America's Newfound Humility and Why We Might Regret it

Americans are voting today to renew their national legislature. The timing is therefore appropriate to evoke a strange phenomenon: the recent rhetorical toning-down of George W. Bush. Sentences like “Mission accomplished,” “bring’em to me dead or alive,” “we are winning,” “America won’t cut and run,” and “we’ll stay the course” don’t pass his lips any longer. In the past few weeks, he has become more humble; evidently firm, but more humble.

Didn’t he publicly admit that for America, Iraq was like a second Vietnam, whereas whoever risked this comparison just a few months ago was considered defeatist and a traitor? Didn’t he concede that in Iraq, things are not going as well as it was pretended until now? Didn’t he discover the soothing virtues of multilateral diplomacy, United Nations diplomacy in particular? But more than the content of his speeches; it is the tone that will clearly be less “macho” from now on.

There is undoubtedly an element of political calculation at play. But there is something else, I believe. George W. Bush and his advisers have probably come to realize that with their perpetual bluster about security, their grandiloquent lies and their messianic claim of protecting the world from terrorism, they went too far, way too far. And that instead of bringing the greatest possible number of people around to their cause, as they had undoubtedly hoped, they instead exasperated three quarters of the planet and ruined a good portion of their credibility. It is thus possible under these circumstances, they judged it more effective to moderate at least the tone of their speech.

And if they have decided to lower their tone a few octaves, shouldn’t we consider ourselves in the company of angels [fortunate]! Isn’t that what we all want? Alas, nothing is ever so simple. I would therefore not exclude the possibility that tomorrow we may regret the end of the American president’s chauvinistic hyperbole. There are at least three reasons to mourn its loss:

First: if Americans are really turning into normal, reasonable, moderate, constructive, team players and really nice people, what remains for us to hate? And of course, hating a great power is the best way for minor and average powers to feel less alone in the dark!

Second: George W. Bush’s new humility could also indicate that America’s economic, military and political power has been more adversely affected than we thought. Now the last time a superpower suddenly revealed that it had feet of clay was in 1989, when the Soviet Union shattered into pieces. Then followed a planetary disorder out of which we have yet to emerge. If therefore America was to suffer an even moderate decline compared to that of the ex-USSR, the world-wide pandemonium would be ten times worse again. Good news, this is not.

Third: if America is weakened, the fact that tomorrow, on November 8th, Democrats may find themselves in the majority in both chambers of Congress, or that in two years a Democratic president may be elected to take George W. Bush’s place, won’t change very much about the overall policies of the United States. This is because facts dictate their own law. The proof is that today, Democrats don’t have any really new ideas to propose; They are almost washed-out ideologically.

In a nutshell, I would be careful not to get delighted too fast over the new American humility.

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