Thursday, August 23, 2007
Even though our last three presidents have called Russia and China "friends" of the U.S., I'm glad that others are paying more attention. I don't necessarily feel compelled to label either nation as an "enemy" of the U.S. per se. But I hope it was just the vodka talking when Bush 1, Clinton, and Bush 2 professed nothing but love and honorable intentions from those two former enemies of each other turned allies.
As we seem to have trouble sorting through the murkiness of post Cold War relations with certain nations, Bush 2 hasn't exactly made us the great "nation-citizen of the world" that most of us would like to see. That's why the selection of our next president may be of extreme importance in how the rest of the world views us for decades to come. Either we're still a major player and a nation for others to turn to, or Russia and China (particularly China) will continue to position themselves as our replacements.
It's true that the Russia of Vladimir Putin is not the Soviet Union of Brezhnev or even of Gorbachev. Back then, the Soviets were a known entity. However, Putin seems to enjoy popularity at home and credibility around the world despite rumblings of what's going on inside Russia herself. We're still not far removed from the poisoning of an ex Russian spy and critic of the Putin regime that's soured British and Russian relations. And now that former chess star Garry Kasparov is being harrassed by police and government officials because he's challenging Putin. If that's not enough, Putin has told Russian history teachers to gloss over the crimes and legacy of Joseph Stalin and make a hero out of him.
Then there's China. It's not every day that a general from a nation regarded as a "friend" threatens a nuclear strike against the United States. "Friends" also don't send tainted goods to be consumed and then warn the media not to make a big deal out it. And yet, somehow, Bush 2 has managed to bungle Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and his entire foreign policy so badly that a signficant part of Europe and the rest of the world now are looking at China (a nation where human, animal, and environmental rights violations are atrocious) as a reasonable voice.
I have criticized China a lot in the past. I don't even want to go to the Olympics in Beijing next year, fearing the Chinese will use them for propaganda purposes just as Hitler did in Berlin in 1936. But I don't criticize the Chinese government as much as I want because we, ourselves, have been so poorly led. After six and a half years of Bush 2, I feel almost hypocrtitical for critizing any other nation too much on most anything.
This is not an attack on the people of Russia or China. Those two nations are home to citizens that have made wonderful contributions to world history in all sorts of areas of knowledge and art. I, too, want to live in peace and harmony with those people and the rest of the world.
But we've created such an economic and diplomatic mess in our own back yard, that I'm afraid we aren't perceived to be as great as we once were. And I don't think it's wise to lose track of the fact that other nations, like Russia and China, have noticed this too.