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Global Trends by Martin Khor

Monday 8 November 2004


OUTLOOK FOR A SECOND BUSH TERM

So, there will be another four years of a United States government led by George W. Bush.  His challenger, John Kerry, ran a good campaign and garnered almost half the votes.

But the President’s campaign proved more effective.  As the voting neared, it well all out to get hundreds of thousands of Christian evangelists (who had stayed home in 2000) to come out to vote, stressing the need to uphold “moral values” such as opposing gay marriage and abortions. It worked, and Bush won. 

In the aftermath, many analysts point out the obvious:  that America is deeply divided down the middle. 

The schism is not just between Republicans and Democrats, but the regions on the east and west coasts on one hand, and the states that are inland on the other hand.  The values, lifestyles and orientation of people in these different regions differ fundamentally.

A perceptive analysis, by Simon Schama, categorises the two divided Americas.  There is the “Worldly America” in the coastal states, which Kerry won, which reaches out to and interacts with the rest of the world, and tolerant of differences in values and cultures.

And there is what Schama calls the “Godly America” in states in the landlocked heartland, where people are conservative, fearful of the rest of the world and support the use US power to protect its preeminence. Bush tapped the votes of this America.

“Worldly America is about civil ways to share crowded space, from a metro-bus to the planet; Godly America is about making over space in its image,” writes Schama.  “One America makes room, the other America muscles in.”

The bitter divisions that came to the fore during the campaign are unlikely to melt away.  True, Kerry, when conceding defeat, said it was time for unity and to heal the wounds, and Bush in his victory speech said he was humbled by the voters’ confidence in him, and wanted to reach out to the whole country.

Many in America and outside, who had prayed against another four years of a Bush presidency, now hope that somehow Bush in his second term would be less partisan, and that he will now shift his policies away from extremes and towards the middle ground, which could find broad support.

But some Bush critics think this is wishful thinking.  Commenting on Bush’s remark that he would reach out to all, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times wrote:  “What humbug.  The Bushes are always gracious until they don’t get their way.  If Bush didn’t reach out after the last election, which he barely grabbed, why would he reach out now that he has what (vice-president) Dick Cheney calls a broad, nationwide victory?

“Republicans have already said they had the green light to pursue their conservative agenda, like drilling in Alaska’s wilderness and rewriting the tax code.”

If environmentalists are dismayed that a second Bush term will see a continuing rollback of American environmental laws and policies, many mainstream economists are shaking their heads at the prospect that Bush’s first-term record-high budget and trade deficits will rise to even more disastrous levels in the next four years.

For the rest of the world, it is Bush’s second-term foreign policy that is of most concern.

As reported by Dowd, an insider in the Bush camp has predicted that Bush will be a lot more aggressive now in Iraq.  “He’ll raze Falluja if he has to,” says the insider.    “He feels that the election results endorsed his version of the war.” 

Indeed, last week, as soon as the election was over, thousands of American troops were preparing for an all-out assault on Falluja, which is a center of Iraqi resistance to the occupation.

Last Friday, the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, raised his concerns of a major military assault on Falluja which e said would threaten prospects for elections in Iraq scheduled for January.

His warning was in a letter addressed to the US, the United Kingdom and the Iraqi provisional government.  The Secretary General is trying to prevent an attack that can cause hundreds of deaths and an explosion of anger and violent reaction, or at least to put his opposition on record.

But last Saturday, despite Kofi Annan’s warning, the US started airstrikes on Falluja, signalling the start of the attack.

Bush’s biggest ally, the  UK premier Tony Blair, said he hoped that Bush would now give top priority to peace in the Middle East.  But he has been saying this for years, and the Bush administration has instead been taking more and more of an unconditional  pro-Israeli stand, without seeming to care that this destroyed its role as potential honest broker.

Only an extreme optimist would hold hopes that Blair can persuade Bush and his pro-Israel advisors to help deliver justice to the Palestinians.

The European leaders are putting climate change near the top of their global agenda, and they must have hoped that a new US administration would join efforts to curb emissions that heat the Earth.  The Bush victory means the chances for US participation are near zero.

As for the Bush doctrine of the pre-emptive strike, many must be wondering whether the second-term Bush team will design new plans (or implement secret existing plans) to strike against more countries.

All in all, there is a lot of depression around the world on the prospect of another Bush term.

Still, miracles are known to have happen. Perhaps Bush, with an eye to his place to history, will decide that in contrast to his first-term policies, it is better for America to cooperate with the rest of the world and instead of a bully seeking hegemony.

But for the moment, very few are placing their bet on it.

 


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