Will Bandwagoning Trump Balancing? From Iraq to Libya, Iran, France, Germany, Russia...

It was obvious to everyone, except perhaps Howard Dean, that the capture of Saddam Hussein would have positive fall-out for American security.

It was obvious to everyone, except perhaps Howard Dean, that the capture of Saddam Hussein would have positive fall-out for American security. What comes as a surprise is the speed and scope of the fall-out. A whole series of diplomatic objectives have been attained.

Rogue states have suddenly made major new commitments on non-proliferation. Recalcitrant allies have suddenly made commitments on Iraqi debt reduction. Longstanding obstacles have fallen one after another, like a row of dominoes. America is seen as victorious; countries do not want to stay on its bad side. Instead of joining together to balance against America, they are jumping on the bandwagon with America.

In the jargon of international relations studies, "bandwagoning" has replaced "balancing" as the predominant "game" on the stage. American power, it is argued for example by William Wohlforth in Foreign Affairs, is so strong in so many spheres -- military, financial, ideological, cultural -- that it is futile to try to balance against it. Good relations with America become the first priority for everyone. Unipolarity is here to stay, and it isn't the Atlantic democracies that constitute the global unipole for Wohlforth: it is simply America.

If this is true, then the current successes are not the end of the matter. More are to come, as the bandwagoning continues.

For those who doubted the advisability of the Iraq war -- and I should confess to have been among them -- the bandwagoning and the progress on non-proliferation give cause to reconsider.

To be sure, not all the news is good. The war brought a massive undertow of resentment. Polls worldwide showed an average 16 percent swing in attitudes toward more hostility for America -- a truly extraordinary figure on the global scale. And unlike the case of Afghanistan, attitudes did not recover after the Iraq war. This puts in doubt the sustainability of the bandwagoning: it has relied too heavily on fear or on buying off foot-draggers -- practices that reinforce the resentment, in contrast to the effects of genuine mutual support. A different, innovative diplomacy will be needed to renew alliance sentiment and consolidate the bandwagoning trend

Nonetheless, the accomplishments are impressive. The war makes far more sense, when viewed through the angle of the struggle against proliferation in all countries rather than in Iraq alone. The Administration, in its global anti-proliferation struggle, has been employing all along the full spectrum of means advocated by its critics, at least when dealing with rogue states: a full-court diplomatic press, supplemented by military force in Iraq and threat of force elsewhere. In more cases than not, it has been working.  

As soon as Iraq was occupied, public pressures were placed on Iran. It was informed it could be next. The EU, playing good cop to the U.S. bad cop, got an unprecedented agreement out of Iran for nuclear inspections. And a hardheaded deal at that, one that could truly be welcomed by America.  

Next, U.S.-UK pressures on Libya bore fruit. Libya agreed to snap inspections and began cooperating proactively on revealing and dismantling its WMD program, in a way that Saddam never had. Libya had started making its overtures on the eve of the storming of Iraq; it rushed to come in from the cold where it had been lingering for years -- and where it suddenly seemed too dangerous to stay.

One could not imagine the new Iranian and Libyan commitments, had it not been for America's willingness to enforce its threats on Iraq. That action changed the structure of incentives for other rogue states. It turned WMD programs from potential sources of power into potential sources of ruin.

It turns out that, when Colin Powell went to the UN and demanded a high standard for Iraqi compliance, it had a meaning going far beyond Iraq. Powell's standard, let us recall, was to stop waiting for the world to prove that Saddam had WMD, and instead require him to comply fully with Security Council resolutions and give unqualified, pro-active cooperation to inspectors. This is the standard that Libya is now saying it will abide by. Without America's enforcement of the standard in Iraq, Libya would have offered far less -- something that would have left the situation unresolved.

Nor was the war solely a matter of being hard on rogue states. It was a matter of raising the non-proliferation standards for all states, rogue or not. Making an example of Saddam, either by compelling his cooperation or removing him, was necessary for raising the standards. Yielding to his half-cooperation would have amounted to caving in on the broader question of making the global non-proliferation regime work. No one would have ever offered more than Saddam, if he had been allowed to get away with hide-and-seek games.

Thus, the war has proved a matter of Iran as well as Iraq. And Libya. And Russia and the EU, which have taken a more honest anti-proliferation line on Iran now that America has shown it means business. And a matter of China, whose cooperation has been needed on Pakistan, Korea, and elsewhere. And North Korea -- a dangerous case, one where the public announcement of the pre-emptive doctrine only made things worse, absent a readiness to use it, yet that could still be resolved with Chinese help. And Pakistan, which is beginning to investigate its scientists' aid to the Iranian nuclear program and to cooperate on plugging the leaks.

The matter is, as we can see from this list, far from over. Much will have to be done to complete the work of this war.