Hook and Lateral

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New at Reason: Is President Bush a unilateralist? Does it matter? Jonathan Rauch considers the case.

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  1. Christ, I hope he’s a unilateralist. The alternative is a foreign policy indistinguishable from that of France, Russia, Germany, and Libya.

    By now, under the “multilateralist” policy, the sanctions would be off (remember, all the momentum was going that way before 9/11), and those “ready to reconstitute” WMD programs in Iraq would be rocking and rolling. And, oh yeah, the rape rooms and industrial shredders would be going at full capacity.

    Bear in mind that the Russians, and I believe other Europeans, are happily selling nuclear technology to the Iranians. Right now. Today. The multilateralists are selling all the ingredients for nuclear bombs to a theocracy with very well-known ties to Islamist terrorism. Yeah, boy, I want some of that on my resume.

    For all our flaws, at least we Americans are making new mistakes, instead of endlessly repeating the old ones.

  2. I know someone already jumped on this, but god … JB says of Iraq under Saddam, “the status quo was working well enough.”

    I think that tells us everything we need to know about the anti-war position (or at least, JB’s anti-war position). There is absolutely no way I can have a conversation about Iraq with someone who starts with that assumption.

  3. rst,

    I didn’t drop anything you fucking liar. See my comments.

    R.C. Dean,

    That’s right, continue to live in fantasy land. You know, when your ilk actually comes up with a true story about France selling weapons to Saddam’s regime post-1990, I might find you believeable.

    Steve in CA,

    Let me give this to you; I am not “anti-war,” I am anti attacking Iraq. It was a stupid idea and it will bear terrible fruit for all of us.

  4. Mike H.,

    Did my comment state or otherwise imply that other nations were not involved? No? Next time I make a statement, I shall pile on a hundred caveats for the pedantic types here. In fact, if you had actually read my exchange with Douglas Fletcher you would see how I said French companies were involved. Again, it wasn’t France scurrying off with the originals.

  5. One of the reasons for silence as far as I can tell is to give cover to American companies that provided WMD materials to Iraq.

    How customarily European to drop it all on the US to escape their own complicity.

    I didn’t drop anything you fucking liar. See my comments.

    I did see your comments. The ad hominem is revealing.

    France selling weapons

    France didn’t sell weapons. France sold Iraq the equipment used to make them. Kind of like the distinction between bullet and gun.

    Everybody gave Hussein WMD, over the course of 20+ years. But it’s only America’s fault, because as I’ve said before, lesser countries use our foul news to cover up their own.

  6. One thing I noticed in Rauch’s attack on France, is that he did not qoute Chirac’s entire statement concerning France’s proposal to veto a second resolution. Here are his words in their entirety:

    THE PRESIDENT – My position is that, regardless of the circumstances, France will vote “no” because she considers this evening that there are no grounds for waging war in order to achieve the goal we have set ourselves, i.e. to disarm Iraq.

    The entire interview can be read here: http://www.elysee.fr/ang/actus/iraq_.htm

    In my mind this has always been an unfair parsing of Chirac’s statement; but in the run up to the war, it wasn’t the first time this occurrred I think.

  7. A few other comments on Rauch’s comments about France:

    “France’s intransigence on farm subsidies has been the single greatest impediment to progress at the World Trade Organization.”

    Yes, right. I always love it when Americans preach on about “free trade” and “liberalization” then pass things like the 2002 Farm Bill or bail out their Savings & Loan Industry. You do a great job of preaching, but when it comes to practice, well, you always fall short. And as to France’s intransigence regarding the CAP; well, look to Poland first.

    “France’s determination to set up an independent European military-planning center risks splitting NATO.”

    This is another half-truth; that would be France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg, and the UK I might add. In fact, creating a EU-military was a joint Franco-UK project to begin with. Oooh, reality crashes into your Francophobia. πŸ™‚

    “France’s refusal to comply with the European Union’s fiscal rules may result in the rules’ collapse.”

    Regarding this there is a bit of unfair labelling involved here; it was the Portugese who first breached it, and when the EU did nothing about it, that’s right, nothing, France, Germany and now Italy feel they should be able to do likewise. And its Austria and the Netherlands who are angry about this for the greater part, and are pushing the idea of sanctions. BTW, the UK supports relaxing the rules – the Franco-German position that is. Quit getting your news about Europe from Fox News.

    “France freely uses its E.U. clout to bully dissenting European countries. It does not shrink from calling on them to ‘shut up.'”

