Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006: A bad year for America

Condensed from the Article by Conrad Black in National Post

The geopolitical ambiance as this year is unpromising. The United States has almost become, in Richard Nixon's famous phrase, a "pitiful helpless giant," with its entire conventional ground-forces capability mired in an apparently unchanging morass in Iraq, and US$800-billion current-account deficit. The administration has almost no credibility within or outside the country.

The U.S. still has some card to play. The threat of American withdrawal would be a high card, if it is not seen as inevitable. George W. Bush and his most likely successor as Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, have advocated the deployment of another 20,000 men to Iraq. If the Americana did this, it could break the confidence of those who are happily awaiting another American bug-out, Saigon, Beirut and Mogadishu all over again. It would help if the percentage of American forces in Iraq that were trigger-pullers and not pizza-cooks or questionnaire-pushers, were higher that 22%. In the Second World War, they were almost 60%. The more successful the military operations, the higher the number of real soldiers, and vice versa.

If the U.S. looked like a durable player and not just an incontinent bird of passage, the Syrians and Iranians could conclude that there was some point in negotiating with the Americans.

Russia's Putin has packed the government with ex-KGB officials, suppressed democracy, and will doubtless vacate the present requirement for him to retire in 2008. Let us not be under any illusion that this is just another Russian tyrant. He has brought Western Europe, in all its prosperity and self-importance, and the afterglow of the glorious, bloodless(mainly American) victory of the Cold War, to its knees in quest of Russia's oil and gas resources. Putin is returning to advanced missile development, to try to penetrate American anti-missile defenses; and he is dispensing passports in Georgia to encourage annexationist agitation in that former Soviet republic. Putin is also threatening the recognition of the independence of the pro-Russian provinces of Georgia if the West promotes Kosovan independence.

The Chinese are as irresponsible as the Russians. They have refused and support for international action to prevent the slaughter in Darfur, apparently because they have invested $4-billion in the Sudanese oil, and buy more than half that country's oil exports. China has cozied up to Iran, which is its chief provider of natural gas, including by the sale of nuclear warhead-capable missiles.

If the U.S. were not stuck in Iraq and steeped in foreign indebtedness, the Chinese and Russians could be quickly reminded of where their national interests lie. It is not beyond hope that Bush, or, failing him, McCain or Hillary Clinton, will produce a respectable policy in Iraq and shrink the open U.S. current-account artery. It is more likely that this vacuum where American power normally resides will be reoccupied by Americans, than that the U.S. will retreat into sullen isolationism.