The Summer of our discontent

Posted: Jul 14, 2006 12:01 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- According to William Shakespeare, King Richard III proclaimed that winter was the season of troubles. But that was 1482 -- and this is 2006. For us, it's a summer of discontent. If one is to believe the so-called mainstream media, compared to the challenges facing George W. Bush, England's last Plantagenet had it easy.

History documents that Richard's reign was marked by internal rebellion, treachery, betrayal, external threats and war. The king, abandoned by his feckless friends, met what his detractors describe as a well-deserved end in the bloody battle of Bosworth Field. Those who chronicle current events are now forecasting a similar -- though perhaps less sanguinary -- demise for President Bush. With great glee, the potentates of the press point to a growing list of hot-spots, calamities and crises -- and prognosticate gloom and doom:

-- Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, attacked by Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north, is now fighting a two-front war against well-armed, foreign supported terrorists intent on destroying the Jewish state.

-- Iran is accelerating enrichment of uranium despite U.S.-European Union inducements to desist. As he has before, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the radical Iranian mouthpiece, is calling for Israel to be "wiped from the map."

-- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's democratically elected government has been unable to end foreign-supported sectarian violence in Baghdad and is increasingly concerned that European commitments for rebuilding his country may not be fulfilled.

-- India, the latest transit-target for radical Islamic terror, is now confronted with the necessity for major security upgrades in order to protect the populace of the largest democracy on earth.

-- In Afghanistan, Hamid Karzi's democratically elected government is contending with resurgent Taliban violence as NATO moves in to replace U.S. troops.

-- Venezuela's Marxist strongman, Hugo Chavez, awash in petro-dollars, is meddling in Nicaragua's democratic electoral process in an effort to re-install Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas in Managua. His threats to cut off oil supplies to the United States have helped drive fuel prices to record levels.

-- North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il, ignoring the pleas of his neighbors, is proceeding with preparations to "test" more ballistic missiles -- a direct threat to democratic South Korea and Japan. In Tokyo, government officials are "exploring" whether the country's constitution permits "pre-emptive self-defense."

For the barons of bombast in print and broadcast "journalism" who have not noticed, there is a common thread to this catalogue of calamities: Democracy is under assault. And as so often before -- the willingness and ability of democratic nations to confront such coercion has been grossly underestimated -- by media moguls -- and the enemies of freedom. In fact, the present situation presents a dramatic opportunity for renewed American leadership in the wake of this week's G-8 Summit.

It's unlikely that his critics will give him the credit, but President Bush has used the St. Petersburg forum to great advantage. Though most of the press focused on Israel's two-front fight against terror, there is a new awareness in the British, German, French and even Russian capitals that the hereditary communist dictatorship in Pyongyang presents the most immediate risk to peace. By quietly dispatching U.S. Patriot PAC III anti-ballistic missiles and additional Aegis-equipped vessels to the region, Bush gave teeth to the prospect that Tokyo is deadly serious about eliminating the threat posed by North Korea's No-Dong ballistic missiles.

It also appears that these steps, taken mostly behind the scenes, have finally focused China's attention on the fact that their ideological allies in Pyongyang have placed their 2008 Olympics at risk. It has suddenly dawned on the "capitalists" who bow before Mao's portrait that the billions they have invested in the Beijing Summer Games are now at risk because of a madman. Few if any would travel to China in the midst of a shooting war in Asia. Though it won't be pretty, it is now likely that if Beijing cannot coerce Kim Jong-Il into cooperation, he may well become the first dictator removed from power by poor ticket sales.

Finally, it is also clear that the theocratic regime in Tehran is watching all this very carefully. Iranian willingness to meddle in Iraq, support Hezbollah in Lebanon and even continue the quest for nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them will all be affected by what now happens in Pyongyang.

One need not go all the way back to Richard III to find historical parallels. Fifty six years ago this week, the first American troops sent to repel the communist invasion of South Korea were fighting with their backs to the sea at Pusan. The United States rose to the test, found allies willing to stand with us, and repelled the transgressors. This may well be a long hot summer -- but it's hardly a time for despair.