- The Washington Times - Monday, February 24, 2003

(Editor's note: This is reprinted from our Feb. 17 editions.)

It is hard not to see the events that transpired in the Security Council of the United Nations on Friday as a watershed moment in international relations. Hans Blix's verbal assault on the American secretary of state seated only feet from him combined with the wild and broadly dispersed cheering for the French foreign minister's bald rejection of both the American position and the very terms of Resolution 1441, reveal that America has lost the diplomatic world's respect and awe to a degree unprecedented since the beginning of WWII.
National power is more effective when it is implicit. After Friday, our power is more likely to be respected only by its explicit use. While nations may bend to our power in the coming months, many of them will do so begrudgingly and with resentment. We should expect to be challenged more often and more hostilely by nations we only recently considered our friends.
Some domestic critics may argue that the breakdown of order on Friday was the avoidable result of poorly judged and executed American diplomacy over the last several months. It is not clear that such a criticism is merited. Even a shrewder and more artfully executed diplomatic effort would probably have ended in the same blind alley.
The larger international fact is that much of the world both its governments and its peoples are simply not capable of mentally and emotionally coming to grips with the staggering implications of a world threatened by the devil's brew of rogue states, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Only the smoldering embers of once-great European cities or a worldwide plague of biblical proportions are likely to rouse America's critics to see the magnitude of its imminent danger.
So, it is far easier and far more emotionally satisfying, for both the simple people in the streets and the over-sophisticated statesmen and diplomats, to imagine that it is the United States that is the problem and the danger. For we are disturbing their somnambulation. If America is their worst nightmare, they should be able to sleep the sleep of the innocent.
But our president and his senior leaders must, and do, live with the real nightmare one made all the harder to defeat by the blindness of what should be our friends and allies in this historic struggle for survival. And now, obviously, the president has another burden to carry. He must begin to repair or replace the international system that the United States created a half-century ago to help manage a troubled world. The United Nations and NATO (supported indirectly by the IMF and the World Bank) the whole panoply of international structures are becoming not only dysfunctional, but destructive of their original purpose.
It is, however, vital that in our disappointment at finding ourselves unloved, unappreciated and disobeyed, we do not reject the practical value of a new or modified international structure.
In the short-term, however, it is very likely that we will have to ignore the current structures and continue to cobble together an alliance of the willing (mindful that even those governments such as Britain, Italy, Spain and Turkey are supporting us against the overwhelming and misguided sentiments of their own people). In the coming months, President Bush will be facing heavy labor and hard tidings. He deserves the support (and, if one is so inclined, the prayers) of every patriotic American.


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