Nepali Times
Here And There
The United States of Reason


A comedian with whom I share my country's passive aggressive ambivalence towards the United States, makes the following suggestion. He proposes that our native land, Canada, get together with Cuba to form a single nation. Not so we all can enjoy Fidel Castro's seven-hour speeches but because of the effect on Washington. "We'd have them surrounded," he says.

American friends with the proper sense of humour give this the small chuckle it deserves. Canadians usually find it hilarious. And increasingly, in the rest of the world beyond the United States, such jokes are catching on as Pax Americana. A policy that is enforced by the mailed fist of the Pentagon which looms ever larger. Afghanistan, Iraq, maybe Iran next and then Syria, Pakistan, Congo in there somewhere, Colombia's coca lands, Aceh, Burma: name a trouble spot and it's just possible that a pointy head defence planner at the Pentagon has drawn up an invasion plan with a catchy name and mapped out the TV camera positions.

So how does the rest of the world-whether merely sceptical or firmly against George Bush and his Neo-Imperialists, Rumsfeld, Wolfowicz, et al-deal with this? There are various options, none with guaranteed results save more of the same but, for the record, here they are:

1) Compliance. Trust the Neo-Imps to have "our" best interests at heart. You'll see. Afghanistan and Iraq will be model developing world democracies within months. Maybe, but at least we can prove the outcome of this one by watching the situation closely. And we will, Mr Bush, we will.

2) Outrage. Anti American rampages in European and Asian capitals, not to mention North and South America. "Yankee go home" graffiti in a babel of tongues and election after election being won in various countries by people with no agenda beyond bashing Washington. Revitalised anarchist and Trotskyist movements, polite salon opinion from London to Luanda, Mexico City to Melbourne, dissing Uncle Sam and all his citizens with an almost racist fervour. In truth, I can see this option becoming more and more attractive to many of the world's liberal internationalists, as well as the disgruntled and hitherto unsuccessful leftists, nihilists and "smash-everything-ists".

This makes it most dangerous and least productive. America is not its government. The present administration was elected by the barest of margins, or not at all if you buy the theory that Florida was rigged or at the very least a shambles of banana republic proportions. George W Bush ran on a ticket of splendid isolation and leaving other countries alone. Most Americans, while deploring terrorism and dictatorial excesses everywhere, offer uneasy support to their government in times or trouble. And these are such times.

3) Constructive opposition and bridge building. Those Americans-the silent majority or large minority whose hearts aren't with Bush and the Neo Imps-they're desperate for an alternative. Their natural home, the Democratic Party has never been so mealy mouthed, so obsessed with policy trivia. US politics have never been so utterly dominated by bit money and special interest groups on either side of the narrow American political spectrum. Many, if not most, Americans are troubled. They need to be constructively engaged by intelligent international thinkers from other societies, by governments with broad electoral support and committed policies in Europe and elsewhere.

In short, we need a United States of Reason that is world-wide, that supports American-style values of liberty and generosity. Liberal democracies with liberal value systems, ie most of them, need to get together with civil society's representatives from all over the world to tell the mad cowboys who have taken over the middle ground in Washington that enough is enough. Other voices have a right to be heard.

Join with Canada and Cuba and surround them with reason, understanding and nerves of steel.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)