During Desert Storm, the "Arab Street" came out early, wildly denounced the United States and went home. "The Arab Street is a paper tiger" became the conventional wisdom. But demonstrations in Jordan, Egypt, Indonesia and Morocco have lately grown ominous. Anti-Americanism is rampant in the Gulf states. The Saudis have refused us permission to use their airspace for cruise missile flights.
As the bombing of Baghdad grows more intense, and more bombs and missiles fall far from their targets and land on markets, malls, mosques, schools or hospitals, this is going to get worse. Nightly pictures on Al Jazeera of Iraqi dead and wounded will even further inflame the Islamic world against the United States.
Can this go on for weeks, or months, without an explosion?
And what of the Bush Doctrine? If we had trouble finding allies when we were demanding that Saddam obey Security Council resolutions, where will we find them as that doctrine is applied to Iran and North Korea, which are under no U.N. resolutions?
If we need most of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps to defeat Iraq, where do we find the troops to invade Iran, which is three times as large and populous? Or North Korea, with its million-man army, hundreds of missiles and 13,000 artillery pieces on the DMZ? If we go marching to Pyongyang, there will be more than three dozen U.S. dead in the first two weeks.
Will Tony Blair be up for another war? Will our own elites and people be willing to go it alone, into one, two or three more wars on behalf of the Bush Doctrine, against the Axis of Evil, when what has been a successful war so far has so many wringing their hands?
Is America prepared to pay the price of empire? This has been the question from the beginning. Judging from the stunned reaction among our political and journalistic elites, to the first resistance in a war that is going remarkably well, the answer is no.