Though I don't especially want to perpetuate anyone's stereotypes about the mainstream media, I have to say that this optimism is totally unwarranted. Not because things aren't improving in Iraq—it seems they are, at least for the moment—but because the collateral damage inflicted by the war on America's relationships with the rest of the world is a lot deeper and broader than most Americans have yet realized. It isn't just that the Iraq war invigorated the anti-Americanism that has always been latent pretty much everywhere. Far worse is the fact that—however it all comes out in the end, however successful Iraqi democracy becomes a decade from now—our conduct of the war in Iraq has disillusioned our natural friends and supporters and thrown a lasting shadow over our military and political competence. However it all comes out, the price we've paid is too high.The price we paid isn't the almost 4,000 Americans who gave their lives in Iraq fighting Al Qaeda fanatics and Sunni intransigents. It's not the tens of thousands of wounded, some of whom are permanently disabled, and all whom have gone through hell. Nope... the price we've paid is the fact that no one likes us enough anymore to listen to us:
News flash: They weren't listening to us anyway! The folks that opposed us in 2003... folks like Hans Blix, Gehard Schroeder, Jacques Chirac... opposed us because they believed it was in their best interests to oppose us! Whether those interests revolved around money (as in keeping the Oil For Food cash coming), political ambition (as in using the US as a whipping boy to distract one's own voters away from a dismal political record), or strategic ambition (as in utilizing general angst over war as a club to beat the US with in the hopes of weakening America strategically so that we would no longer project power) is just additional grist for the mill.
From the start, however, all negotiations between Iran and the "EU-3," as the group is known in diplomacy speak, have been haunted by Iraq. Certainly, there is no expert committee in existence that could successfully convince Europeans (or anyone) that Iran really does have nuclear weapons, or even that Iran intends to build them. So fresh are the memories of American claims about the extent of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and so vast, therefore, is the skepticism about any assessments of anybody's nuclear program, that even a report bearing a United Nations or European Union label would fail to convince, even if Iranian nukes were on display in downtown Tehran. All analysis coming out of the United States is, of course, automatically discounted.
So, here we are, almost five years later, with yet another crisis fomenting in the Middle East over a terrorist-sponsoring state that is developing WMDs, and even the critics of America admit that they do not wish to confront Iran. Hell's bells! Why on Earth should Iran change its course of action? What is the downside of their current direction? Can the Europeans not see that their very ambivalence is what is causing the crisis? And, that if they would just grow a pair and stand up, just once, to a totalitarian regime, then perhaps they could prevent yet another dictatorial miscalculation that "democracies are too weak and decadent to fight?"
Hitler started World War II because he truly believed that Britain and France lacked the will to oppose him. Oops. Kim Il Sung started the Korean War because he and Stalin believed that Truman lacked the will to oppose them. Oops. Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait because he believed the US lacked the will to intervene. Twelve years later, he defied US and UN demands because he again believed that the US would not intervene because his bought-and-paid-for 'friends' would prevent UN approval of any attack. Oops yet again. Anyone else spot the "wars are often started by miscalculations" trend here?
I have to tell you; I think Iraq was worth the cost, and I further believe that history will agree with me in a very short time. September 11, 2001 was the culmination of several decades of escalating terrorist attacks on America... attacks with no consequences. The Bush Administration correctly analyzed the situation in the Middle East, recognizing that things weren't going to change unless we changed our response. That's a bad neighborhood, and people over there needed to realize that business as usual was over. If that meant invading a few countries, then so be it. Of course, our enemies doubted our resolve, having seen eight years of Clinton pusillanimity. We all knew their game plan: kill Americans violently and hold on until they give up and go home. But it didn't happen, despite the tremendous cost in blood and money, because we were uniquely blessed with a military, a president, and a majority of the American people, all of whom possessed the courage and resolve to see it through, and to ignore the naysayers. That resolve is what finally made the Iraqi people choose America. Osama bin Laden was right: Arabs always choose the strong horse. We showed the Middle East that, contrary to popular opinion, we are the strong horse, not Al Qaeda and its minions. If Clinton had done his job, and those who hated us believed this in 2001, then 9/11 wouldn't have happened.
We've won in Iraq. Now we need to finish the job, and that means confronting Iran instead of avoiding it. This is when the Rest of the World needs to grow up and get with the program. Europeans need to realize that Iran is a real threat, and that once Tehran has nukes the possibility of nuclear war increases dramatically. Iran sends all types of munitions to their Hamas and Hezbollah proxies for indiscriminate use against Israeli civilian targets. Does anyone really not think that a small nuke is off the table? Does anyone really think the US wants to go to war with Iran? Evidently, many Europeans are in a state of denial.
And whose fault is this really? Whose fault is it that the US and specifically the Bush Administration is seen as less than credible? I think that some Americans, who have attacked the motivations of the current president in their scorched-earth effort to regain political power by any means necessary, bear a good part of the blame. There's been way too much irresponsible politicking. After all, most of our enemies are merely repeating the Democrat Party talking points. This is why, once upon a time, political attacks stopped at the water's edge. Maybe, if a Democrat does win the presidency in 2008, they'll soon regret the bitter harvest that two terms of irresponsible political attacks have sown.