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Tuesday, November 02, 2004


Hold the champagne

How Americans choose to vote today is basically their own business. But their choice will have a profound effect on the rest of the planet, which is why many people in other parts of the world will be watching the result (assuming there is a result).

Polls outside the USA have shown overwhelming support for John Kerry. But if Kerry's non-American supporters are honest, they must admit they prefer him for only one reason. He is not George W. Bush.

If Kerry wins, there will be a sigh of relief throughout the world, followed by a honeymoon period in which outside perceptions of America will improve dramatically. But expectations are unrealistic and disillusionment will quickly set in.

While Kerry may be able to ameliorate the situation, he cannot meet the optimistic expectations of the outside world, for three reasons. First, the Republicans are likely to retain control of the Senate and House of Representatives. Second, however much Kerry may regret the Iraq war, he cannot just pull out, but would be constrained by circumstances (at least in the short term) to follow similar policies to the Bush administration's. And third, while Bush has to play to the Christian right, Kerry also has to satisfy his own constituency of American workers and farmers looking for a more aggressive policy on international trade.

article by Wolfgang Munchau in yesterday's Financial Times (access to the online article only for subscribers, I'm afraid) explains why Europeans should expect a deepening rift with America, whoever wins. The insensitive tone of the Bush administration towards the outside world has caused deep offence but is not the cause. The basic problem, says Munchau, is that "Europe and the US no longer share the same global interests."

Besides the worsening problem of international trade, Kerry will not sign up to the Kyoto protocol or the International Court of Justice. Nor will he risk confronting the Israeli lobby by doing anything serious to help bring a just solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

If Kerry wins, we may at least rejoice in the symbolic defeat of the neo-con fruitcakes who believe in the theories of Leo Strauss or the prophecies in the Book of Revelations (or both). Worth cracking open a beer, I'd say. But not a bottle of champagne.

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