OPINION

Dogfighting

Does an Iraqi need to know if John Kerry is taller than George Bush? Does an Afghan, a Serb or a Palestinian need to know the temperature that makes the Democratic candidate sweat, thereby undermining his image in the eyes of the electorate? Does a non-American need to know the distance that should separate the podiums of the two US presidential candidates? No, but, well, yes. No, because an Iraqi will always be a bomb target, however shorter the incumbent president may be than his likely successor. No, because an Afghan or a Serb will still live in a rogue state, regardless of what temperature gets Kerry’s sweat glands working. And, again, no, because non-Americans will always matter less in the eyes of the two contenders than the distance between their podiums. Yet at the same time, these comical aspects of the presidential race must be a concern to every Afghan or Iraqi. For these will determine, at least partially, their own fate since, according to spin doctors, the Iraq war matters less to the average US voter than the height difference between the two candidates. It is a nightmarish claim, but it carries more truth than the assumption that the outcome will be decided on the basis of a clear ideological and political clash – a highly unlikely prospect given that the two parties agree on this one: that the rest of the world effectively constitutes the US backyard. A few days ago Republican delegates were shown a video (that was later broadcast on television around the world) where Barney, the first dog, floors in a debate a fictional Kerry dog with the rather unheroic moniker Fifi. There is nothing cute about a dogfight that reduces politics to a cartoon parody. What there is is an unbearable lightness dangerously unaware of its huge gravity for the rest of the world.