    Actually, Chirac said this, not “France.” They aren’t the same things.

    “September 11 brought horrible clarity to the fact that America needs desperately to keep the world’s most dangerous weapons away from the world’s most dangerous people.”

    Yes, those boxcutters must be WMDs! πŸ™‚

    This is a bit like those in the Pentagon who argue that America needs SDI because of 9/11; the logical disconnect is astounding.

  8. Re: NATO

    France has had a policy since de Gaulle that Europe needs to provide for its own security; I should think that America would approve of this.

    And why exactly is NATO important? The U.S. doesn’t need it, except to provide perhaps a post-war police force as it got in Afghanistan, and it wanted in Iraq. And to be frank, Europe doesn’t need – it keeps Europe constantly crippled by always allowing us to count on the U.S.

  9. at the end of reading that, jb, i had the mental picture of you as a schoolboy who, being reprimanded by the teacher for throwing stones on the playground, began jumping up and down, red in the face, pointing and shouting “THEY DID IT FIRST!”

    and then the teacher saying, “does that make it right?”

    no one claims that france is alone. but the mainstream american left has been shown to possess an irrational francophilia (to offset some others’ irrational francophobia) that essentially portrays french international-broadcast (read: center-left) political opinion uncritically as “right”, despite the nationalism and self-serving ends that clearly underlay it. it is this portrayal that many americans of other opinions see fit to attack, when they attack france.

  10. mak_nas,

    Americans have some very irrational views about France to begin with; I have always noticed this. Put an American in China and they will accept the “strange” customs they find there as part of Chinese culture; put an American in France, and they will howl at the differences between the US and France.

    As to the France is alone part, that is in fact the author’s implied argument: France as the “heavy” to deflect criticism from the Bush administration.

  11. Rauch says “Bush is not going it alone. He is setting his agenda and then looking for support, rather than the other way around.”

    A simplistic analysis, fitting with the administration’s view on foreign policy. Of course, it shouldn’t be the “other way around” (a strange concept – looking for support for a non-existing position?) But there are a whole lot of ways of going about setting agendas and looking for support.

    The Bush Administration’s approach seemed more like “announcing an agenda as a foregone conclusion” and “demanding compliance.” In many ways, it is the apparent arrogance of the approach that makes Bush appear unilateralist. It also puts other countries into the position of losing face. They are required to act subservient to U.S. interests rather than seeming to be a player on the world stage (whether they are a player or not, they wish to appear so).

    A multi-lateralist approach means setting an agenda, and then building and promoting the case with the (apparent) involvement of the rest of the world, so that they can take ownership in the plan you wanted from the start.

    It is, to a large degree, about slogging through layers of diplomacy. It’s messy and takes time, but would have reduced the American cost in both the war and the resultant “peace.”

    And we had the time. After all, the threat was merely “gathering,” not “imminent.”

  12. Well, the most simplistic thing is Rauch’s determination that there is opposition to Bush policies because the world doesn’t like American hegemony. This is another way of saying your opinion’s aren’t worth shit, and is a transparent attempt to deflect criticism from the Bush administration.

    The evidence of the US working with other nations that Rauch puts forward can of course be turned on its head to demonstrate that Europeans, etc. are in fact not simply intransigent toward the U.S. Rauch wants his cake and to eat it to.

  13. Was there an alternative that could have achieved the desired outcome at a lower diplomatic cost?

    All too often, there need not be a better alternative, merely the dominance of a moral philosophy which contradicts one’s own as de facto evidence of a specific policy choice being “objectively wrong.” Chirac’s beliefs are his own, and no one is obligated to share the happy optimistic view that after 12 unsuccessful years of inspections and sanctions, success and peace in Iraq were 10 minutes or even 4 months down the road (especially in light of the sorely lacking December declaration made to “satisfy” 1441). Had this gone France’s way, 5,000,000,000,000 Iraqi children under the age of 5 would still be dying every 90 seconds. Or however that stat went.

    Some of us were not all that interested in waiting around another 10 years while the situation progressed at European Union Speed (we call it “Reverse” in the states).

