The international order is breaking apart before our eyes, largely because the world's leading nation has been badly led.
The deterioration of the geopolitical system has become even more visible with the new outbreak in the long-simmering Arab-Israeli conflict.
Meanwhile, the international community is quickly getting nowhere with persuading Iran to abandon its apparent quest to develop nuclear weapons. The efforts of the big powers to bring North Korea into line have been equally futile. And with that regime even more defiant and belligerent than usual, Japan -almost pacifist since World War II-- has lately threatened a preventive strike against North Korean missile sites. In Iraq, the bloodbath continues, the supposed American liberation of that country having produced instead a low-level civil war. And the souring of relations between the United States and Russia has led to talk of "a new Cold War."
The Wages of Sin
The Bush administration came to power determined to extend American dominance and to reject all limitations on their freedom of action on the world stage. Even before 9/11, it had acted provocatively with China, it had thrown off the restraints of various multilateral agreements and treaties, and it had demonstrated a tendency to dictate to, rather than consult with, our traditional allies.
The world saw America acting like a 500-pound gorilla that does whatever it wants. It saw the Bush regime's contemptuous indifference to international law and its indecent disrespect for the opinion of mankind. And it saw the administration's deceptions about Iraqi WMDs-deceptions that appeared to be a cover for a hidden imperialist agenda.
Other great powers -like China and Russia-began to align against the United States. (The Russians and the Chinese have formed, for example, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional security grouping which excludes the U.S.) Even the Europeans ceased to look to the United States for leadership, and have even looked for ways to counter American power.
Opinion polls even among the populations of America's traditional allies showed a sharp increase in distrust of and hostility toward the United States. And with American troops occupying Iraq, the Islamic world became more intensely anti-American, and the rift between Islam and the West deepened still further.
Bush's haughtiness toward adversaries has compounded his difficulties. The Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal lost no time in provoking North Korea by indicating its lack of interest in talking with a regime they hoped would soon disappear. This fundamental miscalculation made a bad situation much worse.
Similarly in the Middle East, the Bushites spurned overtures from Iran, imagining that they would be able to force regime change on that country. There, too, their arrogant overconfidence has undermined the American position, contributing to the fecklessness of American efforts to block the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran. And now, with the Middle East aflame, the United States finds itself ill-positioned to talk with some of the major actors whose help might be needed to defuse this dangerous situation.
Most of those blunders in Iraq grew out of the Bush administration's unwarranted certainty that it already knew all it needed to know. With their arrogant sense of their mastery of the world they were operating in, the Bushites turned a deaf ear to the good counsel from many -in and out of the American government-who understood better than they what it would take to win the peace in Iraq.
The resulting disaster has greatly undermined the American position in the "war on terror." The Bush administration declared that the greatest danger was that some rogue regime with weapons of mass destruction would hand over such weapons to terrorists. And in conjunction with that fear Bush identified an "Axis of Evil": Iraq, Iran, and North Korea.