Even in the context of a post-Sept. 11, 2001, world, the array of tough, seemingly intractable foreign problems is spreading. Renewed violence has expanded to major cities throughout Afghanistan, as Afghan rebels adopt tactics of Iraqi insurgents and as President Hamid Karzai's popularity has plummeted. Iran is balking at demands to come clean or compromise on its nuclear program, despite new U.S. and European incentives. Palestinians launched longer-range missiles into Israel, while Israel has authorized its army to invade part of northern Gaza.
Meanwhile, an Islamist militia in Somalia seized control of the capital, Mogadishu. Mexico's future is uncertain after a close and disputed presidential election. And yesterday, the price of oil hit a new high of $75.19 a barrel.
Concern about such developments is cutting across the normal fault lines in American politics, with critiques being expressed by conservative realists such as Haass and liberal internationalists such as former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright. Albright said yesterday that the United States now faces the "perfect storm" in foreign policy. "The U.S. is not as unilateral as it is uni-dimensional," she said in an interview. "We have not been paying attention to a lot of these issues. . . . Afghanistan is out of control because not enough attention was paid to it."
Even neoconservative hawks who have been generally supportive of the administration on Iraq and other issues said they are worried about the direction of American foreign policy, and hope for a muscular response from the Bush administration toward the latest North Korean provocation.
"North Korea is firing missiles. Iran is going nuclear. Somalia is controlled by radical Islamists. Iraq isn't getting better, and Afghanistan is getting worse," said William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and a leading conservative commentator. "I give the president a lot of credit for hanging tough on Iraq. But I am worried that it has made them too passive in confronting the other threats."