Yes, Mr. President, as you said in your State of the Union address, America is riding high on an economic boom that's the envy of the world. But beyond our borders, our prosperity and arrogance are not winning us friends.
Yet like Narcissus, you have fallen in love with your own image of America the beautiful. There is something fundamentally wrong with your account of the state of the world. Here are some of the facts.
Since you became president, over four million people have been killed in conflicts overseas; millions more have been forced to flee their homes. Tens of millions more people--about one in every four human beings--are living in absolute poverty, and the number is growing. The divide between rich and poor both within and among nations has grown ever wider. The global environment has continued to deteriorate at unprecedented rates. India and Pakistan have joined the nuclear club with others clamoring right behind, and Russia and China have grown increasingly distrustful of our intentions.
While you alone cannot be blamed for all of these developments, as the leader of what Secretary of State Albright has called "the indispensable nation," you cannot escape responsibility either. Despite your own rhetorical commitment to promoting human rights and disarmament, protecting the global environment, easing the plight of the world's poorest, expanding trade while protecting workers, and strengthening the United Nations, you have failed to lead the nation and the world toward a new global agenda which could and should have followed the cold war.
The opportunities for such leadership were unprecedented. Not only had the United States by 1993 achieved unprecedented global influence and authority, but around the globe civil society movements, at both the grassroots and international levels, were proliferating around these same issues. Similarly, at home, public opinion polls consistently reveal that a majority of Americans share these same concerns.
But, instead of uniting and mobilizing all of these forces behind your frequently-stated pledges to create a more peaceful, more secure, more equitable, and cleaner world, you've never been willing to go to the mat, as you did, for example, for the corporate-sponsored North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Like the proverbial deer in the headlights, you've frozen almost every time right-wing unilateralist and isolationists in Congress, the military brass in the Pentagon, or big Wall Street interests have whispered objections.
The common thread in this record, Mr. President, is your reluctance to take on
powerful interests--be they bureaucratic, ideological, or commercial--for the sake
of a more peaceful, secure, and just world. And the result is a world that is less
peaceful, less secure, and less just for hundreds of millions of people who live
outside our borders.
*** OTHER STATE OF THE UNION COMMENTARY ***
Sarah Anderson, Director of the Global Economy Program at the Institute for Policy Studies, says, "I'm curious to see which of his two faces the President will show Thursday night: the one he used to try to appease the protestors in Seattle, or the one that's bent on clinching a trade deal with China to please his Wall Street friends. Clinton has always been masterful in spouting beautiful rhetoric about labor and human rights while cutting deals that put corporate profits first."
IRC Tom Barry
IPS Martha Honey
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