The "leader of the Free World" is launching a round of state visits designed to mend relationships with countries he has done so much to undermine. Mired in an unwinnable war in Iraq, George II is off to talk nice with world leaders he hopes will be swayed by a combination of conciliatory words spoken over the subtext that - wounded and in dire financial straights as it may be - the US remains the centre of the world and must, therefore, be "dealt with".
George II is starting his trek in Canada. A quick stop in Ottawa where, contrary to early rumour, he will not address Parliament - whether it is the President or the Prime Minister who most fears the embarassment of Carolyn Parrish declaring the President pornographically unclothed is unclear; what is, is that the risk of a hiss or catcall is too great for the great man. He will meet briefly with the Prime Minister, then wing his way to Halifax, where he will thank Canadians for opening their doors to stranded travellers in the wake of 9/11 some 3 or so years ago. No doubt, those in attendance will be carefully vetted for a suitable level self-loathing and envy of all things American.
Prime Minister Martin's spin doctors, meanwhile, assure the nation that trade tops the meeting's agenda and that "Star Wars" - also known as missile defence or, to those who are familiar with the evidence, corporate welfare for the military-industrial complex and a paper-mache sword with enough silver paint on it to inspire the lesser complexes of nations such as Russia and China the excuse for nuclear expansion of their own - is not to be discussed, leaving the cynics among us to suspect Mr. Martin will announce that Canada will offer a CanadArm to the project in a month or so.
The United States of America is in big trouble, economic, military and political.
Ruled by an avaricious and myopic oligarchy that probably believes its own propaganda - that tax cuts for themselves are good for the nation; that God will provide for the poor if only they stop complaining about a lack of health care, jobs and decent education for their children; and that entrepreneurial capitalism involves using public money to pay themselves for not rebuilding Iraq. That the war in Iraq can still be won, if only more foreign countries send troops to that benighted land; that freedom is slavery and war, peace.
As for Iraq, the Christano-fascist coterie surrounding George II can not imagine that helicopter gunships, long-range missiles and Bradley fighting vehicles are not appropriate tools for winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, nor that appointing a "government" among whose membership number many who were formerly on the CIA payroll is unlikely to engender trust - let alone fealty - on those who have seen their cities ruined, their water and electricity cut off, and a hundred thousand of their fellow citizens murdered in the name of one lie after another.
The truth is, the United States fits the definition of a "rogue state" - with troops stationed in 144 countries, it overthrows governments, invades sovereign nations and threatens all who oppose it with its unrivalled arsenal of nuclear weapons. Never mind that it's economy is a house of straw whose foundations are made of foreign-held debt, it remains the largest in the world and fear of its collapse, more than the unusable nuclear weapons, make the rest of the world sit up and take notice.
Despite its undoubted potential to destroy, the truth is that the United States is in a position of weakness. It is politically, and economically, incapable of being the world's vigilante (the preferred term, policeman, being too disengenuous for polite company) and George II's trip is, in some ways, a tacit acknowledgement that it needs help.
Martin, a gutless ditherer to all appearances, is likely to offer up Canada's participation in missile defence. Will France and Germany also lend the US some figleaves?
Tragically, the powers-that-be in Europe are not much more given to long-term thinking than the neo-imperialists playing with maps in the White House. Short-term convenience is likely to trump the courage needed to think about the state of the world 20 years down the line, let alone 50.
At the same time, the Europeans can no doubt see just how hopeless is the situation in Iraq; the temptation to let the US cook in its own stew may win the day, leaving Bush to return home empty-handed, but for the blessing of Russia's Vladimir Putin, in return for carte blanche against Chechnia, and maybe the promise of nothing more than finger-wagging should the new Czar choose to intervene in Ukraine.
No one of consequence, however, will wag a finger at Bush. Though there may be no offers of tangible aid to show for his tour, the President will at the very least come away with gentle words and vague promises of cooperation.
Those in power are almost always in thrall to it, and would sooner close their eyes and hope for the best than exercise leadership.
It is a truism that only one's best friends are likely to tell one the truth in a moment of crisis; it is a truism that there are no friends in international relations, but only interests.
But the interests of the common good are seldom served by old men with secular power. Corrupted by the exhausting effort to reach their thrones, they have forgotten all but the ruses they used to reach them, whatever idealism or morality that might once have fuelled their journeys have become embarassing relics of impractical youth.
How dare they suggest their followers might need to sacrifice their comfort, if not their lives, for the sake of what is good?
Self-interest being seldom rational, let alone enlightened, France and Germany are likely instead to offer the symbol of a bandaid to the bleeding Goliath visiting their houses of pomp and splendour.
Instead of courage, the western "leaders" will want to work with the global thug, no matter how bad it will be for the people of Iraq, of their own nations, or even of the United States itself.
"Let the future take care of itself!" is a lousy rallying-cry, but I fear it is the only horn we'll hear for some time to come.