of being the biggest. But the United States has been the richest and most powerful nation in the world for almost a century, and for much of this period it was respected, admired and occasionally even loved. The problem today is not that America is too strong but that it is seen as too arrogant, uncaring and insensitive. Countries around the world believe that the United States, obsessed with its own notions of terrorism, has stopped listening to the rest of the world.

Fareed sees in the entire coterie of presidential candidates, exactly one who will continue the lemming-like march over the nearest cliff: Rudy Giuliani:

More troubling than any of Bush’s rhetoric is that of the Republicans who wish to succeed him. “They hate you!” says Rudy Giuliani in his new role as fearmonger in chief, relentlessly reminding audiences of all the nasty people out there. “They don’t want you to be in this college!” he recently warned an audience at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. “Or you, or you, or you,” he said, reportedly jabbing his finger at students. In the first Republican debate he warned, “We are facing an enemy that is planning all over this world, and it turns out planning inside our country, to come here and kill us.” On the campaign trail, Giuliani plays a man exasperated by the inability of Americans to see the danger staring them in the face. “This is reality, ma’am,” he told a startled woman at Oglethorpe. “You’ve got to clear your head.”

It’s a good piece, and Fareed’s patient but confident optimism in America’s ability to overcome the horrible damage that Bush has wrought is decidedly the right attitude. Whether he’s right as a matter of prognosis remains, of course, to be seen.

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