September 04, 2003

Armitage Scores Every once in

Armitage Scores

Every once in a while you hear a story from Washington where a sub-principal, ie. a Deputy, Under or Assistant Secretary of some department or other is instrumental in scoring a major policy victory. Much has been made recently about Powell's best friend, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, going public (ostensibly before the White House had signed off) with the idea of pursuing a new U.N. resolution that authorized a U.N. multinational force for Iraq under overall U.S. command.

As it happens, I'm passing (very rapidly) through Washington today and had my first chance at reading a paper edition of the WaPo in a long time. This is the type of inside the beltway story the WaPo excels in covering.

Today, they have an excellent article on some of the bureaucratic battling that was occuring behind the scenes that ultimately pushed Dubya to decide to approach the U.N (leaving aside other contributing factors like the difficult environment in Iraq, of course).

Powell's task (assembling a U.S. led multinational force under U.N. umbrella) will (like many before) perhaps prove thankless given this initial reaction from Germany and France. That said, the parties are now in early jockeying for position mode. The negotiations haven't yet begun in earnest. Concessions from both sides may yet allow for an intelligent, well-thought out compromise.

Still, this early reaction from Berlin and Paris isn't a good sign. It's too early to tell whether they really are soberly considering their long-term national interests at this stage. Such interests very much necessitate creation of a viable polity in Iraq. Berlin and Paris claim the currently envisioned U.S draft proposal doesn't give the U.N. a big enough role and thus won't help Iraq overcome its current difficulties. But this smells more of policy driven by misguided national pride than a serious effort on determining how best to have the international community expeditiously pursue getting a force in Iraq. A force that would have the best chance at making Iraqi society safer and getting services on line so as to resuscitate the coalition's chances of getting an effective Iraqi government in place within, say, a two-year time frame.

Regardless, let's hope, with some tough, intelligent diplomacy in the coming days aimed at bridging the gaps among the parties--that the French and Germans might be willing to play ball in serious fashion. If not, we might again be scuttled at the U.N. thus reinforcing the view of civilian Pentagon types who allegedly didn't want to go back to the U.N. because, more or less, they view it as useless. And then we'd be still stuck with too few troops in Iraq unless we send more of our own GIs. Powell has to be very tough, convincing, and tireless, while not appearing to be issuing diktats, in pursuing a U.N. resolution that (a non-obstinate and reasonable) Dubya would be able to accept. Let's hope he can pull it off.

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