Richard Reeves

The Winners and Losers So Far

NEW YORK -- The conventional wisdom after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was that nothing would ever be the same. That was an exaggeration, born of shock. In fact, the war on Iraq may turn out to be more important over time, partly because under our new doctrine of preventive attack, this famous victory can be replicated -- again and again.

There are winners and losers in wartime and after war -- not just countries, but individuals, institutions, movements, even ideas. Things will change as always, but as of now, as statues of Saddam Hussein fall into the streets, here are the winners:

-- Right or wrong, and I think they were wrong, the ideological warriors have won the day. President Bush. Vice President Cheney. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. They did what they said they would do militarily, and did it well and quickly. If he was indeed the architect of the lightning Iraq campaign, the manic Secretary Rumsfeld deserves more than a few apologies.

-- The military is looking like a younger Michael Jordan. For the moment, they are the defenders, expanders and diplomats of the realm.

-- The press, taking a higher rate of casualties than professional soldiers, made some flag-waving mistakes in covering the war to date. But correspondents and reporters, anchormen and editors, were obviously having the time of their lives. As after Watergate, when another government fell with reporters embedded in the process, a lot of talented young people are going to get the idea that this is more fun than investing other people's money.

-- The oil companies, whose leverage just went way up in their discreet desert struggles with the peoples who happen to live on the sand over the pools of black gold.

-- The Supreme Court, which put Bush in the White House, now knows that the American people are perfectly comfortable with judicial supremacy. The Supremes now have permission and precedent to end elections, perhaps wars, too, as soon as television viewers of limited attention spans become bored with inconclusive action.

The losers now seem to be:

-- The Congress, formerly a co-equal branch of government. There is something laughable about watching the Senate's dons of foreign policy, Republican Richard Lugar and Democrat Joe Biden, turn to the cameras and admit they have no idea what is going on when the country is at war. Ignored by the White House and the military, they have been getting their information from a higher source, cable television.

-- Islam and the Arabs. "How many divisions does the pope have?" Soviet monster Joseph Stalin is supposed to have said when he was warned of the power of Roman Catholicism. With all their ornate rhetoric, how many divisions do the Arabs have that are willing to fight?

-- War critics. How many platoons do they have? The regime in Washington and its media proconsuls made MREs of commentators who said the United States had no need and no right to attack the bad boys of Baghdad.

-- Syria, Iran, France, Germany and any other country subject to preventive destruction.

-- The United Nations, tagged as irrelevant, at least until we need it to clean up our mess.

-- Secretary of State Colin Powell, who must be scheduled for early retirement. He was just wrong -- in the eyes of the president and his men -- about too many things.

-- Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and the other theorists of an Americanized Middle East. They are public figures now, and will soon enough lose the freedom and power of whispering in the ears of taller men. From now on they must function on their own, in the withering spotlight.

-- The airline business. Americans are frequently squeamish fliers.

-- Israel. There is always a curse in getting what you want. As the wild Mideast becomes even wilder with Americans on the scene as God's police, America-haters in the region and world, powerless to challenge the great United States, will mobilize and vent their wrath on our little friend around the corner.

So, and so far, we have won. Paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin's view of the Republic, we have a victory, if we can keep it.

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