While I don’t agree entirely with the analysis (or sentiment) given in the March 19 BBC editorial I just read, I do believe that it’s conclusion — and, for that matter, it’s title — are spot on: “Iraq war shows limits of US power” (click on title to read).
In particular, the last three paragraphs sum up the point accurately, as well as provide a rationale defending it’s truth:
Above all, we have seen how hard it is for the Americans to deal with a few thousand lightly armed volunteers.
Germany’s 19th-Century Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, said that great powers had to be very careful when they put their military strength to the test. Unless they are overwhelmingly successful, he meant, the perception will be that they have been defeated.
In spite of the new successes on the ground here, that is the long-term danger America faces.
I think the reference to Bismarck is a good one. After the first Gulf War and America’s successful intervention in Bosnia, much of the world was in awe of American military might and the leaders of many world powers were contemplating their own relevance in steering the course of history. (The conclusions of some of that contemplation showed themselves in the actions those nations took in the UN deliberations before the recent invasion of Iraq.)
The current struggle in Iraq is erasing the awe that had built up after those two previous conflicts, and the result is that the enemies and would-be enemies of the US are emboldened. I hope the reforms and strategies of General Petraeus continue to bring improvements and, ultimately, a victory in Iraq. But it is hard to see through it all to a world in which the world’s awe of our military might is restored — and coupled with the growing global disenchantment in our economic might, it seems that American prestige has become an endangered species.
Prophetically, we are told in Leviticus that a consequence of Israel’s national disobedience would be that God would “break the pride of your power” (Lev. 26:19). I believe that breaking is coming to pass.