Nov 24, 2007

Clinton's Real Legacy Abroad

"Whereas the truth is that the State in which the rulers are most reluctant to govern is always the best and most quietly governed, and the State in which they are most eager, the worst..." ~ The Republic - Plato

At the height of Bill Clinton's tribulations in the late 90's, I was sitting with a small group of Asian and Chinese businessmen in Singapore who were mendaciously gloating over how much they adored America's president and how he will be remembered as one of America's greatest leaders. For American businessmen like myself, who were living and working in Asia at the time, the incessant ribbing had become pretty much commonplace. For the most part, the average Asian on the street couldn't have cared less about Bill Clinton, his domestic problems didn't affect Asia and his relentless pursuit to make a virtue out of hedonism and self-indulgence would thankfully spare most of Asia and remain stateside.

For the Asians and the Chinese, who's sociopolitical beliefs are founded in Confucianism, there is the profound expectation of virtuous and morally exemplary leadership in their elected leaders. In the eyes of the Asians, America's President Bill Clinton was a man completely devoid of the essential attributes of a leader. Clinton's arrogance, immorality, lack of humility and unbridled narcissism would come to epitomise to all Asians the absolute worst characteristics of leadership.

There are a few reasons why this is of importance now, the first being that there seems to be a misconception today on the part of many Americans as to whether or not Clinton was "liked" overseas. Was he liked? Sure he was, he was liked in the same way that Americans like Paris Hilton. The Asian and Chinese leadership on the other hand liked Clinton, but only because they found him to be malleable due to his obvious character flaws. In desperation, Clinton would "reach out" and allow himself to be manipulated foolishly thinking that he was winning or in the alternative that his benevolence would be interpreted as friendship, all the while Clinton never seemed to grasp that simple truism that nation's themselves don't have friends. They have interests.

Interestingly enough, according to an interview last month in the Guardian, if Hillary Clinton wins the US presidency, Bill Clinton claims that he will be given the job of repairing America's damaged international reputation. In the Guardian interview Mr Clinton, 61, reveals that his wife has said she would ask him to "go out and immediately restore America's standing, go out and tell people America was open for business and cooperation again" after eight years marked by unilateralist policies that have "enraged the world".

From the tone of the interview and what we have seen so far from Hillary Clinton, it would seem that the Clintonian solution to challenges in foreign diplomacy would be to do whatever we can to "please the world". For the Clinton's it's quite obvious that America's "unilateralist policies" ie. leadership has "enraged the world". "Pleasing the world" according to the Clinton's wishes would entail placing our nation's interest and security in the hands of a multilateral organization such as the United Nations which of course is what our nation's enemies would like as well. A multilateral organization that can serve as a counterbalance to effectively stymy American resolve and hegemony. The mere suggestion of which in a post 9/11 world is not only naive, but dangerously foolish.

So what can we do to please everyone? The answer is nothing. Regardless of what we do, we are never going to please everyone. There is always going to be someone somewhere who will be enraged at the decisions our country makes. We can do as the Clinton's suggest and somehow willingly cede our position and power to a multilateral organization in the hopes that maybe we will be liked once again or we can stand firm and resolute in moral self-righteousness recognizing the fact that it is America not the United Nations that has always and continues to serve as a beacon of hope for all of those who continue to seek freedom and liberty around the world.

For as much as the Clinton's gave to China, it's a shame they never got anything in return. They might have learned something.

"He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it." - Confucius


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