Dealing with the crazy world after Iraq.
by Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online
How does the United States deal with a corrupt world in which we are blamed even for the good we do, while others are praised when they do wrong or remain indifferent to suffering?
We are accused of unilateral and preemptory bullying of the madman Mr. Ahmadinejad, whose reactors that will be used to “wipe out” the “one-bomb” state of Israel were supplied by Swiss, German, and Russian profit-minded businessmen. No one thinks to chastise those who sold Iran the capability of destroying Israel.
Here in the United States we worry whether we are tough enough with the Gulf sheikdoms in promoting human rights and democratic reform. Meanwhile China simply offers them cash for oil, no questions asked. Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez pose as anti-Western zealots to Western naifs. The one has never held an election; the other tries his best to end the democracy that brought him to power. Meanwhile our fretting elites, back from Europe or South America, write ever more books on why George Bush and the Americans are not liked.
Hamas screams that we are mean for our logical suggestion that free American taxpayers will not subsidize such killers and terrorists. Those in the Middle East whine about Islamophobia, but keep silent that there is not allowed a Sunni mosque in Iran or a Christian church in Saudi Arabia. An entire book could be written about the imams and theocrats — in Iran, Egypt, the West Bank, Pakistan, and the Gulf States — who in safety issue fatwas and death pronouncements against Americans in Iraq and any who deal with the “infidel,” and yet send their spoiled children to private schools in Britain and the United States, paid for by their own blackmail money from corrupt governments.
You get the overall roundup: the Europeans have simply absorbed as their own the key elements of ossified French foreign policy — utopian rhetoric and anti-Americanism can pretty much give you a global pass to sell anything you wish to anyone at anytime.
China is more savvy. It discards every disastrous economic policy Mao ever enacted, but keeps two cornerstones of Maoist dogma: imply force to bully, and keep the veneer of revolutionary egalitarianism to mask cutthroat capitalism and diplomacy, from copyright theft and intellectual piracy to smiling at rogue clients like North Korea and disputing the territorial claims of almost every neighbor in sight.
Oil cuts a lot of idealism in the Middle East. The cynicism is summed up simply as “Those who sell lecture, and those who buy listen.” American efforts in Iraq — the largest aid program since the Marshall Plan, where American blood and treasure go to birth democracy — are libeled as “no blood for oil.” Yet a profiteering Saudi Arabia or Kuwait does more to impoverish poor oil-importing African and Asian nations than any regime on earth. But this sick, corrupt world keeps mum.
And why not ask Saudi Arabia about its now lionized and well-off al-Ghamdi clan? Aside from the various Ghamdi terrorists and bin-Laden hangers-on, remember young Ahmad, the 20-year-old medical student who packed his suicide vest with ball bearings and headed for Mosul, where he blew up 18 Americans? Or how about dear Ahmad and Hamza, the Ghamdis who helped crash Flight 175 into the South Tower on September 11? And please do not forget either the Saudi icon Said Ghamdi, who, had he not met Todd Beamer and Co. on Flight 93, would have incinerated the White House or the Capitol.
So we know the symptoms of this one-sided anti-Americanism and its strange combination of hatred, envy, and yearning — but, so far, not its remedy. In the meantime, the global caricature of the United States, in the aftermath of Iraq, is proving near fatal to the Bush administration, whose idealism and sharp break with past cynical realpolitik have earned it outright disdain. Indeed, the more al Qaeda is scattered, and the more Iraq looks like it will eventually emerge as a constitutional government, the angrier the world seems to become at the United States. American success, it seems, is even worse than failure.
Some of the criticism is inevitable. America is in an unpopular reconstruction of Iraq that has cost lives and treasure. Observers looked only at the explosions, never what the sacrifice was for — especially when it is rare for an Afghan or Iraqi ever to visit the United States to express thanks for giving their peoples a reprieve from the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.
We should also accept that the United States, as the world’s policeman, always suffers the easy hatred of the cops, who are as ankle-bitten when things are calm as they are desperately sought when danger looms. America is the genitor and largest donor to the United Nations. Its military is the ultimate guarantor of free commerce by land and sea, and its wide-open market proves the catalyst of international trade. More immigrants seek its shores than all other designations combined — especially from countries of Latin America, whose criticism of the United States is the loudest.
