I was reading an issue of Time magazine some weeks ago waiting at a doctors office, and they had a really good article questioning just how unpopular Saddam is. I would also very much doubt that Iraqi folks at large will turn against Saddam if we attacked/invaded.
I remember living in the USSR in the last few years of its existance. The folks at large resented the government, but I don't doubt for a second that anyone would hesistae to defend that government against a foreign attack - they wouldn't see it as fighting for the government, but for their country.
So I doubt very much that Saddam's own folks would turn on him. On the other hand, it's not impossible that they wouldn't hate America for too long after it was over and democracy ensued. Germans and the Japanse are two examples of people who fought hard against an American invasion, yet didn't harbor resentment against what happened for too long.
Do we have a chance of having the same type of long-term success in Iraq? Probably. But I don't think we can count on the Iraqis to help/not resist.
And I believe you're right on the reasons why the French (and they are as guilty of fucking up the map over there and eslewhere 'round the globe as the British), British, and Arabs will resent us if this happened. You're also very correct about Russia. Though the Russians stand to make a ton of money if Saddam remains in power, so their position doesn't have room for much flexibility - in other words, we would have to make it worth their while some other way if we're to secure their support.
"We've got influence, power, prestige and clout beyond any nation in the history of the world,"' Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage said. "It brings forth a certain amount of envy."
That's pretty much the jist of it. It doesn't matter what the US does, there will be certain groups, both in and out of the country, that will criticize it. Note the amount of bitching about our Afghan campaign before talk of Iraq came around. Now those people are busy bitching about Iraq. If it wasn't Iraq it'd be something else. I doubt these elements will like us even if we adopt a "puppies and pie" foreign policy. That's why no one really counts how much foreign aid we give out (except, I suppose, the people who actually get to stay alive or get running water because we gave their country some money.)
In a recent response to increasing global opposition, Donald Rumsfeld took the if we go, they will follow approach: we will do what is right (alone if necessary)and rest assured the rest of the world will see the righteousness of our cause and follow our 'leadership.'
Correct. Rumsfeld example of this phenomenon was Churchil, whose concern over Hitler's Germany was dismissed as the same kind of hawkish idiocy some attribute to Bush. This is neither here nor there as far as Iraq goes, except that it shows that it's possible to be right even when the rest of the world, and even some people in your own country, don't share your concern.
Such an approach does nothing to discourage opinions of the United States as acting as if it were infallible since it assumes its own righteousness in the wake of the timid.
Yeah well, what's the worth of those opinions. How much did our efforts to save Muslim lives in Kosovo lessen the 'opinion' that the US is out to destroy Islam? The people keeping score aren't necessarily objective and impartial observers who have an interest in fair count, and it'd be counterproductive to aim our foreign policy to appeasing them. Another example: Russia's stance on Iraq has more to do with the 40 billion dollars they can stand to make than it does with any moral concepts of "doing the right thing." It's not like these countries are standing in our way due to their philosophical convictions.
"Under the banner of no compromising on what is 'right,' can the US go it alone in the world. If so, would it be a good idea? What happens if we 'go' and no one follows?
Oh they'll follow. People flock to the winning side, and so, in a sense, we should be more concerned about being able to win in Iraq than about other parties going along, initially. Once the war is over, we're set. Heck, even Israel was popular after the Yom Kipur war.
"Are they painting themselves into a corner by their dismissive behavior towards world opinion?"
I'd ask a related question, too. Are certain world countries painting themselves into a corner by their dismissive behavior towards us? It feels like quite a large chunk of the world is trying to be contrarian to the US on purpose, as if to make up for decades of having to rely on us for protection against the perceived Soviet threat. As good as that release must feel, I wonder if it isn't a bit premature for them to tell us to piss off?