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The world leadership of the US

The US faces a double threat: terrorism and loss of economic role-model status. They are related but not the same. This is made clear in the February 2002 issue of World Press Review, which as usual forces us (or US) to see ourselves as other peoples see us. In Le Monde, André Touraine in "The Good Fight Against Capitalism", stresses that support for the US campaign against terrorism must be accompanied by opposition to economic globalization led by the US. This article is included in a section entitled "Economy in a Global Spinout". Another article is "Argentine: Down for the Count". The chaos in once-prosperous Argentina, hitherto viewed as a model dollar economy, has disillusioned all of Latin America.

The Enron crisis has intensified doubts about the US economic system. The lead editorial in the bellwether of capitalism, The Economist (1/19-25/02) is entitled "The real scandal: America's capital markets are not the paragons they were cracked up to be". [Incidentally, bellwether is "a male sheep wearing a bell, the leader of the flock", but wether is defined as "a castrated male sheep". Has capitalism been castrated?].

Terrorism is a related story, since it is reinforced by economic despair. Harry Papasotiriou says " A "home-made" nuclear device, carried perhaps on a ship, that destroys lower Manhattan, can make the international economic shock of 1929 look like kindergarden - and we all know the disastrous world-wide political consequences of that calamity". The aforementioned issue of World Press Review has an article from El País of Spain, which points out that religious terrorism is not restricted to Muslims. It does not discuss the Basque ETA, although it must have had it in mind: ETA has a Catholic background, its offices are (or were) decorated with crosses, and the Church has been very slow to condemn it.

Conservative US commentators have said that the Enron scandal proves the system is working. This is absurd: tell that to the workers who lost their life-savings. An urgent task is for the US to reform its system so as to reduce the power of money over politics and to guarantee all members of a company a fair wage, replacing the present system in which management gets obscene remuneration while the workers may be left destitute.

Ronald Hilton - 1/20/02