Nevertheless, while we cannot stop anti-Americanism, here (a consequence, in part, of a deep-seeded, irrational sense of inferiority) and abroad, we can adopt a wiser stance that puts the onus of responsibility more on our critics.
We have a window of 1 to 3 years in Iran before it deploys nuclear weapons. Let Ahmadinejad talk and write — the loonier and longer, the better, as we smile and ignore him and his monstrous ilk.
Let also the Europeans and Arabs come to us to ask our help, as sphinx-like we express “concern” for their security needs. Meanwhile we should continue to try to appeal to Iranian dissidents, stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, and resolve that at the eleventh hour this nut with his head in a well will not obtain the methods to destroy what we once knew as the West.
Ditto with Hamas. Don’t demonize it — just don’t give it any money. Praise democracy, but not what was elected.
We should curtail money to Mr. Mubarak as well. No need for any more sermons on democracy — been there, done that. Now we should accept with quiet resignation that if an aggregate $50 billion in give-aways have earned us the most anti-American voices in the Middle East, then a big fat zero for Egypt might be an improvement. After all, there must be something wrong with a country that gave us both Mohammad Atta and Dr. Zawahiri.
The international Left loves to champion humanitarian causes that do not involve the immediate security needs of the United States, damning us for inaction even as they are the first to slander us for being military interventionists. We know the script of Haiti, Mogadishu, and the Balkans, where Americans are invited in, and then harped at both for using and not using force. Where successful, the credit goes elsewhere; failure is always ours alone. Still, we should organize multinational efforts to save those in Darfur — but only after privately insisting that every American soldier must be matched by a European, Chinese, and Russian peacekeeper.
There are other ways to curb our exposure to irrational hatred that seems so to demoralize the American public. First, we should cease our Olympian indifference to hypocrisy, instead pointing out politely inconsistencies in European, Middle Eastern, and Chinese morality. Why not express more concern about the inexplicable death of Balkan kingpin prisoners at The Hague or European sales of nuclear technology to madmen or institutionalized Chinese theft of intellectual property?
We need to reexamine the nature of our overseas American bases, elevating the political to the strategic, which, it turns out, are inseparable after all. To take one small example: When Greeks pour out on their streets to rage at a visiting American secretary of State, we should ask ourselves, do we really need a base in Crete that is so costly in rent and yet ensures Greeks security without responsibility or maturity? Surely once we leave, those brave opportunistic souls in the streets of Athens can talk peace with the newly Islamist Turkish government, solve Cyprus on their own, or fend off terrorists from across the Mediterranean.
The point is not to be gratuitously punitive or devolve into isolationism, but to continue to apply to Europe the model that was so successful in the Philippines and now South Korea — ongoing redeployment of Americans to where we can still strike in emergencies, but without empowering hypocritical hosts in time of peace.
We must also sound in international fora as friendly and cooperative as possible with the Russians, Chinese, and the lunatic Latin American populists — even as we firm up our contingency plans and strengthen military ties of convenience with concerned states like Australia, Japan, India, and Brazil.
The United States must control our borders, for reasons that transcend even terrorism and national security. One way to cool the populist hatred emanating from Latin America is to ensure that it becomes a privilege, not a birthright, to enter the United States. In traveling the Middle East, I notice the greatest private complaint is not Israel or even Iraq, but the inability to enter the United States as freely as in the past. And that, oddly, is not necessarily a bad thing, as those who damn us are slowly learning that their cheap hatred has had real consequences.
Then there is, of course, oil. It is the great distorter, one that punishes the hard-working poor states who need fuel to power their reforming economies while rewarding failed regimes for their mischief, by the simple accident that someone else discovered it, developed it, and then must purchase it from under their dictatorial feet. We must drill, conserve, invent, and substitute our way out of this crisis to ensure the integrity of our foreign policy, to stop the subsidy of crazies like Chavez and Ahmadinejad, and to lower the world price of petroleum that taxes those who can least afford it. There is a reason, after all, why the al-Ghamdis are popular icons in Saudi Arabia rather than on the receiving end of a cruise missile.
So we need more firm explanation, less loud assertion, more quiet with our enemies, more lectures to neutrals and friends — and always the very subtle message that cheap anti-Americanism will eventually have consequences.
©2006 Victor Davis Hanson