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The White Man's Burden, Part V: Who’s Next, or Where Do We Go From Here?

Where Do We Go From Here?

Where do we go from here?
Where do we go from here?
The battle's done,
And we kind of won
So we sound our victory cheer
Where do we go from here?

Why is the path unclear?
When we know home is near
We'll go hand in hand
But we'll walk alone in fear
Tell me
Where do we go from here?

When does "THE END" appear?
When do the trumpets cheer?
The curtains close
On a kiss god knows
We can tell the end is near
Where do we go from here?

-- Joss Whedon, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” “Once More With Feeling” Soundtrack

Life isn’t fiction. Reality isn’t nice and tidy. “Stories” seldom have clean endings; as one series of events winds down, others tend to ramp up, fizzle out, or go merrily on utterly on their own. And while events like wars often have formal ending dates, the post-war efforts can take years, if not decades.

And in the time of war, unpleasant decisions have to be made. As I said earlier, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” might be a good short-term solution, but historically it has often been a case of today’s ally of convenience becomes tomorrow’s foe. It happened with the Soviet Union, with Iran, and with Iraq, just to name three examples.

This is not to say that those choices were necessarily wrong ones. In each case, a more imminent threat was being countered. Allying with the Soviets against the Nazis kept Hitler busy on his eastern front. Backing the Shah of Iran not only stymied the radical Muslims for years, but kept the Soviets from gaining access to the Persian Gulf. And helping Saddam in his fight with Iran was a bit of “payback” for their actions against us, as well as providing another check on radical Islam.

But in each case, we would have been wise to keep a close eye on them. As Winston Churchill put it, nations have no permanent friends or permanent enemies, just permanent interests. Hell, for our incredibly close ties to England, we have had our share of tensions. During the 20’s, there were rumors of a potential conflict, and leading up to World War II Germany had its share of American sympathizers.

So, who among our current allies should we also be eying as future enemies? In theory, all of them. Practically speaking, though, it's a tough call.

England: with Tony Blair announcing his retirement in a year or so, there is a distinct possibility of his successor, to quote one of his predecessors, “going wobbly.” I don’t see England actually opposing the US, but their staunch support could start rapidly evaporating.

Australia: Again, I don’t see that happening, either. I have a tremendous amount of affection for the Aussies, and I’m hardly unique. They remind me of us in the 19th century or so, when we were still young and rowdy.

Israel: Not likely to become an enemy per se. They are far too dependent on our good will, and we are one of their best friends in the world. (Not that there’s much comparison for that category.) They are far more likely to give us “borrowed trouble,” as we often get the blame for their perceived sins.

Pakistan: a troubling case. President Musharraf has been a fair ally, but he’s largely motivated by self-preservation. If the circumstances change where he sees his regime’s best chances for survival involve turning against the US, I think it would be a distinct possibility. There’s also the chance that he could have his government overthrown from under him, and then at that point we’ll be faced with an Islamist state that has nuclear weapons.

India: Again, not very likely. India is the world’s largest democracy, and the Islamist elements are vastly outnumbered. India is also developing more and more economic ties with the US, so I think they’re fairly safe.

Poland and the other former Warsaw Pact nations: they spent far too many decades enslaved to the Soviet Union. They’ve seen what totalitarianism has to offer, and they also saw what the United States achieved while free. They might not quite get the hang of this democracy thing, but they’re giving it the best they can.

China: an odd case. Openly rivals, they make no bones about orienting (sorry) their military posture towards countering us. They don't so much want to defeat us, but supplant our influence in the Pacific Rim and, eventually, the world. They are focusing right now on doing so economically, maintaining cordial relations with us while they undercut our economic power -- and we seem content to let them. They aren't ready to challenge us openly, but they don't mind if we get ourselves all worked up over trouble spots like North Korea. They are also content on letting us take on the lion's share of the fight against Islamist terrorism, but should they make the mistake of too openly challenging the Dragon, I believe we'll see a response that will make Tienanmen Square look like a kindergarten graduation ceremony.

France: a distinct possibility. I’ve read a couple of technothrillers that revolved around a resurgent France (including Larry Bond and Patrick Larkin’s “Cauldron,” which featured an expansionist France-Germany axis in a post-NATO world), and considering how much of France’s foreign policy seems to revolve around “let’s do whatever will piss off America the most,” I think that the French could become open adversaries of ours.

Against the possibility, however, weighs one overwhelming fact: The French are… um… well… how can I put this delicately?

I can’t. They’re FRENCH.

The idea of France forming a major threat to anything is simply inconceivable. They haven’t been a credibly military power in well over half a century. It’s been merely their insufferable arrogance and the collective manners of the rest of the world that has let them preserve their delusions of grandeur, to continue to pretend they have any real relevance in this modern world.

No, I really don’t think that we can see who might be our next enemy. In World War II, it was easy – we’d opposed the Soviets for so long before the war, the big adjustment was in putting that on hold for the duration of the war. The best advice I can think to offer is this: watch all of our allies closely for signs of “going wobbly,” and support them as best we can.

Because the story never really ends.

Posted by Jay Tea · 23 September 2006 07:00 AM


"Backing the Shah of Iran not only stymied the radical Muslims for years,"

or provided a boogeyman for the previously margenalized radical islam movement

Posted by: lester at September 23, 2006 04:55 PM

Jay Tea... This has been an enjoyable series of commentaries. It reflects a mature understanding of the way the world is. AND, how we at times must deal with leaders that are Less Than Savory. I agree with your conclusions and given the current sorry state of the "loyal opposition", I fear for the future of the USA...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at September 23, 2006 08:30 PM

I understand your need to hunt for a bon mot to describe France, I instead opted for a series of quotes: 13 things France

Posted by: bernie at September 26, 2006 07:02 AM