  14. i would agree, jb — but then, many french have wholly irrational views of america, as well. a sort of popular paranoia seems to have set in on both sides regarding the other. many americans seem to see french political opinion as an attempt to destroy the post-ww2 world order that has served western nations well, and many french seem to believe exactly the same of american political opinion. seems to me that, as rauch points out, what has really changed is the loss of a common enemy that forced compromise onto parties that, now unbound, promote their own interests instead.

    realistically, if still faced by a soviet foe, there would be no thought of an independent eu armed force, nor of reengineering middle eastern politics through force, nor would anyone question the necessity of nato. many niggling arguments would be put aside or resolved for the benefit of a common front.

    i think the point of greatest concern, which has received significant analysis here, is the sometimes-voiced gaullist idea that france… er, i mean, the eu should serve as the enemy… er, counterpoint to american power. that seems more confrontational than the british method of partenr-and-influence (even if more effective) and makes some americans nervous.

  15. Jean Bart writes, ” Put an American in China and they will accept the “strange” customs they find there as part of Chinese culture; put an American in France, and they will howl at the differences between the US and France. ”

    You have a point about France, but that surely has some large connection to the long-established anti-French sentiments of England. Love-hate pretty much sums it up–either that, or the French really are cheese-eating surrender monkeys who make great philosophy, food, wine, literature, etc.

    But even more to the point: I wonder if you spent much time in China. I have, and most of the Americans (and the other foreigners, btw) I met there spent much of their time complaining about Chinese customs.

  16. rst,

    If they were so unsuccessful, then why oh why has there been nothing about actual WMDs found in Iraq? All people can point to are defunct and perhaps re-constituable weapons programs, and a missile program which exceeded the 150 km limit.

    BTW, no one really knows what the declaration made by Iraq really said, except the US and the rest of the members of the Security Council – why is that? Because up to this point, it has never been published aside from its table of contents. We are essentially supposed to trust them on it. One of the reasons for silence as far as I can tell is to give cover to American companies that provided WMD materials to Iraq.

    As to alternatives, the status quo was working well enough. Its not as if the malnutrition issue has been solved Iraq as far as I can tell; and the level of violence in areas of Iraq today is fairly high. In fact, even in southern Iraq its fairly high; its just not directed at British troops – its old blood feuds and the like being worked out. Murder is common in Basra.

  17. rst,

    If they were so unsuccessful, then why oh why has there been nothing about actual WMDs found in Iraq? All people can point to are defunct and perhaps re-constituable weapons programs, and a missile program which exceeded the 150 km limit.

    BTW, no one really knows what the declaration made by Iraq really said, except the US and the rest of the members of the Security Council – why is that? Because up to this point, it has never been published aside from its table of contents. We are essentially supposed to trust them on it. One of the reasons for silence as far as I can tell is to give cover to American companies that provided WMD materials to Iraq.

    As to alternatives, the status quo was working well enough. Its not as if the malnutrition issue has been solved Iraq as far as I can tell; and the level of violence in areas of Iraq today is fairly high. In fact, even in southern Iraq its fairly high; its just not directed at British troops – its old blood feuds and the like being worked out. Murder is common in Basra.

  18. rst,

    If they were so unsuccessful, then why oh why has there been nothing about actual WMDs found in Iraq? All people can point to are defunct and perhaps re-constituable weapons programs, and a missile program which exceeded the 150 km limit.

    BTW, no one really knows what the declaration made by Iraq really said, except the US and the rest of the members of the Security Council – why is that? Because up to this point, it has never been published aside from its table of contents. We are essentially supposed to trust them on it. One of the reasons for silence as far as I can tell is to give cover to American companies that provided WMD materials to Iraq.

    As to alternatives, the status quo was working well enough. Its not as if the malnutrition issue has been solved Iraq as far as I can tell; and the level of violence in areas of Iraq today is fairly high. In fact, even in southern Iraq its fairly high; its just not directed at British troops – its old blood feuds and the like being worked out. Murder is common in Basra.

  19. As to alternatives, the status quo was working well enough.

    How very humanitarian of you.

  20. “One of the reasons for silence as far as I can tell is to give cover to American companies that provided WMD materials to Iraq.”

    What WMD materials? Wouldn’t be any French companies involved in that, would there?

  21. Douglas Fletcher,

    Might be; of course the point is that U.S. sets itself as this moral giant, when in fact it is not – Rauch’s argument is indicative of this behavior BTW.

  22. Douglas Fletcher,

    And further, it was the U.S. government that ran off with the originals before any copies were made, not the French government, and then decided to dole them out to the Security Council.

  23. Josh,

    That’s right, because America invaded Iraq to help out the poor little Iraqis. My eyes are rolling right now.

    On t’a berc? trop pr?s du mur?

  24. JB:

    I wasn’t claiming American altruism, I was just pointing out the hypocrisy of the anti-war side trying to take the moral high ground. When your solution is just leaving Saddam Hussein in power and giving him a few mill in oil payments every year, I’m reluctant to believe your heart is with the suffering citizens of Iraq.

