Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Andrew, in making my entry I was responding directly to your earlier remarks that, if the US government is encouraging companies to divest from Britain, this 'shows, incontrovertibly, that the Bush administration has only ever had its own interests at heart' and that this would be an 'incredibly selfish move.' My point was that the fact that the US government might be behaving in this manner shouldn't come as a revelation -- its being doing so for some time now.

That said, I accept, as you point out, that this measure would not be in the long-term interests of the US. But nor is imposing steel tariffs on the EU as well as many of the other issues I cited. I realise this is more controversial but my own view is that its not in the long-term interests of the US (or anyone else) to undermine international law and multilateral frameworks such as the UN. By doing so the US burns up what Joseph Nye calls 'soft power' -- the capacity to persuade others to adhere to its ideals through example. And it also means that the US is less able to invoke these norms when it is in its own interests to do so. If anything, the aftermath of Iraq has demonstrated the difficulty of the US 'going it alone' -- even if doing so is in its short-term interests. Finally, refusing to put the brakes on environmental degradation might benefit the US economy in the short term but clearly isn't in anyone's interests, least of the US's, in the long-term. For these reasons, I tend to have less sympathy for the Bush government than you; I think that its pursuit of its own (short-term) goals is not only not in its (long term) interests, but is also not in those of anyone else.

I am, however, willing to concede the point to this extent: in the story you linked to, the short-term benefits for the US would be so slight, and the long-term detriment so significant, that surprise is warranted. That sort of behaviour would be out of character.

Finally, to Richard at Way South, no, I'm not attending the marches to protest against Bush's arrival, largely because I think that there are governments, like Zimbabwe, that we should be far more concerned about, and which, for this reason, I blog on more frequently.


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