Not all Brits think Americans are dumb

Published (with variations) in the Detroit Free Press and the Houston Chronicle - why some Europeans welcomed the election result

Not all Brits think Americans are dumb

By Quentin Langley

Dateline 10 November 2004

“How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?” screams the front-page headline of Britain’s number two selling newspaper, the Daily Mirror. It further promises inside: “US ELECTION DISASTER: PAGES 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, & 11”. But the even bigger selling Sun takes a different view. Its leader column The Sun Says begins “The world is a safer place today with George W Bush back in the Oval Office”.

The more cerebral Guardian, which encouraged readers to write to voters in Clark County, Ohio, in support of John Kerry is much more sober than the Mirror in its reaction. Though most of its journalists, like, I suppose, many voters in Michigan, are thinking what the Mirror is saying.

But not everyone in Britain reads the Guardian or Mirror, and not everyone supported John Kerry. I know I do not speak for a majority in Britain – let alone continental Europe – but there are many of us here, and some even in France, who are extremely relieved at the choice you have made.

Europeans, like Americans, are safer because President George Bush has actively and systematically pursued terrorists, and not just lashed out randomly the way the Clinton administration did.

The Bush policy in Afghanistan and Iraq has been far from risk free. There is no doubt that it has sucked terrorists into these countries, as continuing attacks on Coalition forces demonstrate. But our enemies in Iraq are not new enemies. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been a practising terrorist for years. I am glad he is practising his dark arts against well-armed professional soldiers in Iraq and not against civilians in London or Detroit.

The elections in Afghanistan ran remarkably smoothly. Next January’s elections in Iraq will be partially disrupted, but will be freer and fairer than the unanimous votes for Saddam – or than anything previously seen in any Arab state.

By the time Iraq and Afghanistan face their second free elections, in four or five years time, there will be stronger and better trained national armies to keep both countries safe. The progress to anything resembling America’s constitutional republic will be slow, but the lives of ordinary citizens in both Afghanistan and Iraq will be freer from government intimidation. They will be more secure from terrorist attack and far more prosperous than was conceivable under the decaying and discredited containment policy of the Clinton administration and the UN.

None of this would have happened if John Kerry had made US action subject to some undefined “global test”.

And the change we are witnessing in the Middle East is the change that will ultimately make the whole world safer. Confronting terrorism is directly comparable to the end of the cold war. It is not necessary to believe that Russia is a model of constitutional government and human rights – which it certainly is not – to see that it no longer poses the threat to world peace that it did when the Soviet Union and its satellites dominated two thirds of Europe. Some parts of the former Soviet Empire are in chaos. Some, like Russia, are almost as badly run as under communism. But others, like Poland, the Baltic States, Hungary, East Germany and the former Czechoslovakia are successful free democracies. The threat of nuclear war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact is over.

In ten years time half of the Arab world will still be in the grip of dictatorship. But half of it will have transformed utterly. Like the transformations we have seen in Latin America and Eastern Europe this revolution in the Arab world will make the world safer and more prosperous.

But all of this will happen only if America – Reagan’s shining city on the hill – is prepared to lead and keep up the pressure for transformation.

Just as when Ronald Reagan was your president, faint hearts at home and abroad will tell you this is too dangerous, but will look back a decade later and claim to have supported you all along.

Quentin Langley is a lecturer in International Public Relations at the University of Cardiff, Wales and is married to an American.

Copyright © Quentin Langley 10 November 2004

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