Thomas Friedman makes a telling point in today’s column regarding the lack of American popularity in the world today. Friedman agrees that we have damaged the brand, but scolds the world into considering the alternatives. He uses the shameful display of vacillation on Zimbabwe at the UN as an example of a world without American power, and asks whether Europe and Asia prefer that instead (via Memeorandum):
Maybe Asians, Europeans, Latin Americans and Africans don’t like a world of too much American power — “Mr. Big” got a little too big for them. But how would they like a world of too little American power? With America’s overextended military and overextended banks, that is the world into which we may be heading.
Welcome to a world of too much Russian and Chinese power.
I am neither a Russia-basher nor a China-basher. But there was something truly filthy about Russia’s and China’s vetoes of the American-led U.N. Security Council effort to impose targeted sanctions on Robert Mugabe’s ruling clique in Zimbabwe.
Friedman also spotlights the nefarious activities of local power South Africa in running interference for Mugabe. Calling it “pure, rancid moral corruption”, Friedman rightly castigates Thabo Mbeki for his toadying up to a ruthless, murderous dictator. Instead of honoring his own nation’s fight for freedom, Mbeki has sold its legacy to cover up one of the most ludicrous election thefts in history, all for a man who has destroyed his nation’s economy and has managed to introduce famine into one of the most fertile areas on the African continent.
Without an American counterbalance, Russia and China would dominate world trade and global politics. What course would both take? Their repeated vetoes and undermining of sanctions against rogue states such as Iran and murderous thugs such as Mugabe make that plain. Tyrannies would prosper, and self-determination would recede. Without American military, diplomatic, and economic power, tyrants would rule the world, and eventually bring us to heel as well through control of energy supplies and simple overwhelming numbers.
Friedman offers his disgust for Europeans and Asians who lack the moral compass to understand this. Perhaps Friedman might save some of his contempt for fellow Americans who always leap to blame the US for all of the ills in the world. We make mistakes, but we usually do so in pursuit of nobler goals. This is not the time to withdraw from the global stage out of some highly exaggerated sense of guilt over Abu Ghraib and Gitmo. This is the time to stand up to the tyrants and let them know that we will not be bullied into retreat on any front.