March 16, 2003

Quai D'Orsay Revisionism Watch Even

Quai D'Orsay Revisionism Watch

Even before a shot is fired, the revisionism in Dominique's ranks is proceeding with breathtaking speed (and shamelessness):

"The French official insisted that France would have supported the use of force and even participated in a military coalition if the United States had shown more patience with the inspection process."

Yeah sure, and if you believe that whopper, have you heard the one about how Joshka Fischer is worried that Dubya is going too easy on Iraq given its flagrant violations of 1441? There's apparently a lot of discomfort at the German Foreign Ministry about it...

The WaPo article linked above also goes on to chronicle some of the shortcomings of U.S. diplomacy in the past months. As pointed out below, I believe that view--albeit with some reservations--is exagerrated. For instance, there are the increasingly breezy comparisons regarding how Bush pere's adminstration handled cobbling the Gulf War I coalition with such consummate skill--whilst the current crowd botches the coalition-building with one blunder after another. Tom Friedman picked up this theme with a vignette about how James Baker III, Bush 41's Secretary of State, dropped by the Azores too, but merely to "refuel" his jet on the way to ostensibly more important locales.

As I've said before, less heavy-handedness and/or abrasive tactics a la Rumsfeld, more travel and face-to-face by key Administration actors with their foreign counterparts--all this might have helped. But we have to recall that much of the world, at least those continuing to look at the threat environment through pre-9/11 lens, don't realize why Saddam's blatant disregard of 1441 merits swift riposte. Put differently, when Saddam's forces were sitting in Kuwait--people got it, they saw a traditional casus belli, one state invading another. Today, many don't get the issue of the intersection of WMD proliferation, rogue regimes and transnational terror groups. (Leaving aside for the moment the presence of many other important reasons the diplomacy was so difficult, for instance, the opportunistic resurrection of neo-Gaullist projects). As the inevitable post-mortems regarding the diplomacy behind the coalition building effort pick up pace, I think where I come down is that, yes, perhaps the U.S. might have made a better go at persuasion in certain quarters, but ultimately, I just don't think it would have made a material difference. I think this Adminstration source gets it about right:

U.S. officials argue that it is clear that France -- which has led the U.N. opposition to U.S. policy -- always intended to block a war, and that no amount of diplomacy would have bridged the gap. A senior official said the administration could be faulted for not grabbing at opportunities and for not showing a greater commitment to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in a bow to European public opinion. But he said it would not have made a difference.

"If we were diplomatically perfect, I'm not sure it would have fundamentally changed the outcome," he said. "The goal is not to reach consensus at any price."

Posted by Gregory at March 16, 2003 04:06 PM
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