  25. fair to say that all the moral ground in this event is low.

  26. “fair to say that all the moral ground in this event is low.”

    Under the water!

    E. “TK” A.

  27. If they were so unsuccessful, then why oh why has there been nothing about actual WMDs found in Iraq?

    Because Iraq is not a point mass. How difficult would it be to hide a u-haul sized truck (which could hold perhaps 20×50-gallon drums of your favorite agent) in a country larger than Texas? I am especially amused by the notion that a country which used WMD and which admitted as late as 1997 to an active bio and germ program all of the sudden must not have a WMD program because evidence you can hold in your hand hasn’t yet turned up. The actual “reason” that the existence of WMD in Iraq “must” be a hoax is because it is a philosophical enemy who embraces its existence; the actual truth value of whether or not WMD is there is indeterminate. Whether WMD is found is irrelevant; even if it is, those who do not believe it is there will merely believe that it was planted. There is no satisfying the ideology.

    One of the reasons for silence as far as I can tell is to give cover to American companies that provided WMD materials to Iraq.

    The entire world provided WMD materials to Iraq, from French processing equipment to US materials and Chinese guidance systems. Iraqi WMD is one orgy that all of the big 5 (and then some) share culpability. How customarily European to drop it all on the US to escape their own complicity.

  28. hi RST,

    regarding, “the actual truth value of whether or not WMD is there is indeterminate. Whether WMD is found is irrelevant; even if it is, those who do not believe it is there will merely believe that it was planted. There is no satisfying the ideology.”

    finding these stockpiles, as i understood them to be, would most definitely change my opinion on the war. i am not one of those “al kaida-iraq” people, and i’m definitely not one of those conspiracy folks, either. for me, there were no good reasons provided to justify a war. finding these WMDs that 41, Clinton, and 43 talked about sure would point out that, “ha! ha! we were right, you all were wrong”. that would be amusing.

    if not WMD, what were the relevant reasons for going to war? were you for going to war before 9/11? what changed your views, if anything?

    that’s a good call about those people who claim that the us would plant WMDs shows that they clearly overestimate the US’s sneakny abilities. our cultural idea of subtle is to yell on the corner, “hey, sailor, wanna get laid!!!” that x-files crowd is really annoying!

    JB, you classified Rauch’s comments as “an attack”. and you indicated that this is nothing new. did you experience francophobia from the preppy crowd, too? has that changed since 9/11?

    thanks all!

    drf

  29. One of the reasons for silence as far as I can tell is to give cover to American companies that provided WMD materials to Iraq.

    Riiiiiiight.

    http://strategypage.com/search.asp?target=d:inetpubstrategypagerootdlsdocs20030327.htm&search=

    “…when Iraq was on it’s weapons spending spree from 1972 (when its oil revenue quadrupled) to 1990, the purchases were quite public and listed over $40 billion worth of arms sales. Russia was the largest supplier, with $25 billion. The US was the smallest, with $200,000. A similar myth, that the U.S. provided Iraq with chemical and biological weapons is equally off base. Iraq requested Anthrax samples from the US government, as do nations the world over, for the purpose of developing animal and human vaccines for local versions of Anthrax. Nerve gas doesn’t require technical help, it’s a variant of common insecticides. European nations sold Iraq the equipment to make poison gas.”

  30. JB,

    I’d expect blackmail of this sort, and at this level, to be completely behind the scenes. Therefore, we won’t know about it (or if it actually happened) until we’re dead.

    Anyhoo, I was just trying to show you that it’s most likely not an attempt at protecting US corporations.

    Bizznitch. πŸ™‚

  31. rst,

    Well, you are a fucking liar. Please, see the definition of the argumentum ad hominem before you use that phrase.

    And again, it wasn’t France scurrying off with the originals.

    Actually, France sold the Iraqi government a great number of weapons; mirage fighters, Roland missile sytems, etc. All before 1990.

  32. JB,

    1) You’re crabby.

    2) I’d say that if the US Government is “protecting” anyone here, it’s certainly not US companies as much as it’s French, Russian and German companies.

    It’s called “blackmail”, and that’s what we’ll be doing to those countries. Bitch. πŸ™‚

  33. Mike H.,

    If it is blackmail, it appears not to be working. In that case, not only is the Bush administration wrong in its foreign policy decisions, its also inept. Bitch. πŸ™‚

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