Maggie Gallagher
Who can be trusted? The arms verification process, as U.N. chief inspector Hans Blix pointed out in his surprisingly tough report card on Iraq, is "not a game of catch as catch can." Rather, it is a process of verification for the purpose of creating confidence. It is not built upon the premise of trust. Rather, it is designed to lead to trust, if there is both openness to the inspectors and action to present them with items to destroy.

Who trusts Iraq? As Secretary of State Colin Powell said in his address to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, "Not a single nation, no one, trusts Saddam and his regime. And those who know him best trust him least."

No more good cop, bad cop routine. Now the Bush administration speaks with one powerful voice. The holes in Iraqi compliance are too large, too determined and too repeated for any rational person to deny. "Unlike South Africa," notes Blix, "which decided on its own to eliminate its nuclear weapons and welcomed inspection as a means of creating confidence in its disarmament, Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance -- not even today -- of the disarmament, which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace."

But can the world trust the United States? For the average thick-skulled, internally focused American (me), it has taken a long time to recognize how many in free and democratic societies ask themselves this question. The fundamental reason for this rising anti-U.S. sentiment lies not in any particular disagreement about this or that past U.S. action, but in the huge and growing fact of our disproportionate military power, driven by our incomparably energetic entrepreneurial economy, sustained by a strongly nationalistic people. Americans retain confidence in the value of our own history, the legitimacy of our institutions, in the story of America we keep on telling together.

The power gap will only grow as the U.S. military continues to learn how to take advantage of our rapidly advancing technical know-how.

So it is notable that Colin Powell, in his Davos address, took this question from European elites head on: "About whether America can be trusted to use its enormous political, economic and, above all, military power wisely and fairly," America, he reminded them, "has earned the trust of men, women and children around the world."


Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.