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U.S. missed window for foreign relations healing

Nov. 18, 2004

By ANGELA SAGER, guest columnist

Last weekend, four friends and myself decided to travel to Bulgaria and Romania for the long break. I have been studying in Turkey for the past two months and have not encountered any real rancor regarding my nationality or America's foreign policies. So, when I chose to go to two Christian, European countries, I gave no thought to any animosity that might be felt in a country that wasn't Middle Eastern.

Sager
However, this assumption of approval proved to be false. Traveling on the train from Sofia to Bucharest, we were asked by an official for our passports -- a routine check at every boarder. Upon displaying our passports (three American and one Canadian), the gentlemen proceeded to become heated, and loudly assert his opinions of America. While most of this was in Bulgarian/broken English, the sentiment came through loud and clear -- America thinks it is high almighty and President George W. Bush can do what he pleases in the world.

I had never agreed with Bush's foreign policies, but now I was personally witnessing the effects.

Bush has internationally alienated us from our former allies and has created a whole new breed of anti-Americans. What's worse, though, is now we have re-elected this man for a second term -- proclaiming to the world that we, as Americans, support all that he has destroyed and devalued through his contradictory and confused foreign policy.

It is generally known that American foreign policy does not differ much from administration to administration. In this case, however, the differences between the current administration and a new face would have been a reversal. It is not that Sen. John Kerry's policies would have been drastically different; it was that he symbolized a turning of a new leaf for our hegemonic state. If Ohio had swung left, the world would have seen a door open -- one that welcomed reform and improvement of the problems in which we are deeply involved.

With these changes comes less criticism, more cooperation and the demise of the idea that America is attempting to unilaterally pull away from the global community by creating its own set of norms completely incompatible with current international laws and values. As a country that is under so much scrutiny, this vision of an opening door, regardless if policy actually did change, could have significantly improved our relations with the entire world.

This window of opportunity has passed however, and we must make the best of the situation.

Unless the only place we want to feel safe and comfortable are in our own homes, diplomatic steps by both the president and congress need to be seriously taken to heal the breach so decisively torn under Bush's decision to invade Iraq. It is a beautiful thing to be American; hopefully one day I can share this with the world without nervously anticipating the criticism that follows.