Does U.S. Foreign Policy Get Enough Credit?

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," March 4, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Should the U.S. get a little credit for some of the good things happening overseas — liberating millions of people in Afghanistan and Iraq; pushing for peace between the Palestinians (search) and the Israelis (search); spreading freedom and democracy in the Middle East?

Joining me now is, Gerard Baker, U.S. editor of The Times of London and a FOX News contributor. Mr. Baker, you wrote about that today. It's a funny column; I recommend people go read it in The Times of London online. Why do you think that the U.S. is not getting credit in all the places it should?

GERARD BAKER, U.S. EDITOR, TIMES OF LONDON: Well, John, I think that's just the way people are, particularly in Europe. They didn't agree with the war in Iraq; they didn't agree with what the U.S. has been doing broadly in the Middle East.

And so when that policy that the U.S. has been following starts to bear real fruit — as we've seen in the last week with these extraordinary events in Lebanon, with regard to Syria and Egypt and Saudi Arabia; the elections in Iraq a few weeks ago — when the things start to go well, the people who opposed the war, obviously the people who oppose U.S. policy are not in a very good mood to give them any credit.

I'd remind you that most of the view in Europe is that despite all that Ronald Reagan did in the 1980s, and the way that he actually led the West, the U.S. and its allies to victory in the Cold War, he's not given any credit for that at all in Europe. They say it was all to do with changes in Russia and Mikhail Gorbachev and all of that.

So, I don't think that Americans should be surprised, or indeed, in the end, very upset by the fact that when your policies work and when you do the kind of things you've done so far, nobody's willing to give you credit for it.

GIBSON: Well, there is this uncomfortable stammering that's going on among these people. They say, "Oh, the elections are great." And, "Gee, isn't that nice, Syria's suddenly decided to get out of Lebanon." "What do you know? Egypt's decided to have real elections and the Saudis are going to let women vote," as if these are just apples that fell out of trees.

BAKER: Right, exactly.

And one of the things that you've read and I've read a lot in Europe in the last week, a lot of European television shows have done this kind of thing, as well. Of course, all these things are good things and we're delighted that they're happening, but they aren't the intended consequences of what the United States did.

The United States shouldn't get any credit, because they don't follow from the invasion of Iraq or anything like that. Which of course, flies in the face of reality. We know that none of the good things that have been happening in the last few months would have happened without the changes that the United States has brought about in Iraq. But that is to say, that's the kind of twisted logic, the contortions, unfortunately, that people in Europe, and to some extent, in the Arab world are getting themselves into.

I've actually even heard people say, "Saddam Hussein wouldn't have survived. The United States didn't really need to go to war in Iraq. You would have gotten a democracy in Iraq; you would have gotten change in Iraq without a war." Which is, of course, completely absurd.

But that is the kind of rationale that people will have. As I say, when they feel frustrated that what they've opposed for so long is clearly working.

GIBSON: Bashar Assad (search) and Moammar Gadhafi (search) must be laughing under their breath at the Europeans, because they seem to get it.

BAKER: Yes, absolutely, they do. Of course they understand it. And in the end, I think even the sensible, intelligent Europeans, and there are quite a few of them still in Europe, believe it or not, perhaps more in Britain than in other countries, but there are a few of them around, I think those people do understand what's going on. They do understand the importance of what the U.S. has done, and they do, they always give you credit.

But as I say, in the end, what matters are the facts on the ground — the change in the region that has been brought about. And the definition of real leadership, somebody once said, is to not get too upset when other people take credit for what you've done. And that's, frankly, what the United States is doing right now.

GIBSON: So, Mr. Baker, when you write a column like this, kind of, giving your continental countrymen a poke, do they write letters howling in protest, or do you just get met with silence?

BAKER: It's interesting. Usually when I write in columns that defend America and we say that America has done the right thing — I don't always say, America doesn't always do the right thing, but I think in many of these important respects, it has — when I write those kind of columns, I usually get howls of anguish and accusations of being a shill for crazy right-wing Americans or whatever.

It's very interesting, in the last few weeks, though, as things have clearly gone America's way, and indeed, democracy's way, I would argue in the Middle East, there has been silence, actually. It's been much more silence than I've been used to in the past.

I sense that the enemies of what the United States have been trying to do, the enemies of advancing freedom are actually in retreat at the moment and they're keeping quiet about it.

GIBSON: Gerard Baker, The Times of London, and FOX News analyst. Mr. Baker, it's always good to see you. Thanks for coming in.

BAKER: You, too. Thanks.

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