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Posted April 5, 2005
'Myth' America In the Mideast, things are looking up--and Nancy Soderberg is feeling down. Until recently, Nancy Soderberg was just another blissfully forgotten face of the Clinton administration, a onetime No. 3 at the National Security Council now biding her days at a think tank. But she gained some notoriety this month during an appearance on 'The Daily Show,' in which host Jon Stewart was half-marveling, half-despairing at the turn of events in the Middle East after the Iraq elections, which seemed to vindicate President Bush. Stewart: 'He is going to be great. . . . Like, my kid's gonna go to a high school named after him, I just know it.' Soderberg: 'Well, there's still Iran and North Korea don't forget . . .' Stewart [crossing fingers]: 'Iran and North Korea, that's true. . . . But I gotta say, I haven't seen results like this ever in that region [the Middle East].' Soderberg: 'Well wait. It hasn't actually gotten very far. . . . There's always hope that this might not work.' In fairness to Ms. Soderberg, elsewhere in the interview she allows that 'as an American, you hope good things would happen.' Indeed, no fair-minded reader can slog through 'The Superpower Myth'--her sustained lament that Mr. Bush's 'hegemonic' attitudes have undone the brilliant work of his predecessor--and come away with any doubts as to the author's patriotism. As to her capacity to make informed judgments, well, that's another matter. Begin with the simplest errors of fact. The aggregate value of global trade was not $4 billion when President Clinton took office; it was $4 trillion, according to the OECD. The Palestinians have not had 'several' prime ministers since 2003; they've had two. Richard Perle has never been a member of the Bush administration. The Iraqi National Museum was not significantly looted in April 2003; Britain's leftist Guardian newspaper put paid to that legend in 2003. Israelis did not support the dovish Geneva Accords by 53.3%; the actual figure was 31%, while a plurality of 38% opposed them. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 not 1989. Trivia, really, but when Ms. Soderberg snickers about how candidate Bush struggled through a foreign-policy pop quiz in 2000, one is compelled to snicker back. Next are larger, but equally basic, errors of analysis. 'It is now believed that [Abu Musab] Zarqawi operates independently, and even in competition with bin Laden.' She must have missed Zarqawi's declaration of fealty to Osama bin Laden in October. (Bin Laden certainly noticed it: He recently ordered Zarqawi to widen the scope of his efforts beyond Iraq.) 'While [Ahmed] Chalabi was popular in certain powerful circles in Washington, he had virtually no support in Iraq.' Funny, then, that Mr. Chalabi did well enough in January's elections to be in serious contention for the premiership. 'The war in Iraq drew the Bush administration's focus away from Afghanistan during the critical two years following the overthrow of the Taliban, making the job there infinitely harder.' Infinitely? Ten million Afghan voters missed that nuance. And then there is the Soderberg Whopper: 'The hegemons' experiment has failed in Iraq,' she writes. 'Whether other benefits of the war cited by the administration will materialize, such as promoting democracy and reform in the Middle East and a resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict, will take years to evaluate. Early signs indicate the war set back rather than promoted these goals.' Early signs being . . . Palestinian elections? Iraqi elections? The Cedar Revolution? The 'Kifaya' ('Enough') movement in Egypt? The end of the intifada? As the lady says, you can always hope that 'this might not work.' So what does work? We are offered the example of the Clinton administration, whose great virtue, Ms. Soderberg argues, is that it used force in the service of diplomacy, not the other way around. In July 1995, for instance, Mr. Clinton summoned Ms. Soderberg to complain that heWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 25, 2005
A must read for responsible citizens!
This book is a must read for responsible Americans trying to figure out what is going on today. It is an excellent resource, written in very approachable language, about the foreign policy questions facing the U.S. and how the U.S. needs to address these issues in its new role as the only military, economic, political, and naval, superpower in the world. The position the U.S. occupies at the moment is unprecedented in world history, and the failure appropriately to address and approach issues can easily lead to a difficult and isolated role for America if we are not careful. The book raises serious questions about how the U.S. is approaching its use of power -- soft and hard -- during the Bush Administration. But, Ms. Soderberg does not condemn the present Administration as much as note ways we could have moved forward and have not. For the partisan reader, the book illustrates the hypocrisy of the Bush Administration saying that the U.S. should not engage in nation building and then turning around and doing so in the most unprepared manner conceivable. There are serious problems facing the U.S. and the world -- Israel, Palestine, North Korea, global warming, terrorism, etc. -- and there is no way that nightly news, daily papers, or talking heads can really give an interested citizen the background needed to consider the scope of these issues. Ms. Soderberg does and for that this book should be read and the reader should be grateful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.