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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2005
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EDITORIAL

World needs to support U.S. or leave it alone

The world's schizophrenic view of America surfaced again Monday when Mohamed ElBaradei chastised us for our failure to take an active role in negotiations over Iran's nuclear enrichment program.

Mr. ElBaradei, a recent Nobel Peace Prize winner, is head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"I hope that as the (Iranian) negotiations with the European Union proceed that the United States at a certain point will be more engaged," Mr. ElBaradei said. "We look at the United States ... to do the heavy lifting in the area of security."

The comment is outrageous in light of our mounting death toll in Iraq. Support the war or not, there is no question that the United States is doing the heavy lifting — indeed almost the only lifting — in that country. Our reward from the European Union for that lifting has been an endless barrage of whining and criticism. It is a rare day when Americans do not lose their lives in Iraq, and it is a rarer day when we don't hear the EU or its members griping about our imperialism or our greed for oil.

So why would Mr. ElBaradei want a trigger-happy United States involved in negotiations with yet another Islamic nation suspected of developing nuclear arms? The answer is in the question. He needs a trigger-happy negotiator because his approach is doomed to failure.

As Mr. ElBaradei said of Iran the day before accepting his Nobel Prize, "Let us not think we should jump the gun and use enforcement. If you can wiggle your way to cooperation, that is better than the alternative."

Wiggling did not convince Saddam Hussein to allow inspectors into Iraq before the war. Nor will it convince Iran. Negotiations without the threat of adverse consequences are useless, a fact Mr. ElBaradei acknowledges in asking for U.S. assistance.

Maybe the United States is destined to play the unpleasant role in international good-cop, bad-cop routines. But those enjoying the good-cop role — meaning those who are not watching their people die in the Middle East — would do well to knock off the criticism.

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