Monday, February 10, 2003

The Wonderfully Useless Franco-German-Russian Plan

One might have hoped the French, the Germans and the Russians were a slightly more intelligent group than they appear at present. Their latest little plan, which didn’t really seem to exist according to statements by the French Defense Minister yesterday, is now more or less coming together. On Sunday, the Germans were suggesting an increased number of inspectors, the declaration of all Iraq as a no-fly zone and the use of UN troops to back up inspectors.

The genius of this scheme would be its amazing facility for swelling the ranks of foreigners presently tromping around Iraq while reducing the country to something of a UN protectorate. As I understand the situation, one of the main arguments against military action on the part of the US is that such action, followed by an indeterminate period of virtual American occupation, would further aggravate radical Muslim hatred toward the West. Would it not be rather a mistake then to avert war and occupation through the means of, well, occupation? In other words, there is little logic to a position that holds that we can avoid further antagonizing the Muslim world by occupying Iraq without actually removing the leader responsible for the current crisis. As it is, the sanctions in place since the first Gulf War are doing little but anger Iraqis and inflame hatred of the West. Either we go in and address the issue or we get out, we do not rub salt in an already open wound.

The only advantage in this approach might be that the new inspectors could all be hired in Germany which would help to bring down that country’s ever-growing unemployment rate. And since it was Gerhard Schroeder’s need to distract his voters from this particular issue in the first place that has now produced our current trans-Atlantic, not to mention intra-European split, why not give him a hand?

As of Monday however, the emphasis seems to be more or less on simply boosting inspectors in Iraq. This looks to be a French brain-wave. Here again I find myself a bit perplexed by the logic. The French and Germans have been arguing with full force that the world needs to give the inspectors time to do their work, that we must trust the inspectors and accept their guidance. How odd then that no one, from Hans Blix on down, has ever suggested more inspectors are needed. Quite to the contrary – Hans Blix has repeatedly said the problem is Saddam Hussein’s lack of compliance, not the number of inspectors. Thus, as regards the crucial issue of obstruction, the French and Germans are in fact ignoring the inspectors’ own statements.

The divide between the two camps in this affair is growing. The great democracies are diverging along two radically different paths. Democracy itself might be in search of a definition.

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