In "Blowback" Chalmers Johnson defined the term "as a metaphor for the unintended consequences of the US government's activities." Blowback was first used to describe the impact of our policies in Iran, where our support for the tyrannical Shah ultimately produced Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution. Later, the term captured the dreadful irony that the CIA trained and equipped Osama bin Laden, in Afghanistan. 2005 was a big year for blowback.
One example was the deplorable response to Hurricane Katrina. The gross ineptitude indicated that because of their tight focus on Iraq, the Bush Administration failed to heed the lessons of 9/11.
Yet, there were other less visible examples of blowback. In international relations, the U.S. lost all of our allies of consequence. In the four years since the attacks of 9/11, the Bush Administration managed to turn the entire world against America. Europe changed when we invaded Iraq, and France and Germany didn't join the coalition. One by one the others left, beginning with Spain and Portugal. This year we alienated our remaining European allies by our high-handed manner. It was revealed that we kidnapped EC citizens accused of being terrorists and stashed them Eastern European prisons, in violation of the laws of those countries. Even Britain turned against us when we stiffed Tony Blair on global climate change.
South America used to be a reliable sphere of American influence. Not any more. This began to change with the election of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Then came the election of Nestor Kirchner in Argentina. December saw the election of socialist Evo Morales in Bolivia. In 2006, Paraguay and Peru will likely also elect socialist governments. Our southern neighbors are making a left turn, primarily because of our policies on trade.
In the Far East, America has been superseded by China. The December meeting of ASEAN– the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – invited China, but not the U.S. China, and others, rebuked our economic advice.
Randy Newman penned a satirical song that begins, "No one likes us, I don't know why. We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try. But all around, even our old friends put us down." That's the way it was in 2005. Even our faithful sidekick, Canada, turned on us because of Iraq and our environmental policies.
Another example of blowback occurred in the arena of national competitiveness. Surprisingly, the Bush Administration is no longer good for business. (Except, of course, if you are in the petroleum industry.) For several years, international analysts cautioned that the Bush Administration's foreign policy strained the tolerance of our global partners. They observed that America acted as bully in military affairs, and as a loner in international social matters – such as global climate change. Nonetheless, we expected other nations to be friendly trading partners. In 2005, the situation they warned of finally came to pass: the U.S. lost its role as "Mr. Big" – the world's favorite capitalist. The Administrations' arrogant foreign policy began to impact the world of business. Firms with an American image began to be discriminated against. Not only in the Middle East where KFC and McDonald's had long been the subject of assaults, but throughout the world. This trend also affected mainstream corporations like Disney and Microsoft.
The flipside of this antipathy is that multi-national firms no longer want to build plants in the United States. In the spring, Toyota decided to construct a manufacturing facility in Canada rather than in the U.S. The reasons cited included the poor literacy of American workers and the cost of health-care. Not surprisingly, Toyota found the average Canadian job applicant was better educated than his U.S. counterpart. The carmaker also discovered Canada's national health insurance system saved them money in terms of benefit payments. It's became commonplace to hear of technology workers moving out of the U.S. into the European community, where housing is cheaper and the infrastructure superior to that in the states.
Finally, there is the matter of our national debt . In 2005, America solidified its position as the world's foremost debtor as our debt raced pass $8 billion. This was a direct consequence of the fact that the Bush Administration lost control of the Federal budget. On the one hand they continued to spend billions on the war in Iraq, and on the other they persisted with tax cuts for the rich. So far, this hasn't affected the U.S. consumer who is financing his or her lifestyle by the proceeds from a recent house refinance or credit cards. However, economists - outside the Bush Administration - are unanimous that a day of reckoning will soon be upon us.
The common thread in these examples of blowback is the absence of a long-range perspective. George Bush and his advisors seem to be unaware that they are painting the US into a corner. One where our economy is in a deep hole, our infrastructure in shreds, and everyone in the world hates us. Not a pretty picture. Still, an accurate view of the long-range impact of the blowback resulting from the policies of the Bush Administration.