WE'RE condemned to lead.
No matter which presidential candidate we choose tomorrow, his decisions to act or not to act will determine not only the safety of our country but the future of the world.
Allies and non-aligned states kick and complain, but expect us to make their boo-boos go away. Ignore the nonsense about America's (oft-predicted and yet to be witnessed) decline: We remain the indispensable power.
When we act, we'll be called a bully. When we fail to act, we'll be mocked as weak. No president can enduringly please foreign powers and populations. Our might - which remains unparalleled - was resented, is resented and will be resented. That's human nature.
Nor will we ever have the luxury of withdrawing from the world. If we tried, the world would simply come to us - as it did on 9/11. It's always better to act abroad than to wait to be acted upon at home. And we'll always be stuck with the dirty jobs - our international coworkers just want to collect their disability checks.
Consider the failures of the "world community" in cases when a strained Bush administration shrugged off a leadership role: As an endless civil war in Congo killed millions, the United Nations sent a few thousand military welfare recipients with pea-shooters. Rape and slaughter drag on as you read.
Ditto for Darfur. Zimbabwe starves as a tyrant fakes negotiations (the opium of the chattering classes). Russia invades its neighbors, murders dissidents and sells its newest weapons to rogue regimes. China commits ecogenocide against its own people. (Our allies prefer to criticize the United States.) Iran yearns for a nuclear Armageddon. Peace in Lebanon? Baloney.
The greatest danger to the United States and the world isn't from a president who does too much, but from one who does too little - or one who believes that words substitute for deeds. There are times when we must act, and damn the torpedoes.
For our part, we, the people, must accept that we'll never be loved by each last Syrian secret policeman. Jealousy is far too powerful an emotion. If we expect thanks, we'll always be disappointed. We must back our presidents when they do what is right, even if the world does not applaud.
For all that, we're not nearly as "hated" as our Left would have you believe. Anti-Americanism was far worse in the 1950s and '60s than over the past eight years. The 1970s seethed with Yankee-go-home sentiments (as I saw first-hand). And American power was supposed to be finished at the end of the Vietnam War. It's just that today's irresponsible media amplify every negative event.
Convincing themselves that President Bush spoiled a fairy tale, American leftists forget how gruesome fairy tales really are. When no one takes on the wicked witch, she wins. Sometimes, she wins anyway.
The recent efforts of President Nicolas Sarkozy of France to galvanize the European Union to fill the current leadership vacuum only underscore Washington's indispensability. The boldest leader the old world has produced since Margaret Thatcher could not unite Europeans to buttress their economies in this crisis - nor could he convince the European Union to muster a few thousand troops to save a few million lives in Congo.
To whom should the world then turn? To the Russians? The Chinese? The Taliban?
An American president too anxious to please the world is bound to do it great harm. Should the American electorate choose Sen. Barack Obama today, his first challenge will be deciding which groups of his supporters he'll disappoint first. The struggle against Islamist fanaticism will continue to demand costly, long-term commitments - it isn't a problem we can solve by sending in the San Francisco Police Department.
Without our military leadership, our allies would restrict themselves to defense in the global terror emergency. And you can't win on defense. Nature may abhor a vacuum, but terrorists love one. The demand for disciplined, capable men and women in American uniforms is only going to increase (while economic problems and campaign promises will threaten defense budgets). In this horribly troubled world, our troops remain the ultimate foreign aid. Only they protect us from global darkness.
All the conflict-resolution theories in the world aren't worth a single rifleman with an American flag on his sleeve. Aggressors won't be stopped with earnest petitions, and terrorists don't cower at repartee. As Jimmy Carter learned so very painfully, good will is no substitute for strength.
The political campaigns are ending. Even Sen. Joe "Backfire" Biden recently admitted that our new president soon would need to do the right thing as he faces his first crisis. And the right thing may not be popular at home or abroad.