France: The End of a Dream

It was a dream, a utopia. The dream was shattered in blood and terror when, on Tuesday, Sept. 11, the United States became the victim of a gigantic terrorist operation. This was an act of war that has traumatized America: a festival of barbarism. The dream was George W. Bush’s. He intended to protect the United States from the international scene; to see the country less exposed because of less involvement in the settlement of ongoing conflicts. He ignored the war between Israel and the Palestinians, and then he swore to make the nation’s territory a sanctuary by putting it under the shelter of an anti-missile shield. The awakening has been horrific.

This reality of the volatile world in the aftermath of the Cold War, with an international scene where there are no longer any rules and where nation-states are no longer the only actors, caught up with Bush in the violence of an attack such as the United States had never suffered since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. It is a new world that is taking shape, one in which the sole superpower has just revealed its vulnerability to super-terrorism. This challenge is infinitely greater than that which George Bush Sr. had to meet when he decided to drive the Iraqi troops out of Kuwait in 1991. The trial has arisen while the guidelines of the new president’s foreign and defense policy are still fuzzy and the teams that are responsible for policy are absorbed in surreal bureaucratic battles.

But, once the time of mourning has passed, the time for questions will arrive. Those questions will focus on the pertinence of the choices President Bush Jr. has made. They will be directed to his obstinacy in pursuing a single strategic objective: to equip the United States with an anti-missile defense system. Many experts and political leaders had sounded the warning: The true threat was not some unlikely rogue state launching a missile toward the territory of the United States, but rather a terrorist attack. The questions will also concern the Republicans’ policy in the Middle East, even though Tuesday’s attacks had doubtless been prepared long before President Bush’s arrival in the White House. Those attacks will highlight the hate that America arouses in a large part of the Arab and Muslim world. They underscore the challenge posed by terrorists in general and the need for a common struggle.

But in this tragedy such as the United States has seldom experienced, the attacks make one thing clear: Isolationism is never an option for America.