We enter 2004 with a lot of unfinished business from 2003. The US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq was the dominant event of the year. President Bush and Prime Minister Blair ended the year stronger and more popular than they were in January, 2003. Secretary Rumsfeld captured credit for the military successes in Iraq and diverted blame for post war planning failures to Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz, a loser but not in the top 10. Paul Bremer after a shaky start in Iraq settled into a good groove and helped engineer a needed shift of U.S. policy. Presidents Hu and Putin both had good years, with Hu leading China to economic dominance in Asia and Putin becoming increasingly dominant in Russia. The leaders of the new Europe successfully challenged a French-German power play while blithely joining the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. As the year ended we were on Orange alert and airliners were being diverted. Osama and al Qaeda, though on the run, remained dangerous. Woodrow Wilson was looking down at his newest convert, President Bush, who is dreaming of bringing peace and democracy to the Middle East. At the end of the year Col. Qadhafi, one of the all-time losers, reemerged as a possible winner. On the domestic side Howard Dean, thanks in part to his unequivocal opposition to the war, emerged as Democratic Party front runner.
It was a close call between Jacques Chirac and Saddam Hussein for the biggest loser of the year. This observer gave the nod to Jacques. Not only was he the biggest loser of the year, but was also well up there as backstabber of the year. Jacques also succeeded in destroying hopes for a united Europe and at the end of the year was haplessly engaged in banning head scarves worn by Moslem schoolgirls. American diplomacy (not this journal, we emphasize) also had a bad year as the United States chose military action over negotiation when it counted and did little to promote an Arab/Israeli peace settlement. Likewise. the United Nations was unable to agree on any military action against Iraq; later its mission in Baghdad was bombed and it was forced to withdraw and remain on the sidelines. The once mighty dollar was still falling at year’s end. One hopeful note was that the United States decided to start a multi-year, multi-billion dollar effort to fight AIDS in Africa. Those efforts should begin to show results in 2004. Charles Taylor, another despicable despot in the Saddam mold, was overthrown and exiled and Fidel during most of the year was simply ignored. He must have hated that. And if Woodrow was smiling down from up above, Dick Nixon was probably scowling from the same (or possibly a lower perch) as his policies of realism and acting only to strengthen American interests were being subverted by Wilsonian idealism. Finally there is Howard Dean, one of our winners. At year’s end Howard was saying some rather odd things about Osama, and Saddam and American security. Howard thereby shows great potential for being a major loser in 2004.
Readers, there is our list and rationale. Not all of my colleagues on American Diplomacy or its parent corporation’s board of directors agree with all the names or subjects, and neither, likely, will you. We hope, however, you will be provoked enough to e-mail us your own views and choices. We will try to publish them if they are not overly scurrilous. Please fire away.
Assoc. Editor Mike Hornblow