When the ordeal of coping with the world's complexities becomes too much for us, we Americans tend to take comfort in the reflection that the United States is, after all, "the world's only superpower." This overlooks the discomfiting fact that the United States is also well on its way to becoming known as the world's most spectacular loser. And not only a loser, but a quitter.
To confirm this, one need only look at the very public strategy of such prominent foes of the United States as Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. They make no pretense of being able to overwhelm America militarily. But they argue, contemptuously, that the United States is a paper tiger whose people can't stand the sight of blood. Adopt guerrilla tactics: Contrive to kill a few U.S. soldiers every week, use suicide bombers to massacre a few hundred (or a few thousand) innocent men, women and children every now and then, and take care to provide the world's television networks with a steady diet of televised beheadings.
Then watch the vaunted democratic processes of "the world's only superpower" do their stuff. The incumbent administration's enemies, in the opposing political party and the media, will denounce the country's military effort as unnecessary at best and counterproductive at worst. The inevitable casualties will be highlighted, one by one. Slowly, American public opinion will turn against the war. Ultimately, the United States will cut and run.
This process has been going on since the Vietnam War, more than 40 years ago. When it was over, the North Vietnamese commander, Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, admitted openly that North Vietnam had never possessed the power to defeat the United States militarily. Everything, he explained, depended on hanging on until the American home front turned against the war. In due course, the United States withdrew its troops, and Congress (controlled by the Democrats) voted to cut off all further military aid to the South Vietnamese. Within a matter of months, North Vietnam overran the South. (In that painful spring, I stood in front of the South Vietnamese embassy in Washington, bowed low, and said in a loud voice, "On behalf of the people of the United States, I apologize.")
William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .
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