(continued from the previous post)
...Thanks to his neoconservative cadre, outside the U.S. Mr. Bush is now a disliked and distrusted politician. Mr. Bush's enemies will exploit parallels to "naked aggression." After many decades of U.S. leadership in building an "international order," Mr. Bush's enemies will hold him accountable for his defiance of this order.
As much as those of us who prefer national sovereignty to world government lament the fact, the many decades of appealing to "world opinion" and enlisting it in behalf of our foreign policies has resulted in considerable authority being poured into that nebulous concept. In setting Mr. Bush in opposition to this American creation, neoconservatives have exposed him to serious charges. Democrats, who intended to use allegations about the 2000 Florida vote to destroy Mr. Bush's presidency as illegitimate, now have more deadly ammunition.
Mr. Rockefeller will not be the only one to ask if the forged nuclear documents are part of a Bush administration campaign to deceive the public. Polls show that 50 percent of Americans believe it was Iraqis who hijacked the airplanes and crashed them into the World Trade Towers and Pentagon. Inattention or media incompetence are the likely explanations for this extraordinary misinformation, but some will now blame deception.
...Mr. Bush and his advisers have forgotten that the power of an American president is temporary and relative. The U.S. is supposed to be the world's leader. For the Bush administration to pursue a policy that sets the U.S. government at odds with the world is to invite comparisons with recklessness that we have not seen in international politics since Nikita Khrushchev tried to install nuclear missiles in Cuba. Is Saddam Hussein worth this much grief?
This last point--coming from a conservative point of view--is one I'd wondered about myself. Bush's relentless drive toward a war with Iraq was bolstered only by claims of benefits and mendacious warnings against "doing nothing"; costs were acknowledged only, and offhandedly, on the eve of war. But the time comes when the benefits have to be evaluated against the costs of a widespread perception of the US as the aggressor. Bush clearly regards attacking Iraq as worth any economic or diplomatic price, not that he was especially eager to discuss such matters. It's long since time that the real costs of his obsession were recognized by those on the Right.