+Mark Steyn: American Staying Power?+

John Quayle blueoval57 at VERIZON.NET
Mon Aug 28 21:17:41 MDT 2006

>Mark Steyn
>World is watching as Iraq war tests U.S. mettle
>August 20, 2006
>One way to measure how the world has changed in 
>these last five years is to consider the 
>extraordinary address to his nation by General 
>Musharraf on Sept. 19, 2001. Pakistan was one of 
>just three countries in the world (along with 
>"our friends the Saudis" and the United Arab 
>Emirates) to recognize the Taliban -- and, given 
>that the Pakistanis had helped create and 
>maintain them, they were pretty easy to 
>recognize. President Bush, you'll recall, had 
>declared that you're either with us or you're 
>with the terrorists -- which posed a particular 
>problem for Musharraf: He was with us but 
>everyone else in his country was with the 
>terrorists, including his armed forces, his 
>intelligence services, the media, and a gazillion and one crazy imams.
>Nonetheless, with American action against 
>Afghanistan on the horizon, he went on TV that 
>night and told the Pakistani people that this 
>was the gravest threat to the country's 
>existence in over 30 years. He added that he was 
>doing everything to ensure his brothers in the 
>Taliban didn't "suffer," and that he'd asked 
>Washington to provide some evidence that this 
>bin Laden chap had anything to do with the 
>attacks but that so far they'd declined to show 
>him any. Then he cited the Charter of Medina 
>(which the Prophet Muhammad signed after an 
>earlier spot of bother) as an attempt to justify 
>providing assistance to the infidel, and said 
>he'd had no choice but to offer the Americans 
>use of Pakistan's airspace, intelligence 
>networks and other logistical support.
>He paused for applause, and after the world's 
>all-time record volume of crickets chirping, said thank you and goodnight.
>That must have been quite the phone call he'd 
>got from Washington a day or two earlier. And 
>all within a week of Sept. 11. You may remember 
>during the 2000 campaign an enterprising 
>journalist sprung on Gov. Bush a sudden pop quiz 
>of world leaders. Bush, invited to name the 
>leader of Pakistan, was unable to. But so what? 
>In the third week of September 2001, the correct 
>answer to "Who's General Musharraf?" was 
>"Whoever I want him to be." And, if Musharraf 
>didn't want to play ball, he'd wind up as the 
>answer to "Who was leader of Pakistan until last week?"
>Do you get the feeling Washington's not making phone calls like that anymore?
>If you go back to September 2001, it's amazing 
>how much the administration made happen in just 
>a short space of time: For example, within days 
>it had secured agreement with the Russians on 
>using military bases in former Soviet Central 
>Asia for intervention in Afghanistan. That, too, 
>must have been quite a phone call. Moscow surely 
>knew that any successful Afghan expedition would 
>only cast their own failures there in an even 
>worse light -- especially if the Americans did 
>it out of the Russians' old bases. And yet it happened.
>Five years on, the United States seems to be 
>back in the quagmire of perpetual interminable 
>U.N.-brokered EU-led multilateral dithering, on 
>Iran and much else. The administration that 
>turned Musharraf in nothing flat now offers 
>carrots to Ahmadinejad. After the Taliban fell, 
>the region's autocrats and dictators wondered: 
>Who's next? Now they figure it's a pretty safe bet that nobody is.
>What's the difference between September 2001 and 
>now? It's not that anyone "liked" America or 
>that, as the Democrats like to suggest, the 
>country had the world's "sympathy.'' Pakistani 
>generals and the Kremlin don't cave to your 
>demands because they "sympathize.'' They go 
>along because you've succeeded in impressing 
>upon them that they've no choice. Musharraf and 
>Co. weren't scared by America's power but by the 
>fact that America, in the rubble of 9/11, had 
>belatedly found the will to use that power. It 
>is notionally at least as powerful today, but in 
>terms of will we're back to Sept. 10: Nobody 
>thinks America is prepared to use its power. And 
>so Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad and wannabe "strong 
>horses" like Baby Assad cock their snooks with impunity.
>I happened to be in the Australian Parliament 
>for Question Time last week. The matter of Iraq 
>came up, and the foreign minister, Alexander 
>Downer, thwacked the subject across the floor 
>and over the opposition benches in a magnificent 
>bravura display of political confidence 
>culminating with the gleefully low jibe that 
>"the Leader of the Opposition's constant 
>companion is the white flag.'' The Iraq war is 
>unpopular in Australia, as it is in America and 
>in Britain. But the Aussie government is happy 
>for the opposition to bring up the subject as 
>often as they want because Downer and his prime 
>minister understand very clearly that wanting to 
>"cut and run" is even more unpopular. So in the 
>broader narrative it's a political plus for 
>them: Unlike Bush and Blair, they've succeeded 
>in making the issue not whether the nation 
>should have gone to war but whether the nation should lose the war.
>That's not just good politics, but it's actually 
>the heart of the question. Of course, if Bush 
>sneered that John Kerry and Ted Kennedy and 
>Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi's constant 
>companion is the white flag, they'd huff about 
>how dare he question their patriotism. But, if 
>you can't question their patriotism when they 
>want to lose a war, when can you? At one level, 
>the issue is the same as it was on Sept. 11: 
>American will and national purpose. But the 
>reality is that it's worse than that -- for (as 
>Israel is also learning) to begin something and 
>be unable to stick with it to the finish is far 
>more damaging to your reputation than if you'd 
>never begun it in the first place. Nitwit 
>Democrats think anything that can be passed off 
>as a failure in Iraq will somehow diminish only 
>Bush and the neocons. In reality -- a concept 
>with which Democrats seem only dimly acquainted 
>-- it would diminish the nation, and all but 
>certainly end the American moment. In late 
>September 2001 the administration succeeded in 
>teaching a critical lesson to tough hombres like 
>Musharraf and Putin: In a scary world, America 
>can be scarier. But it's all a long time ago now.
>©Mark Steyn, 2006
>Copyright © Mark Steyn, 2006
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