America’s failure felt the world over

From a New York Times editorial of March 18, 2003

"…Once the fighting begins, every American will be thinking primarily of the safety of our troops, the success of their mission and the minimization of Iraqi civilian casualties. It will not feel like the right time for complaints about how America got to this point.

"Today is the right time. This war crowns a period of terrible diplomatic failure, Washington's worst in at least a generation. The Bush administration now presides over unprecedented American military might. What it risks squandering is not America's power, but an essential part of its glory.

"When this administration took office just over two years ago, expectations were different. President Bush was a novice in international affairs, while his father had been a master practitioner. But the new president looked to have assembled an experienced national security team. It included Colin Powell and Dick Cheney, who had helped build the multinational coalition that fought the first Persian Gulf war. Condoleezza Rice had helped manage a peaceful end for Europe's cold war divisions. Donald Rumsfeld brought government and international experience stretching back to the Ford administration. This seasoned team was led by a man who had spoken forcefully as a presidential candidate about the need for the United States to wear its power with humility, to reach out to its allies and not be perceived as a bully.

"But this did not turn out to be a team of steady veterans. The hubris and mistakes that contributed to America's current isolation began long before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. From the administration's first days, it turned away from internationalism and the concerns of its European allies by abandoning the Kyoto Protocol on global warming and withdrawing America's signature from the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court. Russia was bluntly told to accept America's withdrawal from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty and the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into the territory of the former Soviet Union. In the Middle East, Washington shortsightedly stepped backed from the worsening spiral of violence between Israel and the Palestinians, ignoring the pleas of Arab, Muslim and European countries. If other nations resist American leadership today, part of the reason lies in this unhappy history…."

The above was published on Tuesday, following President Bush’s ultimatum delivered Monday evening. Today there are probably bombs falling on Iraq. With luck, and with mercy, the war will be over quickly. But the fallout from America’s war on Iraq will be with the world for some time.

The immediate danger is likely instability in the Middle East and the increased probability of terrorist attacks anywhere, at any time. That uncertainty will affect people the world over, including those who make their living in small mountain resorts.

But an even bigger problem for the world is an isolated United States that has, as The Times editorial outlines above, succeeded in pissing off a large portion of the human race. An amazing turnaround in just 18 months.

America must be re-integrated into the world community; it must be persuaded of the value of multilateral action rather than unilateral action, as quickly as possible following this unnecessary war.

As the fighting goes on it’s likely there will be increasing public support for deposing Saddam Hussein and "liberating" Iraq, up to a point (that point being when the images become too horrific and there is no end in sight to the carnage). This support or empathy is important for the period following the war. It is then that the world, including all those who oppose this war, must make every effort to persuade America and the Bush administration to re-integrate into the world community. America will have to rebuild trust as it rebuilds Iraq.

But the world, including those of us in little mountain resorts, can’t afford an isolated America.

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