With Friends Like These

by Patrick J. Buchanan – February 9, 1998

In October of 1991, George Bush strode into the United Nations as leader of a mighty coalition that had smashed the Iraqi army and liberated Kuwait. To thunderous applause, the conqueror outlined his New World Order. In the hubris of the hour, men spoke of a new Pax Americana, the coming “global hegemony” of the United States.

How far away all that hubris seems now, as America stands virtually alone in the Persian Gulf. Bush’s New World Order has vanished like Woodrow Wilson’s dream of a world government and FDR’s vision of the “Four Policemen” — the United States, Britain, China and Stalin’s Russia — in partnership to maintain the peace of a post-fascist world.

“Where are the allies?” Americans demand bitterly, as only Britain’s Tony Blair stands at our side. It is, after all, Europe’s oil that we are defending in the Gulf.

Europe’s malingering has caused even GOP senators to warn that we may have to re-estimate the value of NATO. If they will not support us militarily against Iraq, how many NATO allies would join us and declare on Russia if Poland were attacked after NATO is expanded? Time to put NATO expansion on hold.

Not only is Bush’s New World Order in shambles, but the “aggressive multilateralism” of Bill Clinton is a manifest failure. Few of the nations on which we counted are with us. Even countries that share long borders with Iraq and would be most threatened by its poison gas are not with us. Syria sent troops to fight in Desert Storm but is now siding with its Arab brothers in Baghdad. Turkey and Saudi Arabia oppose U.S. air strikes and may forbid our planes from using their bases for bombing runs. Iran, against which Saddam has used poison gas, is standing by him. All of this makes one wonder why America does not simply pack up, go home and let these ingrates sort out their own quarrels.

Rather than bluster about ingratitude, however, Americans would do well to reflect on why our allies behave as they do.

The state is a cold monster, Gen. DeGaulle once observed. Nations are not like Mother Teresa or Sir Galahad; they act not out of altruism but out of selfish national interest.

Iran’s goal is hegemony in the Gulf, which means America must go home. If that goal calls for solidarity with a criminal who attacked Iran and slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Iranians, the mullahs are amenable. As Nixon’s courtship of China’s Mao demonstrated, old enemies can collaborate when interests converge.

Turkey feels cheated by the last Gulf War and does not want another. The Turks lost billions in revenue by closing Iraq’s pipeline to the Mediterranean at the behest of the Americans, and Turkey’s Kurdish separatists have found havens in the Kurdish region of Iraq liberated from Baghdad’s control after the war.

The Syrians are angry the United States did not pressure Israel to return the Golan Heights. With Israel and Turkey allied, Iraq is the only big neighbor to whom Damascus can turn. As for the Saudis, they are terrified of their own mullahs, who can play both the Arab solidarity card and the Islamic card against an America the region’s extremists hate above all others, except the Israelis.

If Riyadh felt the United States were determined to finish Saddam, the Saudis might risk internal upheaval. But they know that if the Army of Desert Storm, 10 times the size of the U.S. force currently in the Gulf, did not kill the snake, this search-and-destroy operation will not get him now. America is only going to wound and enrage the beast, they fear, and sharpen its appetite for revenge against America’s collaborators.

France, Russia and China oppose us because it is cost-free. All resent America’s hubris, want to do business with Iraq and know the U.S. Navy will keep the Gulf oil flowing regardless of what they do.

For Paris, opposing air strikes discomforts the haughty Yankees and shows the world French independence. For Moscow, opposing air strikes is payback for the U.S. humiliation of Russia in moving NATO into Eastern Europe. For China, opposing U.S. air strikes undermines U.S. hegemony and strengthens ties to the Arabs and Muslims who appear to be the wave of the future in the Near East.

Americans must come to terms with the reality that the world does not want our dominance, no matter how beneficial we believe it would be. Efforts to impose a U.S.-led New World Order are going to be fiercely resisted and costly, and eventually, they are going to fail.

It’s time for a foreign policy that puts national interest ahead of any obligation to some mythic “international community.” It’s time to tell the world that, henceforth, we, too, shall put our own country first.