[GLOBAL EYE]The force of checks and balances

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[GLOBAL EYE]The force of checks and balances

America is losing face. It is almost to the point that it should be ashamed of having the title of the only superpower country in the world, especially with the way it has been behaving in Iraq recently. America moved forward the handover of sovereignty to Iraq two days before the scheduled June 30 date, and went through the process like lightning, as if it were doing something wrong.
Some members of the press ran over without knowing exactly what was going on when the message was passed on to them in the manner of giving one to secret agents, and turned pale with surprise when they found out it was the handover ceremony. One reporter for the Washington Post explained what the mood was like, saying, “It was as if something illegal was going on in the bunker.” It was a sort of countermeasure against the terrorists, who were probably waiting for the handover period to make their next move, but still very different from the normally confident and stately manner of the United States.
The same goes for the Saddam Hussein trial. Putting Hussein and his men in court just three days after the handover is simply “for show.” Unprepared criminal suspects were called to an unprepared court just for the purpose of showing off the fact that Iraq had control over its own country now. Where has the confidence of an America that takes care of things the American way, no matter what, gone?
The American military ranks No. 1 so overwhelmingly that competing for second place would be meaningless. The national defense budget for next year, which the U.S. Congress passed last week, is $440 billion. This is more than the combined budget of the next nine countries in rank.
However, even such military power cannot be sustained if it is not supported by the economy. The reason the Soviet Union perished is that it lost the economic war against America. America is now competing against the EU and Japan economically. It must also compete against China in the near future. In addition, an astronomical national debt of over $7 trillion is strangling the American economy. The argument that the reason why the United States cannot do what it wants with Saudi Arabia is because of the trillions of incoming dollars of oil money is a very persuasive one.
However, I believe that the real power of America is not its military or its economy, but its ability to control itself. Just as nobody is perfect, a country cannot be free from errors or mistakes either. The important thing is the ability to correct oneself. Of the approximately 200 nations of the world, there does not seem to be any country that is better at controlling itself through internal “checks and balances.” That is why America is strong and intimidating.
I thought about America’s power again after watching “Fahrenheit 9/11” by Michael Moore, which opened after much controversy and debate. This film, whose title was inspired by the 1953 novel “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, who is known as the George Orwell of America, thoroughly makes sure that it is consistently “beating up Bush.” Just as books, which symbolize thought, start to burn at 451 degrees Fahrenheit, it is said that freedom starts to burn at “9/11 degrees,” meaning that Bush’s incompetent way of dealing with the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and his crafty intentions are to be credited for the threat to freedom, according to Moore. In other words, it is a political piece of propaganda to “bring down Bush” before the presidential election.
America is a country where such a film of suspicion, criticism, mockery and ridicule of the head of state is shown in some 1,700 theaters across the country thanks to freedom of speech, which is secured by the constitution, and comes in first in the box office ratings. Free competition takes place with rules rather than relations, and abilities rather than connections as a basis, and there is no other country that is more competitive than America with its societal system which checks and balances itself through such freedom. This is the reason why “the time of America” can only continue for the meantime.
Recently, America has shown a different attitude concerning the Korean Peninsula. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Paek Nam-sun, the foreign minister of North Korea, last week. This week, U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will come to Korea. America is looking for a new balance by checking itself again internally.

* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok
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