Meanwhile, acting for ``Europe'' -- an old geographic expression and a freshly minted political fiction -- Britain, France and Germany, that troika of old-world high-mindedness, have offered Iran, as inducements for abandoning its nuclear aspirations, the carrot of favors which translate into cash, and have threatened the stick of sanctions and ``isolation.'' But Iran, floating on a sea of oil, neither feels nor fears the hot breath of penury breathing down its neck. Besides, nations rarely minutely calculate the cash value of glory, honor and power; all of which, together with paranoia and religious messianism, are entangled in Iran's decades-old drive for nuclear weapons.
U.N. sanctions, usually exercises in feebleness, probably would be blocked by Russia, an enabler of Iran's nuclear aspirations, or by China, which is voracious for oil. Regarding the dread of ``isolation,'' Iran has noticed that its nuclear program has seized the world's attention. And having noted that one distinction between the member of the Axis of Evil that has been attacked by America, Iraq, and the member that has not been, North Korea, is the latter's probable possession of nuclear weapons, the third member, Iran, may have come to an inconvenient conclusion.
Nevertheless, President Bush wisely encourages others earnestly to try those things that he is despised for supposedly disdaining -- multilateralism and diplomacy. U.S. policy should give the ``international community,'' ``Europe,'' and the U.N. frequent occasions for demonstrating their impotence.
Iraq -- a frightening country but a fascinating seminar -- is testing this postulate of political science: Democratic institutions do not necessarily spring from a hospitable culture, they can help create that culture. Arguably, they did, to some extent, in America. But Philadelphia in 1787 was rather calmer than Baghdad today because American differences were comparatively negligible. The great compromise struck by our Constitution's Framers -- a bicameral legislature, with proportional representation of population in one chamber, equal representation of the states in the other -- was necessary because small states worried that large states were alarmingly large, not that they were, as many Shiites and Sunnis think of each other, stenches in God's nostrils.
Iraq's constitution-makers differ about fundamentals -- the role of religion, the rights of women, the sovereignty of regions and the control of national wealth, meaning oil. Hectoring American voices say that, lest America seem overbearing, Iraq's constitution must be (a) distinctly Iraqi and (b) suffused with today's American values, including secularism, women's rights and federalism that accommodates ethnic and sectarian factions but achieves e pluribus unum.
Sensible Americans understand that, whatever their opinions about the war's origins and execution, leaving Iraq as a failed state would be disastrous. They also understand that overreaching now would not be a rational response to having underachieved so far.
Last December The Weekly Standard, a voice of neoconservatism, noted Syria's involvement in infiltrating foreign fighters and weapons into Iraq and suggested bombing ``Syrian military facilities,'' occupying the Syrian border town ``which seems to be the planning and organizing center for Syrian activities in Iraq'' and going ``across the border in force to stop infiltration.'' About the first two: U.S. forces already have quite enough bombing and occupying chores. About the third: Our imperial difficulties will not be diminished by expecting to have more success sealing Syria's eastern border than we have had sealing Arizona's southern border.