"America is Losing the Free World," was the arresting headline over the Financial Times column by Gideon Rachman. His thesis:
The largest democracies of South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia -- Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, India -- are all moving out of America's orbit. "(T)he assumption that the democracies would stick together is proving unfounded."
President Lula of Brazil has cut a "lucrative oil deal with China, spoken warmly of Hugo Chavez," hailed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his election "victory" and honored the Iranian president with a state visit.
In the Security Council, South Africa sided with Russia and China in killing human rights resolutions and protecting Zimbabwe and Iran. Turkey has moved to engage Hezbollah, Hamas and Tehran, and spurn Israel. Polls show anti-Americanism surging in Turkey. From trade to sanctions on Iran and Burma, India sides with China against America.
The ruling parties in all four were democratically elected. Yet, in all four, democratic solidarity is being trumped by an older solidarity -- of Third World people of color against a "white, rich Western world."
Writing in World Affairs, Geoffrey Wheatcroft quotes author Aaron David Miller ("The Much Too Promised Land") that across the Middle East America is "not liked, not respected and not feared."
What makes this "frightening," says Wheatcroft, "is that many American politicians and commentators ... have yet to grasp this reality. Such ignorance is evident in the bizarre notion -- current even before George W. Bush took the oath of office -- that America not only can and should spread democracy, but that this would be in the American national interest. Why did anyone think this?"
Asks Wheatcroft, "If the United States is not liked or respected throughout the Arab countries, why on earth would Americans want to democratize them?"
Excellent question. Some of us have been asking it of the democracy-uber-alles neoconservatives for decades. Yet, these democracy worshipers not only converted Bush, they demanded and got free elections in Lebanon, the West Bank, Gaza and Egypt. Big winners -- Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Wheatcroft quotes Eugene Rogan, who has written a history of the Arab peoples, that "in any free and fair election in the Arab world today, the Islamists would win hands down. ... (T)he inconvenient truth about the Arab world today is that in any free election, those parties hostile to the United States are likely to win."