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The Beginning of the End

03/17/2003

Tonight, Sunday night, America's President, flanked by three allies, spoke to the world media from a small Portuguese island in the Atlantic Ocean.

"Tomorrow," he declared, "is the day that will determine whether diplomacy can work." His speechwriters went along for the ride, crafting an address to the nation, which we will perhaps hear as soon as tomorrow night. We should expect the bombs to start falling shortly thereafter, perhaps as early as Tuesday.

In 1942, after the start of the Allied invasion of North Africa, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the
beginning."

With the diplomatic phase of the struggle coming to a close, we have reached the same point in Bush's war. But the debate in the United Nations seems to have counted for little in the end. Bush's timetable was driven mainly by the turning of the seasons (soon, it will be too hot to march to Baghdad) and the difficulties of moving so many men and so much equipment through Kuwait's single seaport and single airport.

Yet it is also the beginning of the end -- the end of America's unchallenged global preeminence. The leaders' lecterns and the stage behind them bore the four flags of their alliance. Just four: as a fighting alliance, NATO is effectively dead. American and British troops will not invade Iraq from Turkey or Saudi Arabia, just through tiny Kuwait. The Persian Gulf War coalition evaporated long ago, and will not return.

Possibly it was inevitable. The demise of the Soviet Union has split the West into multiple camps, with differing values and competing interests.Iraq is not threatening enough to drive Europe back into America's arms. So America is no longer destined to be the unchallenged leader of the free world.

But if it was not inevitable, the Bush administration has done everything in its power to make it happen. In his rhetoric or with legal formalities, George W. Bush has dispensed with every structure or convention codifying American moral and political leadership. They did not meet with the President's approval. They failed to express an American monopoly on power.

Bush's father foresaw a new world order rising from the wreckage of an Iraqi battlefield. He hardly could have imagined. The New New World Order will begin next week, or the week after that, or the week after that, with the United States atop a shattered, dysfunctional Middle Eastern country, and a
shattered, leaderless international order.

No one can say what will follow. But the future is unlikely to be as kind to America as the past.

Analyst

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000040.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 5 comments

Please let it be known that the Bush Administration in the United States is hardly representative of the way Americans feel about this war.

Every single person I know opposes this war; at least without due UN process and the backing of the global community.

We are about to make a terrible mistake. I just want the world to know that many americans loathe our "leader" and would like to see him impeached for war crimes.

NO WAR!

Posted by Random American @ 03/17/2003 09:20 PM CST

Unfortunately, we live in an age where it seems everything must be immediate for the TV news and everything must be either messianically hopeful or apocalyptically disastrous.
The war in Iraq will certainly change a lot -- in the region, the balance of powers and alliances in the northern part of the planet.
but prophecy has been in the hands of fools and madmen for a couple of thousand years, and it is much too soon to be making predictions about the outcome of a war that hasn't begun.
plus one more thing. does re thing. does the author -- or any of the impassioned opponents of this war -- really believe that Saddam Hussein would cease efforts to build up an arsenal that he would use against his neighbors, if the americans, british and australians withdraw to leave only the inspectors? if you do believe that saddam would comply with inspectors without the credible threat of force, then i would neve trust you to make any life and death decisions for me and my family. given that there's no way to stop this war resonably, the only choice is whether to back george bush or saddam hussein, an unpleasant prospect but nonetheless the choice that is presented to us all.

Posted by Just a passerby @ 03/17/2003 11:07 PM CST

President Bush ran on the slogan that he was "a uniter, not a divider." Well, he has certainly united the rest of the world in resisting a gambit for American global domination. Recently, every politician he denounces gets a bump in his home country's polls and those he supports lose their election.

Bush imagines a post-Iraq New World Order with the United States as an imperial power. I think the reality for a leader who believes that economic and political "laws" doesn't apply to his country as it hemmorrhages deficits and discards allies will be something very different.

Posted by Ivonne Rovira @ 03/18/2003 12:28 AM CST

I think the split with 'Old Europe' was bound to come anyway with Europe uniting as an economic power under the EU. The war with Iraq is just a flashpoint for the differences to come out in the open, it certainly isn't on moral grounds that Europe opposes it (sorry I've read enough about French & German deals with Iraq to be cynical).
Personally, I oppose the war because it is not in the US best interest. Our economy is in horrible shape. The real source of the 9/11 terrorists are the groups & 'religious' schools funded by our 'good friends' the Saudis which Bush covered up.
Everyone I know except a few people support the war, it will be interesting to see if it changes with casualties.

Posted by Karen @ 03/19/2003 03:19 AM CST

Unfortunately, I have encountered too few Americans who have thought critically about the current administration's approach to what is admittedly a terrible regime in Iraq. Very few will be sad to see Saddam go, but I believe many will regret the damage to or complete loss of the United States' longstanding position as a moral leader in the international arena. However desirable the removal of Saddam from the stage, fulfillment of our role as a world leader demands that we approach such issues with a real commitment to diplomacy, not just with lip service to the same.

From the time President began to pump up the Iraq issue last summer, claiming that it was too vital to U.S. and world security to wait (just as he was leaving for a month-long vacation at his ranch), there was a clear message that he did not believe diplomacy would work, nor did he appear to want it to work. Under those circumstances war was inevitable.

The oft repeated statements by the Administration linking Iraq with Al Quaeda have been enough to convince many (most?) Americans that Saddam played a role in the September 11th terror, despite the fact the Administration has said Iraq was not involved. We don't seem to be concerned that there has been a marked lack of evidence, or even of a general description of the evidence linking Iraq and Al Quaeda. We are just supposed to trust our government. They have the information and know what to do -- we don't have to be concerned. I'm sorry, but I don't think that is the "American way".

As I have watched the march toward war my cynicism has grown. It has grown to the point that I almost believe the timetable for the war has been determined not just by the seasonal calendar but also by the electoral calendar. A neat little war to remove a reviled dictator might be just the ticket to an easy reelection. Even if it means the loss of American lives in a cause that while perhaps desirable from a regional standpoint is not of crucial importance to U.S. national security.

Posted by Cynical Observer @ 03/19/2003 08:44 PM CST


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