"Leader of the free world"

"Anführer der freien Welt" ("leader of the free world"), I remember this.
The U.S. presidents were called like that in Germany. I remember this well, I heard it a lot in the 1980's and 1990's. Reagan, Bush senior, Clinton.
No matter if Clinton had blowjobs or sex - he was called the leader of the free world.
Sometimes this was changed to "Leader of the Western world", but everybody meant the same.

I cannot remember having heard this later than 2001. I believe the cut was when people became irritated by Bush junior's preparations for a needless Iraq war. He wasn't leading the Western world, he was only trying to do so and failed.

I remember having read that Bush senior and Baker had gained a lot of political capital and prestige for the USA when they successfully assembled a coalition against Iraq in 1990. Everybody was impressed. I think it's a good description of the effects.
I also remember that the comparably laughable "coalition of the willing" of 2003 was commented as the opposite. The USA had spent their political capital for this weak coalition, almost all of it. The USA lost prestige by this war of aggression, not gained any.

But it's not only a foreign affairs story. I recently read a quote in which president Bush told someone that he had sent his general to tell the congress and his people about the Iraq war. His people would believe this general, not himself.
A leader who admits that the people don't follow him anymore.

This loss of leadership strength and political capital makes a unilateral foreign policy next to impossible for the USA, which is good news for everyone who doesn't like the approach anyways. The situation might change in 2009, but so far the world does not need to fear any further needless wars initiated in Washington since that government is simply bankrupt in foreign policy. Almost no-one believes or follows that government anymore, and the primitive civil war in Iraq has drained the US forces' strength so much that their generals are more concerned about how long it takes to recover than thinking about how much is left for additional parallel adventures.

It will depend on the next U.S. president how the international security architecture will work in 2009-2015.
Many options exist. Creation of competing alliances, multilateral approach in the United Nations, a slow recovery of the US' position, likely unsuccessful unilateral/bilateral actions...

Sven Ortmann

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