Victor Davis Hanson takes a look ahead at the challenges which lie in our future.
Iran and Syria may sound defiant in the Islamic media; yet, the world around them in Israel, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iraq is either democratic or moving in that direction. Their support of terror and desire to acquire dangerous strategic weapons, in the President’s view, means that the larger war cannot be won unless both cease and desist or see their regimes changed – preferably through either diplomatic coercion and multilateral pressure or in extremis American force.
While the democratic stew brews in Afghanistan and Iraq, expect a number of Bush initiatives that will turn up the heat. The UN, reeling from the Oil for Food scandals, the Secretary-General’s nepotism, and the organization’s tolerance for mass murder in the Sudan, is under enormous pressure to democratize its membership, expand the Security Council, open its books – or face a de facto American disengagement. That is no longer a right-wing pipe dream, not when a majority of Americans now voices no confidence in either the efficacy or morality of such avatars of world governance.
The Palestinians likewise are facing an impending dilemma. Either with American support and aid they embrace real democracy and give up tribal Arafatism to negotiate as a legitimate interlocutor with the Israelis, or they will face a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the completion of a security fence, continued destruction of extremists and the recognition that they will lose their window on the West through Jerusalem, and instead stew in their own juice with their like brethren in Syria and Egypt.
Nor will the Bush administration cease its reexamination of its superpower responsibilities. The American people believes that there is no longer any strategic or political logic in stationing thousands of soldiers in Europe, but plenty of reasons – economic, political, and psychological – to remove the vast majority of them at a time of troops shortages closer to the front. NATO has become as impotent as it is widely praised, especially when it fails to honor commitments in Afghanistan and abhors involvement with Iraq. This obstructionism is in sharp contrast to the prior European desire of American-led military intervention – without UN or Congressional sanction – to remove Slobodan Milosevic. Having learned belatedly the wisdom of talking more quietly while carrying an even bigger stick, America may continue to offer praise for the status quo trans-Atlantic relationship, while unobtrusively promoting wider bilateral relationships – like those with Australia – based on shared commitments to freedom and the need for collective security against statism and totalitarianism in all its many guises.