By Joseph J. Honick
June 26, 2008
Read More Joe Hoenick
This is about what happens when the world’s most powerful nation becomes irrelevant and the dangers that can flow from such a state. It is vital to focus on that sad and distressing reality.
While President George W. Bush tours the world not unlike an athlete doing a winner’s lap after a major race but in search of confirmation of his legacy over two terms, there seems to be little realization of his role in making his country a virtually irrelevant player in world affairs.
There is also little realization of the roles played by the PR professionals who have helped guide the strategies of the nations the president is visiting, nations that would have traditionally found it imperative to check in with the US leadership as part of negotiating controversial alliances or moving on certain diplomatic, economic and military programs. I’ll come back to the PR firms soon.
At a time when the nation and the world are at the mercy of major oil producing nations in the Middle East, and oil companies are boasting double digit billions in profits, it is embarrassing that we, along with others, go hat in hand to request higher rates of production in an effort to reduce prices. The screaming and lobbying go on claiming that the real villain is the inability of the industry to build more refineries and drill for oil in certain places. Even as they boast those huge yearend profits, major oil producers whine about tight margins…and we exert no influence as a nation and tacitly accept those incongruous arguments.
Amid all this, the nation for whom we have been sacrificing men, women and nearly a trillion dollars, Iraq, is debating an oil law to figure out how to profit from its own resources with not one word about repayment to the U.S. and other coalition nations…even dealing out preliminary no-bid contracts to select oil companies who will get first shots at the precious stuff.
Massive monthly PR spending by countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates, shields them from pressure to help bring peace.
Nowhere, of course, does one read any comments to the effect that all this oil profit will in any way help the U.S. reduce its own costs for defending Iraq. Just why do you think that might be, even as American taxpayers are helping to make still wealthier profiteers of major manufacturers, mercenary forces, and last but hardly least, some major public relations firms in the pay of our government and surrounding Arab oil producers and of course the oil companies themselves?
Amid all this movement, the Bush Administration, struggling to make some final mark in the final months of its existence, looks more irrelevant on the world stage than ever before, and, no matter what your politics may be, that is unhealthy for the immediate future.
As I noted in an article in October, “few if any nations seem to give a tinker’s dam about our opinions on almost any international major concern.” Even our theoretical client and theoretical ally Iraq is pretty much thumbing its nose at us as they reject a variety of proposals we have put forth to them. And no amount of ubiquity by Secretary of State Rice can alter this apparently steamrolling reality.
And so we attempt to tie up the package that should intrigue more than a few as to how we got here.
None of this is happening in some kind of vacuum either.
The massive monthly PR spending by such countries as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates, among others, shields them from pressure to help bring peace even as they continue to broaden their investments in money funds, resort and luxury developments and other profitable ventures. As even former Bush loyalist Karen Hughes reportedly told the PR Society some months ago, “People around the world aren’t just sitting to hear from America anymore.” Also lost among all this is our embarrassment for having led the embrace of a terrorist Libya and its leader Qaddafi.
The further reality is that we are often at our weakest and most confusing during presidential election years when all sorts of claims, counter-claims and the most outlandish promises are made. One of the major problems with all of this is that some pretty powerful PR firms are being paid well to help position their international clients most profitably, a natural consequence of business but a potentially hazardous for national policy and effectiveness.
An intriguing sidelight to all of this is the fact quite a few people will be out of their Congressional seats when the votes are tallied on November 4, and numerous among them are already being courted to join PR and lobbying firms as has been the case frequently in the past.
If all this may have seemed to lack a sharp focus, it may be because the combination of international manipulations and PR and lobbying efforts right here in the United States have had such a powerful impact on our own capacity to remain the superpower in more than military terms these days.
It also means it is time for those of us in the public opinion field to consider our allegiances, responsibilities and impact as many become virtual arms of other nations in these tense and confusing times.
* * *
Joseph J. Honick is an international consultant to business and government and writes for many publications, including www.huntingtonnews.net. Honick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.