Every story needs a bad guy, even if we know the villain has been ginned up to set a tantalizing mood and create false drama. Enter Uncle Sam in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. In the year-plus since the attack on America, the United States has gone from the recipient of world sympathy to the object of its scorn. In the days immediately following the attacks on New York and Washington, world leaders lauded the Bush administration for not lashing out in rash retaliatory attacks on the Muslim world.
Since then, some of these same allies have been holding up Washington as the architect of many world problems, instead of the only agent capable of solving them. Candidates in Germany's recent elections enjoyed spikes in their popularity by opposing an American invasion of Iraq, as if Germany were going to do much to help the U.S. anyway. And French leaders long ago turned anti-Americanism into a national cult.
But with the American elections now done, the diplomatic song and dance against America is about to abate, or at least it had better, and soon. Why? Because the economy of the developed world rests squarely on the shoulders of the United States, or more specifically, of U.S. consumers. And don't think leaders of industrialized and oil-producing states don't know it.
Most of the world's major economic powers -- predominantly Europe's giants and Japan -- have perpetually stagnant economies, thanks largely to their lip service to capitalism and true allegiance to statism. As a result, their consumers have jobs but not enough money to buy the goods turned out by their own country's industries. So those industries have to find a buyer's market elsewhere -- the United States.
Further, when the United States pays for its imports with dollars, overseas financiers turn around and pump those same dollars into the country with the most lightly regulated free market -- again, the United States. The net effect of this is that the U.S. trade deficit, so reflexively criticized here in the states, is actually the foundation of the whole planet's economy. The United States is like a disciplinarian daddy -- not Mr. Congeniality, perhaps, but still the only one coming home from the hunt with dinner.
That's why as soon as President Bush acts against Iraq, the free world will follow. It has no rational choice. Continued hesitancy over the proposed war and continued delays over its inception will only continue to spook American consumers and investors. And if Wall Street suffers, overseas investors will grow jittery about pumping more dollars into the U.S. market.
If that happens, the world could plunge into even worse economic times than it has seen over the last year or more. Perhaps most significantly, another terrorist attack on the United States could push the world over the edge into a prolonged, severe economic downward spiral. That's probably why the Bush White House seems so willing to risk the rebuke of the country and the world by launching pre-emptive military action against real or perceived enemies.
While attacking is very risky, doing nothing is more so. President Bush may not wait for a new Congress to act. Look for nations around the world to start laying aside their anti-U.S. invective and step aside as America wields the big stick yet again. Even if the center-stage rhetoric against America keeps up, watch as parallel developments clear the stage for Bush and his armies to do their thing.
And don't look for the United States to break stride over the revelation that North Korea has nukes. My sources say that has been known for some time, and that North Korea confessed because they knew they were about to be exposed anyway. Now that country is hoping for desperately needed economic assistance. North Korea will stand clear while the free world goes to work on Iraq.
The Bush military strategy shows signs of planning to strike Saddam's regime like a thief in the night. A massive invasion may not be in the cards. Sources say the only hesitancy comes from the fear that Hussein may unleash chemical or biological weapons. But backing off because of this risk would too critically wound U.S. prestige, and probably be interpreted by other world thugs as an invitation to build up their own stockpiles for future blackmail of the planet. Preventing such an occurrence is the whole point of the war on terror.
Once again, America will be the bad guy. Thank goodness.
Matt Towery writes a syndicated column based out of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville.
He can be reached at www.Insider
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