Political Hay

They Like Us!

Those who complained about American unilateralism are now begging for American interventionism.

By 7.18.03

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One of the left's major arguments against the liberation of Iraq was that such a war would alienate the international community. Last September in the American Prospect, Harvard's Stanley Hoffmann complained that "the administration had alienated allies and inflamed adversaries repeatedly" in the year since 9/11. The website AlternativesToWar.Org claimed "Attacking Iraq could undermine the international cooperation needed to prosecute and block the funding of al-Qaida and other terrorist networks." For much of the political left, it has crystallized into conventional wisdom: Paul Krugman can now breezily declare that we "have lost all credibility with allies who might have provided meaningful support."

It is hard to remember the last time conventional wisdom was so wrong (although comparatively easy to recall the last time the left was). Recent events surrounding Liberia have yielded proof positive that we have not alienated the international community. If anything, Bush's decision to invade Iraq has resulted in the international community begging the U.S. for its cooperation.

The turnaround is easy to miss given the current firestorm of press coverage over the left's infantile obsession with Uranium-gate. It has also been lost in the media's focus -- rightfully so -- on whether Bush will commit American troops to the African state. Nevertheless, it is unmistakable that the international community -- as typically defined by the left -- has been asking Bush for help.

Indeed, Secretary General Kofi Annan has led the United Nations charge for American involvement. And it's not just the U.N. that is urging President Bush to commit a few thousand of our young men and women as "peacekeepers." It is also the nation that did so much to please the left in the run-up to the liberation of Iraq, France. Yes, that's right, the nation that we fly-over country yokels so angered by renaming a lunch staple "freedom fries" has in effect said, "Your help would be much appreciated."

Perhaps they've all come to the reluctant realization that Bush means what he says and, as a result, American foreign policy under Bush is not something to be trifled with. They likely know that if Bush commits to stopping the bloodshed in Liberia, then there will be a very serious effort to stop the bloodshed.

Someone who has all but certainly gotten the message is Liberia's Butcher-in-Chief, Charles Taylor. Many on the left will no doubt argue that Taylor's decision to go into exile is due to some sudden humanitarian yearning in Mr. Taylor's soul, or because Kofi Annan asked nicely. They will be the same folks who argued against invading Iraq because Saddam Hussein was a realist and, hence, would never give WMDs to terrorists for fear of an American reprisal. A more likely explanation is that the realist in Mr. Taylor caught a glimpse of what happened to the last murderous dictator who defied Bush's demand that he go into exile. A vacation in Nigeria must seem like a far better alternative to an American Special Forces team showing up at your presidential palace with an arrest warrant.

The left expected that an invasion of Iraq would so anger the international community -- or at least that part that "counted" -- that the U.S. would be up a creek the next time it needed international support. It never occurred to them that it might be the other way around, that it would be the international community showing up on our doorstep with hat in hand. But Bush's foreign policy leadership is showing that if you want something done in a foreign country, and you need to intimidate some thuggish tyrant, America is the country you ask for help.

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About the Author

David Hogberg is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.  Follow David Hogberg on Twitter.