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DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- In a classic example of rebranding, the Bush administration is changing the name of the fight against al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.
Goodbye, global war on terror (or GWOT, as it was known in government circles).
Hello, "global struggle against violent extremism," (or GSAVE, as it is becoming known).
The language shift may be a recognition that military power alone will not defeat terrorism. Or it may be that the White House is noticing that support for the war in Iraq is waning and that they need a different rhetorical tack to sell their vision to Americans.
I'm betting on the latter, since GWOT has become the Ford Pinto of foreign policy. Rebranding is easier than admitting that you've sold the country a lemon of a war.
The American brand is sinking fast. According to the Financial Times, the United States "is increasingly viewed as a 'culture-free zone' inhabited by arrogant and unfriendly people." This is based on the Anholt-GMI Nation Brands Index, which asked people around the world to rate 25 countries on their cultural, political and investment potential.
Simon Anholt, author of the survey, told the FT this week that the United States may still be recognized as a good place to do business, but "its governance, its cultural heritage and its people are no longer widely respected or admired by the world."
The index ranks the United States 11th, while Australia garnered the top spot. The United States got high marks for popular culture -- about the only U.S. export that the rest of the world wants -- but was dead last in cultural heritage, defined in the survey as the measure of a country's "wisdom, intelligence and integrity."
Arrogant. Unfriendly. Lacking in wisdom, intelligence and integrity. Sounds like the perfect description of the Bush administration.
The kicker to this survey, according to the FT, was that the Americans surveyed ranked the United States at the top of all six categories. In other words, most Americans don't even know how much we are hated by the rest of the world.
And the source of this hatred is our illegal and immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq.
So how does President Bush address this perception of the United States as a rogue nation? By appointing John Bolton to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Appointing a man who is the antithesis of a diplomat to one of the most important diplomatic posts in the world says everything you need to know about how the Bush administration views the world.
Thankfully, not every member of the administration is a cementhead. Speaking before the National Press Club last week, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he had "objected to the use of the term 'war on terrorism,' because if you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution."
Myers said that "all instruments of our national power, all instruments of the international community's national power" are needed and that the solution is "more diplomatic, more economic, more political than it is military."
This is blindingly obvious to anyone who knows how the world really works. It comes as news to President Bush, who acts as if he is emperor of the world and has zero regard for ideas contrary to his.

 

Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at randyholhut@yahoo.com.

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