Jonah Goldberg wonders what allies are good for: Recall Ramesh’s — and others’ — critique of Krauthammer’s AEI speech? The upshot was that Krauthammer doesn’t care enough about allies. I think the criticism was valid, but the Spanish election has me re-thinking the value of allies like Spain. I salute the courage of the Aznar Government, the Spanish troops in Iraq and no doubt countless individual Spaniards who see the war on terror for what it is. But at the end of the day it’s clear that the Spanish people were never with us. Public opinion was always against Aznar — which makes him all the more courageous — and this one attack was all it took for public opinion to have its way.
So, the question is, what good was it to have Spain as an ally at all? Yes, there was some political cover, but clearly not very much in the eyes of the “world community.” Spain’s membership in the Coalition didn’t sway any Americans to support the war who otherwise wouldn’t have. And, Spain didn’t alleviate a very significant share of the military burden. Meanwhile, if terrorists learn the lesson that blowing up a few trains will cause nations like Spain to drop out of the Coalition, that helps nobody.
In this age of peaceless Pax Americana, allies are worse than useless. They are simply illusion, political cover for American politicians who do not wish to be given the cold-shoulder at Davos and the UN. This does not mean that the very real contributions of allied troops from countries like Spain, Italy, Britain, Australia and other places are not valued, only that in a strategic sense, the position of America, upon whom the jihad has been repeatedly declared for more than two decades, is weakened by a case that is dependent in any way upon foreign approval.
The Bush administration will have to learn that the Wilsonian nation-building it is attempting in Iraq is a fool’s game and a distraction from the real war, the war that the administration is still attempting to deny, or at the very least, downplay. This is not a war of land and occupation; as usual, in the early stages the generals continue to try to fight the last war.
If something needs doing, it needs to be done. If we’ve got help, great. If not, so be it.
That is the truth of the matter.