TCS Daily

On Our Own

By Dale Franks - March 12, 2003 12:00 AM

President Bush took the advice of his critics. Rather than acting "unilaterally", he took his case against Iraq to the United Nations, and emerged with a new UN Security Council resolution, 1441, which led to the return of UN Weapons Inspectors to Iraq. That was the high-water mark of the UN campaign.

Since that time, anti-war and anti-American sentiment has grown. Iraq has committed itself to only the absolute minimum of cooperation with the UN necessary to forestall war. They are cooperating on procedure, but not substance. Such cooperation as has been given is the result only of the growing presence of American troops on Iraq's borders.

Now, the effectiveness of the UN route has come to its logical conclusion. France, and Russia have stated that they will veto any Security Council resolution that authorizes the use of military force against Iraq. China is being a bit cagier on the veto issue, but they clearly are opposed to any such resolution.

In the words of French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, "We will not allow a resolution to pass that authorizes resorting to force. Russia and France, as permanent members of the Security Council, will assume their full responsibilities on this point." Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was much more blunt, declaring that, "Russia will not support any decision that would directly or indirectly open the way to war with Iraq." German Ambassador to the U.S. Wolfgang Ischinger says, that while inspections aren't working very well, they're working enough to make war unnecessary. Unnecessary, at least, as long as hundreds of thousands of American soldiers threaten the regime of Saddam Hussein by staying in the region at the American people's expense. No French, Russian, or Chinese troops will be joining U.S. forces there.

This should not come as a surprise. We are merely learning, once again, that the UN cannot really be counted upon to take firm action on almost any issue. In the past ten years, the UN has addressed genocide in Rwanda, ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, slavery in Sudan, Turkish predations in Cyprus, and the rule of warlords in Somalia with a few high-sounding words, but failed to take any firm action. Why should the situation in Iraq be any different?

Perhaps it is time to face the hard truth that the War on Terrorism will be a long struggle in which we will have few real allies, and will face active opposition from many nations we have long considered our friends.

One has to have lived in Europe, or at least visited there extensively, to truly understand the gulf that divides us. America is deeply unpopular in many European nations. Americans are regularly caricatured in the European press as religiously fanatical, intemperate, gun-toting cowboys whose propensity to shoot people with whom we disagree is mirrored in our foreign policy. Europeans who sniffed condescendingly at the idea that there might have been parallels between the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic and Nazi Germany seem to have no trouble whatsoever comparing George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler. This is not a phenomenon that is confined to France or Germany. It exists all across the breadth of Europe, and is a mainstream view.

The situation is even worse in Arab countries, where the state-run press establishments castigate America as a nation where Muslims are routinely persecuted, and whose policies are directed by American Jews in league with the Zionist oppressors in Israel. Disturbingly, such sentiments have begun to be aired in Europe as well.

Public sentiment in many countries is fairly strongly opposed to U.S. action in Iraq, even in those countries like Spain, Italy, or the Eastern European states whose governments currently support the U.S. position. If public opinion is turned against the U.S., then the policies of those governments likely will be as well. No democratically elected government can long oppose the will of a majority of its people. That implies less support for the U.S. as time passes.

It is also difficult to escape the suspicion that, in many capitals, a bit of cynical and self-serving reasoning is taking place. America is the prime target of terrorism. No one is, after all, flying jumbo jets into the Eiffel Tower, or the Brandenburg Gate. By opposing American policy, these countries may avoid terrorist attacks on their own soil, and appease large Muslim immigrant populations. If this strategy doesn't work, and terror attacks are launched against them anyway, then they haven't really lost anything. They are blithely confident that America will be happy to welcome them back into the fold as an ally in the war against terror.

If these trends continue, the War on Terror will be harder to sustain, lonelier, and more expensive for us to fight. Permanent allies will be few, and such allies as we do have will be a shifting coalition of convenience. One has to wonder, then, how the American public will respond over the long term to such strong and continuing foreign condemnation.

A return to traditional American isolationism is one possible response. Many already argue that if we disengage from the world, we will become less attractive as a target for terrorists or dictators. Additionally, various pundits are calling for disengagement from NATO, South Korea, and other places where American power has helped keep peace for the last half-century, but where anti-American feeling abounds. "Bring our boys home," the argument goes. "If those governments won't support us, then let them take care of themselves."

That is a difficult argument to counter when even some of America's allies express the position that America is a greater threat to world peace than Saddam Hussein.

I belong to a discussion group that includes best-selling military sci-fi author and occasional New York Post op/ed columnist John Ringo. A day after the 9/11 attacks, he made a rather depressing prediction. He predicted that 9/11 would fill us temporarily with a sense of mission, but the enthusiasm would fade, our allies would defect, and our anti-terror efforts would eventually suffer. He predicted that we would repeat this cycle until we were struck by an attack so horrific that, in our anger, we would strike out with an apocalyptic response.

I hope that Mr. Ringo was just being overly pessimistic. But its difficult to think of an environment more conducive to his prediction than one in which the world refuses to take firm action to prevent dictators from acquiring nuclear weapons, leaving America isolated, condemned by our allies and enemies alike for fighting a long-term war against terror.

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