A Nadir of U.S. Power
It's not exactly morning in America.Yes, Rumsfeld can be blamed for the two military debacles that have led to the decline of American power but there is more.
In Iraq, things get ever uglier, and the old remedy of extra troops now seems tragically futile. The Bush team has recently tried putting thousands of additional soldiers into Baghdad, and the result after two months is that violence there has increased.
Iraq is often seen as a special Rumsfeldian screw-up. But in Afghanistan, the Bush team quickly handed off to a model pro-Western leader backed by a broad NATO coalition. And what are the results there? The government is wobbling, warlords run drugs and the pro-al-Qaeda Taliban have 4,000 to 5,000 active fighters in the country.
It's not just military efforts that are faltering. Five years ago, President Bush launched an experiment in tough-talk diplomacy, warning foreign leaders that they must be with us or against us in the war on terrorism. At first this yielded at least one achievement: Pakistan sent troops for the first time into its wild border regions to root out Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters. But that success has now gone into reverse. Pakistan recently withdrew its soldiers, in effect ceding the border territory to the radicals.After nearly six years of the Bush administration there is not one significant military or diplomatic success. Of course Kristol and the others at PNAC are already blaming the incompetence of Rumsfeld and the Bush administration but they supported their policies and strategies in the beginning so it is not just a failure of the administration but of the hegemonic ideology of PNAC.
It would be nice if this merely proved that tough talk can backfire. But traditional diplomacy is faring no better. In North Korea and Iran, the United States has tried every diplomatic trick to prevent nuclear proliferation, making common cause with Western Europe, Russia, China and Japan, and wielding both sticks and carrots. The result is failure: North Korea has tested a nuke and Iran still presses on with its enrichment program.
A few years ago, the collapse of Russia's currency triggered a furious debate in Washington over who lost Russia. Now Russia's pro-Western voices are being snuffed out, and Americans are so inured to the limits of their power that they don't even pose that question. A crusading journalist has been killed, and on Thursday Vladimir Putin silenced Human Rights, Amnesty International and more than 90 other foreign organizations. Everyone accepts that there's not much the West can do about this.
In Somalia, a Taliban-style group of Islamic militants has seized part of the country. One of its commanders is said to be sheltering terrorists who blew up the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania: A brand-new terrorist haven may be emerging. Again, it is assumed that the world's sole superpower can't do much but watch.
Three long years ago, the Bush administration described the killing in Darfur as genocide. You might think that an impoverished African state that can't control its own territory would be a pushover. But the Bush administration has tried sanctions, peace talks and United Nations resolutions. Sudan's tin-pot dictator thumbs his nose at Uncle Sam and dispatches more death squads.