March 14, 2003

Who Says It's The Bad

Who Says It's The Bad Diplomacy That's to Blame?

What do Joshua Micah Marshall, Tom Friedman and the reader who mailed me the below note in reaction to my Clinton post have in common? Answer: They all think recent U.S. diplomatic efforts with regard to Iraq have been roughly akin to a train wreck.

Reader's note: "No American president in historical memory, maybe since Franklin Pierce has had a more 'amateurish foreign policy' than the current one. We are living a catastrophe made in Crawford. Even measured in raw American power. Also in economic strength. Iraq was a relatively easy sell, which has been flubbed beyond all imagination, and to extraordinary cost. I think it is basically because the President was constitutionally unable to finesse the p.r. or diplomacy or whatever you want to call it. He needed a multi-faceted rhetorical attack on Iraq, rather than a revolving kaleidoscope of arguments,which have harmed U.S. credibility abroad for the remainder of the term. Since the administration has decided the world is Hobbesian, we can only hope their term is too: 'brutish, nasty and short.' "

Oh my, we have to go all the way back to Pierce to find such a terrible foreign policy team! And, dammit, the world (despite mass carnage in NYC) isn't Hobbesian, it's a post-historical Kantian paradise if we would just keel over and, oh, sign Kyoto, swoop into the ICC without reservation, ban landmines, give Saddam another six months, and, while we are at it, solve the problems of poverty, famine and other assorted injustices around the world.

Listen folks, we can all likely agree that comments emanating from Don Rumsfeld were ocassionally unfortunate and inflammatory. Powell's job was made harder when Rummy would lump a Germany in with Libya and Cuba--or would describe France and Germany as "old Europe." And, as Friedman has pointed out, more personalized diplomacy, more visits overseas by key leaders like Dubya and Powell, more backchannel massaging--all might have enhanced the diplomatic effort. But to describe U.S. diplomacy during this crisis as "flubbed beyond all imagination" as this reader does (or, per Josh Marshall, as symptomatic of "shockingly incompetent management of the country's foreign policy") is overwrought and polemical.

Let's all remember the over two months of patient, deliberate negotation that produced a unanimous vote on Resolution 1441--not even an abstention from "no adventures" Herr Chancellor or the Syrians. It's not routine that, over a charged, controversial war and peace issue, unanimity prevails at the UNSC. American diplomacy then gained assent for its Iraq objectives throughout good swaths of Western Europe (ie. U.K, Spain, Italy, Portugal), Eastern and Central Europe, the Baltics and Transcaucasus, Japan and Australia, and points beyond. And, contra suggestions that we simply put together a "coalition of the billing," most of these countries provided their support for free because they believe that the U.S. is right on the issue. Recall, for instance, the substance of the "Gang of Eight's" letter or the Vilnius letter. It wasn't always the Turkish carpet bazaar.

But now the self-flagellation crowd is moving at full steam. The toxic Texan is putting the battering ram to the international system. To Acheson's "Present at the Creation" we are now witnessing Dubya's "Present at the Destruction." Can't we just have one more meeting, one more summit, a couple more months--just a little something more to at least get Cameroon and Chile on board--even if we have given up on Dominique and Joshka?

But we have been at this game for over 12 years. Saddam has no intention of relinquishing his WMD. And the French and Germans have no intention of disarming him. The only reason he has shown even de minimis cooperation is because 250,000 U.S. and U.K. troops are bearing down on him. But they can't linger there for years, and they too are at risk. And as Senator Richard Lugar has pointed out, hardly a radical Helmsian voice in the Republican party, and indeed widely respected as a foreign policy authority on the Hill, he'd take the French more seriously if they had their own troops on the ground.

No, the time to act has arrived. Those with backbone and conviction, the Tony Blairs and Dubyas, will stay strong. They will defeat this tyrant and we will all be the better for it, most of all, the Iraqi people themselves.

Posted by Gregory at March 14, 2003 02:41 PM
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