The United States and the world

In the last days of 2005, leading thinkers and scholars from around the world share their fears, hopes and expectations of 2006. As Isabel Hilton asks: What does 2006 have in store? (Part one)
Diego Hidalgo
22 December 2005

An important development that I am hoping for in the United States in 2006 is not exactly a dose of humility, but a gradual realisation by the Bush administration that its foreign policy, far from winning hearts and minds from people around the world, is alienating them, has weakened US soft and hard power and jeopardised US interests.

Moreover, the US electorate might react to the deteriorating situation in the important November mid-term elections. A change in Congress, already more visible than in the executive branch, could allow a serious dialogue between the US, the European Union and other important powers on issues of global concern. These include a concerted response to terrorism, already initiated by the Club of Madrid’s Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security in March 2005 (see theMadrid Agenda), followed up by the US Summit in September, the conflicts in the middle east, the deteriorating situation in many countries in Latin America, the International Criminal Court, the Kyoto protocol on the environment, the antimissile system, protectionism, and the decline in US foreign aid.

The participation of international civil society with institutions like the International Toledo Center for Peace, the Geneva accords and other actors is increasingly important to foster US and EU efforts in the prevention and resolution of conflicts.

Another hope is that a new leadership will emerge both in the European Union and in its main member states, after a disastrous 2005, and that, as a result, the EU will get back on its feet, face its challenges, and go on a path of economic reorganization and political integration.

My worst fear, other than unpredictable natural catastrophes or terrorist attacks, is that neither hope will materialise. Unless the United States changes course and the EU gets its act together, and both engage in a fruitful dialogue, I fear that 2006-2007 will see dire consequences.

First, a further serious and potentially irreversible deterioration in the middle east. The Israeli electorate may be under the delusion that unilateralism is the only approach that works. Ending efforts to reach a negotiated settlement could lead to a more serious intifada and more instability in the region. Israel may have temptations to deal on its own with Iran in the way Menachem Begin did in 1981. Iraq could easily become a failed state, fall into a civil war, and become a satellite of Iran.

Second, the Latin American crisis and Chávez’s success in Venezuela might extend to Bolivia, Ecuador and even Peru, which would produce a serious deterioration of democracy in the region and increase a destabilisation of the whole region.

Third, without a concerted effort between a more forward-looking and enlightened US administration and European Union, the efforts of Tony Blair, Bill Clinton's Global Initiative and Mary Robinson's Ethical Globalisation Initiative, among others, to find solutions for the growing despair in Africa could be thwarted.

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