A broad majority of people around the globe share the same feeling about next week's American elections: Better the devil you don't know than the one you do.
The George Bush-Dick Cheney partnership has been the most radical presidency in memory. Their re-election in next week's tight election will likely produce an even more aggressive U.S. foreign policy driven by religious fundamentalists and the military-petroleum interests.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, humiliated and sidelined, is expected to resign and be replaced by one of Bush's neocons.
Scott McConnell, editor of American Conservative magazine, accurately sums up the Bush Doctrine: "His international policies have been based on the hopelessly naive belief that foreign peoples are eager to be liberated by American armies -- a notion more grounded in Leon Trotsky's concept of global revolution than any sort of conservative statecraft."
Recently, former U.S. National Security chief Brent Scowcroft, the dean of Republican foreign policy experts and adviser to Bush's father, warned of the baleful influence of Israel's far right over Bush. "(Ariel) Sharon has got him wrapped around his little finger," said Gen. Scowcroft.
A second Bush term could bring U.S. attacks on Iran and Syria, as Israel's PM Sharon has urged, and widening Mideast conflict. More troops and money will be poured into the Iraq quagmire. A military draft will almost certainly become necessary.
Neither Bush nor his opponent, John Kerry, are telling Americans two hard truths: First, the principal cause of anti-American terrorism is the oppression of Palestinians, and U.S. support for dictatorial regimes across the Muslim World.
Second, Bush's wars in Iraq -- which has caused 100,000 civilian deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University study -- and Afghanistan are already lost. Not on the battlefield, but on the strategic level.
War is the extension of politics by other means, as Karl von Clausewitz postulated. Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan must be judged defeats because no viable solution is remotely in sight in either nation now run by unpopular U.S.-imposed puppet regimes. Soviet-style rigged elections will not legitimize them.
Kerry's plans for Iraq are specious, too: No important nations are likely to help the U.S. colonize Iraq. Kerry's biggest failings have been his spineless support for war in Iraq, and his pandering to special interests over the Mideast.
The best President Kerry could do is talk tough while finding a way out of Iraq. But he will be harassed by Republicans and neocons crying "treason," and forced to wrestle the huge budget mess Bush left behind.
In Asia, Bush is on a collision course with nuclear-armed North Korea. His neocons are pressing for a confrontation that could ignite a major war. Kerry will be far likelier to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the Korean crisis.
The pro-war neocons around Bush are also pressing a hard line against China that risks a clash over Taiwan. China will not allow itself to be bullied by anyone. Kerry has rightly called for co-operation rather than ideological antagonism towards China.
Europeans are dismayed and frightened by Bush and his aggressive polices. If Bush wins, Europe, led by France and Germany, will speed up its growing alliance with China, an entente that can quickly become an anti-U.S. pact.
Kerry would quickly restore relations with Europe and return America to its former course of internationalism.
Bush's entente with Russia's Vladimir Putin has tacitly encouraged restoration of dictatorship in Russia. It will be too late for Kerry to do anything about this grave development.
Unless the next U.S. administration imposes a just peace on Israelis and Palestinians and ends the occupation of Iraq, anti-U.S. terrorism will intensify.
Bush has debauched America's finances by his $290-billion US wars and $521-billion deficit. Whoever wins, the global economy will be hit by waves of inflation caused by Bush's ruinous spending.
Kerry is a weak candidate with a lacklustre record. But at least he is a sensible, educated man who will bring in a team of moderate advisers that do not want to launch catastrophic foreign crusades or spend like drunken sailors. Kerry is a cautious internationalist; Bush an unapologetic Bible-belt imperialist.
Most non-Americans believe the U.S. under Bush has become a dangerous rogue state that threatens world stability and peace. For them, anyone is better than George W. Bush.
© 2004 The Toronto Sun