I SEE WHAT THE FRENCH WERE AFRAID OF
Fred Kaplan has an article laying out the changes the US military made to enable them to win this war.
I think there's a bigger factor, which is the impetus for change -- widespread information technology.
Robert Wright and others have been writing for some time about how the spread of information technology makes the world a more dangerous place. Terrorist cells no longer need a "base" of any kind, and fiery rhetoric and images can be spread throughout audiences that will react to it with terrifying results.
That may be true -- but I think it takes too narrow a look at what's going on. Before the war began, President Bush addressed some of his words to the Iraqi people and soldiers, and they heard him. Many Iraqi soldiers surrendered or abandoned their posts, likely thanks in part to their knowledge that they didn't stand a chance against the coalition forces, despite being flooded with propaganda to the contrary.
This, combined with precision-guided weapons, makes war significantly less terrifying and idea than it used to be. In fact, it could even result in a net reduction in killing.This is good news, since nobody likes killing, but possibly bad news because it makes warfare a less costly option, and thus more attractive.
This makes the US even more poweful. As information gets more perfect, fewer and fewer soldiers will be willing to take on the US military, even if their leaders want them to. This makes it much easier for the US to impose its will on the world, at little cost to itself.
Thus my title -- it is understandable that the French or other countries, would be wary of an excercise that makes the power of the US more apparent. The US must be extremely prudent in how it excercises this power. Because the only way to check it would be for the rest of the world to unite against it.