Over at Political Animal, one of Kevin Drum's posts on Iraq closes with the following passage:
"I wonder how long it will take America to recover from George Bush's uniquely blinkered and self-righteous brand of ineptitude? In the past five years he's demonstrated to the world that we don't know how to win a modern guerrilla war. He's demonstrated that we don't understand even the basics of waging a propaganda war. He's demonstrated that other countries don't need to pay any attention to our threats. He's demonstrated that we're good at talking tough and sending troops into battle, but otherwise clueless about using the levers of statecraft in the service of our own interests. If he had set out to willfully and deliberately expose our weaknesses to the world and undermine our strengths, he couldn't have done more to cripple America's power and influence in the world. Beneath the bluster, he's done more to weaken our national security than any president since World War II.
So how long will it take — after George Bush has left office — for our power and influence on the world stage to return to the level it was at in 2001? When I'm in a good mood, I figure five years. Realistically, ten years is probably more like it. And when I'm in a bad mood? Don't ask. It's really all very depressing."
The comment thread that follows is interesting, and deeply pessimistic; most of the commenters seem to feel that the Iraq war is a tipping point in American (and world) history, and that the American Empire (not only militarily, but culturally and philosophically) will never fully recover from the damage done to that former image of America as the "shining beacon" of the world.
I consider myself deeply cynical and pessimistic, particularly regarding politics, but I find myself in the surprising position of believing (perhaps "hoping" would be a better word to use) that America might someday be that beacon again.
Many things would have to go right for that to happen. *koff*votenovember7th*koff It can be done.
But I think it will take at least two generations, fifty years (yes, fifty), to regain the trust and respect the world held for America a mere five years ago.
Those who have come to hate and fear us in the last five years -- and I think that's probably a majority of the world's population -- will not easily trust us again. We have shown the depths we're capable of sinking to -- torture, invasion, imprisonment without trial, the abandonment of (my God!) our own legal protections and rights -- and forgiveness will not be an easy task.
I don't think the current generation will forgive, or forget. And they will pass on that mistrust, and fear, and hatred of the US to their children. I think it will only be the generation after that, the grandchildren, that will be far enough removed from this dark lustrum to risk giving America (an America that has tried to restore its ideals, and its guiding principles) its trust once more.
I want that to happen. I want it.
Dammit, I want my country back.