In his eagerness for war, Bush dismissed the nations he now courtsIt is a symptom of our polarized politics that too many politicians behave as if there's no tomorrow. They act as though they'll never need each other. They are comfortable with identifying each other as the enemy, lobbing epithets and stalking away from the field of battle.

No wonder there is so little occupied middle ground.

In his book Hardball, Chris Matthews describes the pragmatism that is so lacking in state legislatures and Congress. "The opponent in one fight is often the valued ally in the next. The astute politician always keeps the lines of communication humming."

There is no better or frightening example of dismissing a philosophical adversary than President Bush's attitude toward nations that were skeptical of America's pre-emptory attack on Iraq. Bush actually thought we'd never need something from France or Germany.

It is rare to see a world leader get his comeuppance so quickly. Within a matter of months, Bush was back at the U.N., last week, seeking a new resolution and seeking the involvement of member nations in the occupation and rebuilding of Iraq. The performance was not convincing, partly because it was largely for the consumption of Bush's core right-wing domestic constituency.

Who can be surprised that other nations are not rushing to our assistance after Bush dismissed the lot of them in his eagerness to make war?

Meanwhile, the need for assistance is real. Our armed forces are stretched too thin. Bush has engineered the longest call-up of reserves since World War II.

The president's global diplomacy is not a matter of inside baseball, of concern only to people who dabble in world politics. It is of the utmost long-term significance to all Americans. The price of Bush's arrogance and his ignorance - like his long-term debt - will cost this nation for more than a generation.

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