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'America has a long tradition of interfering in other countries'

September 13, 2006
You argue very succinctly in your book that the war on terror and the war on Iraq have lost America the moral high ground to talk about human rights. How significant is this moral loss compared to the loss of moral ground some 20, 30 years during the Cold War when America supported dictators in South America, South East Asia and in Pakistan?

Your point is well taken. America has a long tradition of interfering in the affairs of other countries, protecting the Shah of Iran and so on. That is nothing new. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, America emerged as the unquestioned, sole remaining superpower. Therefore, it could now exert a leadership in the world of a different kind than the one the Bush administration uses.

The actions of the Bush administration stand in the way of the other kind of leadership, one that involves America leading the world in cooperative action to deal with common problems. That is why the war on terror and the invasion of Iraq are so detrimental. I have argued in my previous book and in the new book that the rest of the world speaks of double standards and sees the Bush administration's advocacy of democracy and human rights as a thin cover for American imperialism.

The aspiration for freedom and democracy will live on, but people will have to carry on that struggle regardless of President Bush's rhetoric.

Photograph: Patrick Barth/Getty Images
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