Frequently, critics of the war in Iraq restrict their tallies of the consequences to the country thus far in terms of military consequences in the Middle East — and many actually trumpet how fortunate Americans are to still have high quality, mostly secure lives in this nation despite the hellish conditions in Iraq, Gaza, Darfur, and other strife-addled regions.
But what is not connected enough to America’s tragic encounter in Iraq is how it has undermined American power and prestige in other ways. The collapse of the Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations and the frequent harrassment from Venezuela President Hugo Chavez are other benchmarks of American political decline and of power voids being left for others to fill.
And today we have the likely victory of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua’s national elections as another indicator of tides turning against American interests. Ortega, a former leftist guerilla, may have just won the election over the US-backed Eduardo Montealagre.
The race results are not final, but election returns are tilting towards an Ortega win.
When I was in Germany recently, I spoke before the FDP Foreign Policy Parliamentary Group, chaired by Werner Hoyer, in the Bundestag. One of Hoyer’s chief concerns has been Nicaragua and this election — and he is down there now attempting to suppor Montealegre.
But what Hoyer and many others who have watched these elections have reported is that America is not only weaker in the eyes of Latin American citizens, citizens are motivated to actually help roll back American power.
As one German politician told me, “It is remarkable that Ortega is bouncing back without a superpower sponsor competing with America. This is what is troubling. The opposition to American interests is winning in many place and there is no global rival.”
When the mystique of American power was wrecked in Iraq and President Bush showed our military and financial limits — allies stopped counting on as much and enemies have moved their agendas forward.
The costs of Iraq that Bush has unleashed aren’t anywhere close to a clear tally yet.
— Steve Clemons