Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Why the American Presidential election matters... Tremendously.

Today  has been a terrible day here in Europe...

Since that  report  aired  the  so-called  "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria"  (ISIS) has issued a statement claiming responsibility for both the attack on the Brussels Airport and Subway system.

The tag line  "the world's last remaining Superpower"  has been bandied about for years
as part of America's domestic political conversation. Architects of the disastrous war in Iraq used the title as justification for the "Bush Doctrine" of preemptive use of military force , saying if not the US then who? More progressive voices cited the concept as reason for America to act more judiciously in our use of military force. Saying we must lead by example.

So are we the only remaining Superpower?  The fact is, if  the criteria  for being a superpower was only military, then North Korea and India would have to get seats at the SP table as well.  Russia, and China certainly both meet the basic criteria from a point of size and military capability.    Yet being a superpower  must, especially in light of days such as today,  mean much more than just how many bombs and bullets you have. Being a Superpower means you have the ability  shape the global narrative.  Rally the will  and when needed,  the wallets, and weapons   of  the community of Nations in response to global challenges.  Be they man made, or  not.  

A Superpower must lead.  not  bully.  That it why the world doesn't really consider Russia to be in the same league.  Putin doesn't  lead,  he demands,  he threatens he schemes and plots.   Russia's idea of global leadership is  whatever is best for Vladimir Putin and his circle of criminal suck-ups and cronies.  Russian international intervention in Syria  for example,  was less about fighting Islamic state, and far more about rescuing Putin's crony Assad.

China,  while certainly not as brutish and aggressive as Russia, ( at least not openly so...)  is still far too inwardly focused  on it's own growth and   the growing pains  that have come with that.   China's ambitions remain largely in their own part of the world,  (much to the chagrin of Korea, the Philippines and  Japan  who find them building new islands in their back yard).   Yet  for the most part  China has enough on it's own plate these days, so  global domination be it  political, economic   or military,  will have to wait.

What about  Europe?    Oh  Europe tries,   but the fact is  the grand European experiment is not so much one of unity but rather one of polite tolerance of each other.   Someone once asked me if I thought the French still harbored resentment towards Germany over the Second World War.   I replied the French haven't gotten around to  that  yet,  they are still holding a grudge against England for the defeat of Napoleon.  (For the record the Eurostar was much better  when came in and out of Waterloo Station.  Moving it to St Pancras was  seriously dumb...but I digress.)    Getting the entire EU to agree on anything is a lot like trying herd  drunk cats.

So who's left?  Like it or not folks,  it's us.  Or more accurately it's the US.   It is worth noting  that you would think the biggest political news story here on this side of the Atlantic would be  the looming  referendum  in the UK on whether or not  Britain will stay in , or leave the EU.  Yet  when you turn on the evening news here,  it's the current cirque d'insanity  of the  US Presidential race that leads the world news sections on BBC, ITV and Sky News.  

That is because  the American Presidency  matters,  and  it matters to pretty much the entire world.  Even those nations and groups that wish us ill, are watching the race unfold with intense interest. It matters  who leads the United States of America because  Putin isn't going to but the needs of the global community  ahead of his own ego and pocket book.   Chinese President Hu Jintao has enough to do trying to keep the air in his country from being too toxic to breathe,    Sadly, Britain's  David Cameron, Germany's  Angela Merkel and France's  Francois Hollande all tend to drop their global focus when domestic political pressures dictate.

So  it is with a growing sense of dismay  that many around the world have been watching the Republican Party,  the party of  Eisenhower,  Ford, even of   Reagan, and  GHW Bush,,  turn into a warped combination of ignorance and arrogance.  Where  "Don't worry,  it will be great..."   passes for an actual answer  to  serious policy questions.  Where the front runner and, presumptive Presidential nominee , Donald Trump,  is more interested in assuring voters he has a big penis, than demonstrating  even a basic understanding of America's role on the global stage.

Where  the  GOP's  "establishment alternative"  Texas Senator Ted Cruz, upon hearing of the horrific  terror attacks today in the Belgian Capital reacted not, by demonstrating an understanding of how America needs to lead  the world in condemning the attacks and  putting forward a clear strategy for fighting ISIS, instead chose  to turn it into political attack on not just his GOP rival, but also  on  President Obama,  who is currently overseas on a historic state visit to Cuba the first by an American President since 1928.

So what is the world looking for in the next American President?  believe it or not,  the answer is not hard to find.    It is as clear as lyrics  to a famous American song.

O beautiful for patriot dream 
That sees beyond the years

The American President must have a sense of stewardship, not ownership of the presidency. The American  President must  strive not just to make life easier for “the base”, but ensure a better life for all our citizens, and the generations of Americans yet to come, and by extension, help to shape a better, safer world

Thine alabaster cities gleam 
Undimmed by human tears!

The American  President should never accept that any American lives in hopelessness, or lacks the opportunity to learn in safe schools, or live in safe neighborhoods. The American President should never accept that Americans should be forced to compete on an economic field that is anything but fair and level. The American President should see the environment not as a resource to be exploited, but as a legacy to be protected. The American President should never accept that any American would have to choose between health care and economic survival. 

America! America! 
God shed his grace on thee

The American President should never invoke God as a tool of division,  never using  religion as way to marginalize groups of our own citizens. The American  President should never seek to codify religion into civil law as a way to score political points, never wearing  wear faith on their  sleeve while disregarding the most basic tenets of that faith. The American President should live their  faith far more loudly than  talk about it.

And crown thy good with brotherhood 
From sea to shining sea!

The American President should understand that true homeland security is collective. Strong friendships are the best defense against strong adversaries . The American President should see our freedoms as our strength not our weakness. The American  President should see war as the very last resort to defend ours and our allies vital interests, not the first resort to advance any one constituency’s political or economic interests. 

The American  President should embody our hopes, advance our dreams and embrace our diversity , our “E Pluribus Unum”.  To lead a Superpower the American President must  listen, learn and lead.

This is why the  2016 election matters.  It matters far beyond America's borders.  What is at stake is nothing less than Leadership  of "the last remaining superpower".  Something  for which, the Republican candidates  as a whole,  have shown themselves to be manifestly unqualified. 

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