Pox Americana

Though it’s difficult to decide on a “worst legacy” of the Bush years — so many candidates to choose from — the utter lack of accountability is my current choice. Libby’s commutation is just the latest example of a Bush official let off the hook, and ultimately well-rewarded, for monumental screw-ups.

But it’s not just Bush officials. We’ve also had a long line of pundits who have made god-awful predictions and given horribly foolish advice and yet who continue to pen best-selling books and speak regularly from their TV perches, with nary a nod to their past mistakes.

Such as Thomas Friedman, he of “the world is flat” pro-globilization nonsense that assured us all that the invasion of Iraq was a nifty way to democratize the Middle East. Stephen Marshall’s new book — Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing — holds Friedman accountable when no one else will:

Writing from Dakar, Senegal, where he runs the Third World Forum, Samir Amin’s thesis is essentially that liberalism, if allowed to continue on its path of creative destruction, will lead to an apocalyptic end. He likens the globalizing force of liberalism to a virus that has destroyed all ideological competitors and that is now making its final assault on its host species. According to Amin, the ethic of liberalism — “Long live competition, may the strong win” — is now ravaging societies of the Third World, causing further “social alienation and pauperization of urban classes.”

In Liberal Virus, he argues that liberalism’s most decisive effect will be to divide the world into an apartheid system that sees 3 billion peasant farmers pushed from their land and forced into the cities where they will die. This, he explains, will result from the implementation of a 2001 World Trade Organization (WTO) mandate that all agricultural markets be opened to the expansion of commercial agribusiness producers. Without the ability to make a subsistence living from their own land, half the world’s population will have to migrate to the urban centers where there is no work for them. And thus, he concludes, they will be trapped in an “organized system of apartheid” on a global scale.

It’s just this sort of “viral competition” that I write about in Thinking Peace. Friedman is like a carrier of a deadly disease blithely travelling about the world, leaving a trail of infected communities.

In Bush America, he’s a star, with no need to answer for his actions.

Michael Sky