Skip to main content


America is still the world’s best policeman

US tanks on the Kuwait-Iraq border in 2003. Scott Nelson/Getty

American global leadership took a “serious kicking” last week, says Simon Tisdall in The Observer. Politicians and pundits on both sides of the Atlantic queued up to condemn George W Bush and Tony Blair’s disastrous invasion of Iraq 20 years ago. Meanwhile in Moscow, Xi Jinping and “his Russian puppet, Vladimir Putin” proposed a new global order to replace the post-1945 US-led model. China’s “de facto dictator” is offering to “stand guard” over the planet. In Xi’s brave new world, “subservience and surveillance” replace America’s “shock and awe”. Democracy takes a back seat.

Of course, Iraq was catastrophic – but there’s a dangerous tendency to use the debacle to discredit US-led intervention in general. Look what happens when Washington “disengages or drops its guard”. The 2011 Iraq withdrawal – and America’s subsequent reluctance to get involved – led to a decade of “terror and civil war” in Syria, Iranian hardliners “running riot”, the Saudis embarking on a “killing spree in Yemen”, Afghanistan sinking into “betrayal and misery” and Israel-Palestine becoming stuck in “rudderless chaos”. And it’s not as though anybody else picks up the slack. Europe “froze in horror” during the Bosnian War – at the US had to step in. And when atrocities occurred in “Cambodia, Rwanda, Congo and Darfur”, and Washington “looked away”, the result was genocide. America doesn’t always get it right, but the growing strain of isolationism in the Republican Party should worry all of us. A perpetually disordered world will always need “troubleshooters and peacemakers”. Better the Americans than “autocratic bullies” and “war criminals” like Xi and Putin.