Thursday, February 24, 2005

Shutting down Mainz

So President Bush is in Europe this week, and once again the lefties have their daggers drawn. I wish I could say I believed this was something other than a cover for crude anti-Americanism, but I think that it has become all too fashionable to hate America rather than making constructive points against their President. Last year in Oxford, when Bush came to Britain for a state visit, a group of Americans went to a protest against the visit to support the arrival of their President. Protestors quickly seized their American flag and set fire to it - so much for believing in the right to free speech.

Yet the Americans continuously fail to do anything to help their own world standing. Some might ask why they should, for after all much of the anti-Americanism we see now is bitterness at the fact that America wants to choose its own course of action and not be at the beck and call of the French. (And no, I'm not being 100% facetious there - where was the anti-Americanism when they were volunteering troops to help sort out the Balkans?)

However, antagonism in the realm of diplomacy is never helpful. It will prove to be a semi-frequent refrain of mine, but entrenchment in the manner seen over Iraq will only lead to further friction and, most likely, a greater lack of any kind of restraining influence over unilateral action of any kind (and once the principle of unilateralism develops, there will be grave danger for the rest of the world, for it is always difficult to claim moral superiority).

Which is why forcing all protestors in Mainz, for example, to wait outside a two-mile exclusion zone, or to refuse a town-hall meeting because not all questions could be pre-screened, does no good to combat the image of the arrogant American. Now, I can understand why both America and the host countries are worried about security - in particular, no host country wants to be responsible for a security lapse whilst hosting such a high-profile visitor.

Yet when people in Mainz are told they cannot go to their balconies, or are forced to work 12-and-a-half hour days because of the Presidential visit, it is no wonder that hostility increases. The problem the Americans have is that many people are willing to focus on the strongest negatives - a fact no doubt fuelled by the moral vision on which Bush claims to be acting. And there is a need for a common understanding if mutually agreeable solutions are to be found. Swanning in, acting heavy-handed and forcing unnecessary and major changes to routine are not the best ways to win people over.