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Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Coalitions-Tom Friedman has an interesting NYT piece on Iraq today. He's the Reggie Jackson of op-ed, when he makes contact, he gets all of it; when he doesn't, he looks awful striking out. Unfortunately, he doesn't make contact today.
Let's start with the Bush hawks. The first rule of any Iraq invasion is the pottery store rule: You break it, you own it. We break Iraq, we own Iraq — and we own the primary responsibility for rebuilding a country of 23 million people that has more in common with Yugoslavia than with any other Arab nation. I am among those who believe this is a job worth doing, both for what it could do to liberate Iraqis from a terrible tyranny and to stimulate reform elsewhere in the Arab world. But it is worth doing only if we can do it right. And the only way we can do it right is if we can see it through, which will take years.
He's got the thing nailed. The only problem is that he added one more sentence to that paragraph.
And the only way we can see it through is if we have the maximum allies and U.N. legitimacy. We don't need a broad coalition to break Iraq. We can do that ourselves. But we do need a broad coalition to rebuild Iraq, so that the American taxpayer and Army do not have to bear that full burden or be exposed alone at the heart of the Arab-Muslim world. President Bush, if he alienates the allies from going to war — the part we can do alone — is depriving himself of allies for the peace — the part where we'll need all the friends we can get.
Let's see; we'll have the British, the Canadians, the Australians, the Italians, the Spanish and most of Eastern Europe on board. We can probably hit Japan up for some cash. Russia would be little help financially, and the French and Germans are having trouble keeping within Euro deficit rules as is. How much cash are we going to get out of the paleoeuropeans?
No question — Saddam never would have let the U.N. inspectors back in had President Bush not unilaterally threatened force. But if Mr. Bush keeps conveying to China, France and Russia that he really doesn't care what they think and will go to war anyway, their impulse will be to never come along and just remain free riders.
Better a free-rider than a meddler. If the FOE is in the coalition, a post-war Iraq won't be as free as it would be with the current Anglospherian coalition (to answer the recent Google hit, "Is Berlusconi the Antichrist?"-Nope.). They would bring some manpower and some money but also bring a more secular and statist attitude that might be detrimental to a thriving, democratic Iraq.
The allies also have a willful blind spot. There is no way their preferred outcome, a peaceful solution, can come about unless Saddam is faced with a credible, unified threat of force. The French and others know that, and therefore their refusal to present Saddam with a threat only guarantees U.S. unilateralism and undermines the very U.N. structure that is the best vehicle for their managing U.S. power.
One more time, the French aren't allies anymore. At this point, they are a rival power, not unlike China, who's best interest rarely overlaps that of the US. Friedman's right in that the UN reins in US power; the UN split thus might be not a bug but a feature.
We need a compromise. We need to say to the French, Russians and Chinese that we'll stand down for a few more weeks and give Saddam one last chance to comply with the U.N. disarmament demands — provided they agree now that if Saddam does not fully comply they will have the U.N. authorize the use of force.
"Please give me just one more last chance before you say I'm through." No, Lucy, not this time. This time, we're going for two.
If war proves inevitable, it must be seen as the product of an international decision, not an American whim. The timing cannot be determined by the weather or the need to use troops just because they are there. You cannot launch a war this important now simply because it's going to be hot later. I would gladly trade a four-week delay today for four years of allied support after a war. I would much prefer a hot, legitimate, U.N.-approved war with the world on our side to a cool, less legitimate war that leaves us owning Iraq by ourselves
It is the product of an international decision, just not international enough for Friedman's taste. "Allied" can be translated as FOE support; that may be more bother than its worth. The troops sent will be less willing to stamp out terrorism. The bureaucrats sent would be less willing to allow a free Iraqi economy to flourish, moving towards a more centralized economy and political structure. We wouldn't be by ourselves without the FOE, we'd still have our Anglospherian allies to help out, which would be the majority of any international support we'd likely get anyway.
France, China and Russia have to get serious, but so do we. The Bush talk that we can fight this war with just a "coalition of the willing" — meaning Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia — is dangerous nonsense. There is only one coalition that matters to the average American and average world citizen. It is one approved by the U.N. and NATO. We may not be able to garner it, but we need to be doing everything we can — everything — to try before we go to war.
I'd rather do it right with the current coalition than do a half-assed job with the UN's blessing. Friedman’s concept that "[t]here is only one coalition that matters to the average American and average world citizen. It is one approved by the U.N. and NATO" is more pernicious than the "coalition of the willing" for it allows France and Russia to filibuster any plans that go against their wishes. Remember, at this point, "UN approval" more accurately translates to "French approval," for neither the Russians of the Chinese want to be in position of being the bad cop.
Why? Because there is no war we can't win by ourselves, but there is no nation we can rebuild by ourselves — especially Iraq.
Read my beak, Thomas. We're not rebuilding by ourselves. The difference between having the French on board and not is a negligible difference in men and materiel. It might mean ending NATO and the UN as we know them. NATO is suffering from March of Dimes Syndrome, having served the purpose of containing the USSR. It'll be hard to recreate the Warsaw Pact when Poland's a western ally. Having it go the way of the dodo might not be that bad and make Europe pay its own way if it wants a military presence. The UN might be outliving its usefulness. The current model of the UN only works if the five permanent members can agree to do something. It was dysfunctional during the first Cold War. It was briefly functional in the 90s, when Russia became a loose ally for a time. Now, the French and Russian favor a status-quo that is more to their economic and geopolitical liking rather than moving to more democratic and more market-oriented cultures elsewhere, thus returning us to the dysfunctional UN of the first Cold War. The UN might be worth keeping as a diplomacy forum (I remember Churchill's line about jaw-jaw being better than war-war), but giving it anything more than ad-hoc power means having the French, Russian and Chinese sign off on that power, which is likely more bother than it might be worth. We will have a coalition of the willing, as Bush puts it. It may fall short of a full UN, but may be more effective in its compactness.

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