America the Almighty, by Stephen L. Damours, a devastating critique of American foreign policy, examines both healthy and dangerous trends in international relations. It shows how, all too frequently, the Bush administration has become the cause of the latter.
Damours identifies two primary currents in human society: universalism, which seeks the welfare of all humanity, and tribalism, which advances the local and parochial at the expense of the whole. Following a great build-up of international institutions (the United Nations, the Breton Woods financial bodies, et al.) after World War II, U.S. foreign policy has shifted decisively in the tribalistic direction, especially in the Bush administration. This has made us an arrogant bully in our conduct of foreign affairs, “a spoiled child with too much power.”
The author shows how the U.S. has contemptuously defied or ignored international agreements – including the Kyoto environmental treaty, the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court (signed by Clinton and repudiated by Bush), and U.N. treaties on the rights of women and children. Almost half of America the Almighty deals directly or indirectly with the Iraq War and its aftermath -- Exhibit A in the case against U.S. tribalistic foreign policy. ...Damours presents the most complete argument I’ve seen so far that the war was based on the falsehood of Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction, that it caused atrocities against “tens of thousands of innocent people,” and that it’s producing Middle Eastern hatred disastrous for America’s war on terrorism.
America’s tribalistic foreign policy may be calamitous in the long run for American citizens as well as the rest of the world, but it does not reflect the views of the great majority of the American people, as polls have consistently shown. Our great political challenge is to harness the widespread but not passionately held universalism of the American public toward the realization of a transformed foreign policy. American support of – rather than contemptuous opposition to – universalist trends widespread in many other countries could lead to new or strengthened institutions greatly reducing violence, poverty and pollution, such as a well-functioning International Criminal Court; UN peace enforcement units to stop civil wars and massacres at an early stage; UN police forces to maintain order in the aftermath of conflicts; a global environmental regulatory body; and an effective international labor organization.
In the long run, the world will need, and should have ...“an arrangement both more democratic and more effective than the United Nations, but far less centralized and intrusive than the United States Federal Government. Democracy at all levels, central and local, is an essential ingredient in the mix.” Is human nature capable of this change? Damours shows how large areas of the globe have moved from arenas of war to peaceful free-trade zones in a single human lifetime – the European Union being a prime example.
Stephen L. Damours’ thoroughly researched and detailed presentation both of his condemnation of current American policies and of the kinds of solution possible gives his book impressive authority and solidity. It is moreover an interesting and involving read – my reactions ranged from horror and indignation over the catalogue of American misbehaviors in Iraq to hope and inspiration in the last chapter offering alternatives.
At the eve of an historic and critical presidential election, America the Almighty is an indispensable call-to-arms.
Scott L. Hoffman
Director of the World Federalist Institute
Citizens for Global Solutions
18 October 2004
Stephen Damours’ “America the Almighty” is a detailed account of America’s foreign policies since George W. Bush assumed the presidency. A thoroughly researched discussion, the book details the Bush administration’s steady rejection of a sobering series of international initiatives, from the Kyoto treaty on global warming to that establishing the International Criminal Court, from the Convention to End Discrimination Against Women to that on the Rights of the Child.
Damours, a staunch supporter of the objectives of the United Nations and a leading member of the Citizens for Global Solutions, has written an eminently readable book that traces the history of the Bush administration’s cavalier disregard of the major initiatives for international peace and cooperation.
Writing with impressive command of the detailed development of these initiatives and thorough analyses of the various ways in which they have been rejected or spurned by the Bush administration, Damours has produced a carefully reasoned denunciation of these elements of the Bush foreign policy. The book is a passionate and persuasive call to all readers who value international cooperation as the ultimately essential path towards world peace to bend their efforts towards restoring America to its modern role as leader in the paramount challenge of our time, the effort to establish a stable and just world through international cooperation.
This is a book which every person who believes in the importance of that effort should read.
Emeritus Professor of English
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
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