The election that mesmerized the world is over.
It is time to summarize the legacy of the last four years and list the priorities for the next four.
After 9/11, the world stood with America and George W. Bush. Today, it stands as far away from it, and him, as possible.
Americans were united.
Now they are deeply divided, about half and half, along political, social, cultural and religious lines.
It's apt to apply to America Lord Durham's old dictum for Canada: "Two nations warring in the bosom of a single state."
I have said that 9/11 made Canada more Canadian. More precisely, it was Bush who did so.
No act of Jean Chrétien proved more popular than his decision to sit out Bush's war on Iraq.
It also forced Paul Martin to curb his pro-American instincts to win the June 28 election, in which Stephen Harper paid a price for being pro-Bush.
Despite the CNN-ization of Canada, Canadians proved they could think for themselves.
They also refused to take dictation from our business or media elite, most of whom advocated jumping as high as the American president ordered.
Canada turned out to be the harbinger of what was coming in America: the first presidential election since Vietnam to be fought on foreign policy.
The priorities for the president are clear enough: How to extricate America out of the Iraq quagmire. How to resurrect American credibility and win back allies. How to reassert a U.S. role in the Arab-Israeli conflict. How to stop nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran. How to free rural Afghanistan from the control of warlords.
There's no easy exit out of Iraq.
The spreading insurgency — 100 attacks a day on coalition forces, 160 foreign hostages seized and 900 Iraqi cadets killed — is beginning to look like Vietnam or the Algerian revolution against French colonialism.
No credible elections in Iraq are possible in January unless the country is pacified. It cannot be without risking massive bloodshed in places like Falluja. More Iraqi dead on top of the 100,000 already killed is to feed the insurgency further.
The only way out is to get out. Only question is how quickly.
Neither Bush nor John Kerry tackled the sub-text of most conflicts confronting America: how to address the grievances of the Muslim world.
Top of the list is the plight of the Palestinians.
Solving that issue will not end the crises.
But not tackling it certainly won't, as the world outside of the American-Israeli axis keeps saying.
The world wants three more American policies revisited.
American violations of human rights at home and abroad rob America of moral authority.
Bush's grand strategy of "pre-emption" stands discredited.
So does his hypothesis, stated in his otherwise sensible address to Congress nine days after 9/11: "Why do they hate us? They hate us for who we are. They hate us because we are free."
It was a good rallying cry for a grieving nation.
But as a prognosis of what went wrong, it remains a disastrous formulation. It excuses America from any self-examination.
© 2004 Toronto Star