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Iraq, one year later

03/20/04 12:00AM By Barrie Dunsmore
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(Host) Commentator Barrie Dunsmore reflects on the invasion of Iraq - one year later.


(Dunsmore) Was it worth it? As I struggled through the pros and cons of the Iraq invasion, I recalled a story a friend of mine told me a few months ago.

By way of background, in the early 60s, President Kennedy asked Dean Acheson to serve as his personal envoy. Acheson was Truman's formidable Secretary of State who oversaw the Marshall Plan and the formation of the NATO alliance, among other things. At the time my friend was a young foreign service officer assigned to be on Acheson's small staff.

Now the story. When the US discovered Soviet missiles in Cuba, Kennedy sent Acheson to brief French President Charles Degaulle, one of the key members of NATO but also a man who suspected that the Anglo-Saxons, his term for the British and the Americans, were always trying to marginalize him and France. After telling Degaulle what the US had discovered and how Kennedy planned to respond, Acheson went to open his brief case to show Degaulle the surveillance photos. Degaulle apparently put up his hand and said something along the lines of, That won't be necessary. When the President of the United States tells me something, I believe him.

My friend chuckled as he ended the story, saying, Can you imagine anything like that happening today?

Just one more thing: my source for this anecdote is not some wild-eyed liberal or partisan Democrat. It is Lawrence Eagleburger who served as President George Bush the father's Secretary of State.

In reflecting on all the consequences of the American invasion of Iraq, this story reminds me how profoundly things have changed in terms of the relationship between the United States and its allies. Now I'm not suggesting for a moment that President George W. Bush has single-handedly trashed the NATO alliance. The alliance has been battered about for decades by countless disputes, Vietnam of course being a major one.

But what is evident now, according to the latest polling, is the enormous loss of respect and credibility that the US has suffered in recent times. Roughly two thirds of Europeans do not believe what the United States says, and, they see this country as a threat to peace. The US invasion of Iraq may not be the only reason for this, but it is certainly a major one.

Many pundits and politicians in this country have been quick to charge the Spaniards with appeasement, for voting out their pro-American government following the Madrid bombings. Perhaps.

But what has happened in Spain also underscores how seriously the Iraq War divides the Western alliance. That matters -- for even if Osama bin Laden should be captured tomorrow, we now know Al Qaida is a hydra-head monster, and the US is going to need all the friends it can muster, especially its old friends in Europe, if it is going to prevail against a far more lethal enemy than Saddam.

This is Barrie Dunsmore.

Barrie Dunsmore is a veteran diplomatic and foreign correspondent for ABC News, now living in Charlotte.
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