THERE WILL BE 400,000 American soldiers in Saudi Arabia by January. The question no longer is "Why are we there?" but rather "Where is everybody else?"
President Bush is having a tough time answering that one.
We know why some of the major countries aren't there. For example, Japan isn't there because it lost World War II, and since it has done so well since, it doesn't want to win one. Also, because the Japanese produce most of the stereo equipment for the United States, Washington feels that it would be best to defer essential Japanese workers and keep them manufacturing Walkmans for our boys in the gulf.
Japanese diplomats agree. One told me, "If it wasn't for our Toyotas, there would be no reason to fight for the oil in Kuwait."
Germany would love to send men to Saudi Arabia, but they also lost World War II, and they feel that it would be risky for them to ship any troops to the Saudi front where their officers might commit war crimes.
The Germans informed me, "We won't fight without Field Marshal Rommel, and he's dead. At the same time, Germany supports the United States in what you are doing, and we have guaranteed to supply your armed forces with all the Beck's beer they can drink."
I asked him if he thought that Germany would use any of the oil that Americans were protecting.
"We will if you ask us to. Our understanding, however, is that America is not there for oil. It's there to protect the royal families in the area and any democratic governments that might accidentally pop up during the next 20 years."
France has a token force of fighting men in the region. The reason for this is that the French troops are bogged down in Chad and Paris. "We can't spare any more troops for Saudi Arabia," a Mitterrand spokesman said, "because there's no telling when Hussein will want to buy our airplanes again. France has always had close ties with Iraq. She was the first country in the area to return French hostages which shows liberte, egalite and fraternite are not dead -- even in Baghdad."
Great Britain seems to have more troops in place than anyone else. This is thanks to Margaret Thatcher, who has been America's staunchest supporter. President Bush's advisers have suggested that now that Thatcher is out, she be made commander-in-chief of all the fighting troops in Saudi Arabia. The president has turned down the idea, insisting that he would still like to give the embargo a chance.
The truth of the matter is that none of the NATO powers has supplied men to the buildup. Denmark wants to keep its #F draft-age men home in case the Iraqis attack the Tivoli in Copenhagen. Italy can't spare one soldier until all the Romeo and Juliet festivals are over.
Ironically, our only hope for allied support is the U.S.S.R. Gorbachev has promised to give Bush Soviet soldiers, but Boris Yeltsin said that would happen only over his dead body. Gorbachev wants the Soviet parliament to vote on Boris' body.
If the truth be known, the U.S. is all alone in Saudi Arabia. Countries claiming to be involved are actually sitting comfortably in ships out at sea. The leaders of our great NATO allies cannot be faulted on their reluctance to send troops. It would be suicide for them because their electorates could become furious, and no Western leader wants to wind up in a political body bag.
Art Buchwald has won a Pulitzer Prize for his satirical columns.