February 9, 2003


Turning the Tide: Powell's speech on Iraq was a success, but the U.S. must keep pressing to win over world opinion (Kenneth M. Pollack, February 7, 2003, LA Times)
Although Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation on Iraq was made to the U.N. Security Council, this was probably his least important audience. The council's members are not going to vote based on the evidence he presented. They are going to make their decisions based on politics, as they always do.

In truth, all council members already know that Iraq retains weapons of mass destruction and is deceiving the inspectors. As a former CIA analyst and National Security Council director on the Persian Gulf, I never met a foreign government official -- not even from France, Russia or China -- who argued that Iraq did not still have weapons of mass destruction.

All they ever disputed was how best to deal with the problem. In fact, although Germany is most loudly opposed to war, it is the German intelligence agency whose assessments of Iraqi capabilities are the most alarming of all of the Western services. [...]

The hardest audience to judge is the citizenry of foreign nations. In recent weeks, the diplomatic tide has turned decidedly in favor of the Bush administration. After the Hans Blix inspection report and the diplomatic missteps by France and Germany, more countries have been signaling a willingness to support a war against Iraq. However, they are telling Washington that they need political cover with their own populations -- few of which are comfortable with a war.

Powell's presentation was a strong first step toward convincing these constituencies to support a war, but it was only a first step. What is necessary now is sustained follow-through. Especially for foreign citizens who will be most likely to dismiss Powell's arguments or believe Iraqi claims that the evidence was manufactured. [...]

If the administration aggressively follows up on Powell's lead-off homer, it should be able to build the domestic political support and foreign commitments necessary for a broadly supported war with Iraq while effectively inoculating itself against whatever half-concessions Hussein suddenly may make.

That's a curious formulation by Mr. Pollack, conceding on the one hand that the evidence doesn't much matter and that folks are simply pursuing their own political agendas, but then, on the other hand, arguing that the Administration can change the internal politics of our "allies". Aren't people who would be inclined to believe Saddam rather than Colin Powell so different from us in political viewpoint that trying to convince them of anything is futile? Posted by Orrin Judd at February 9, 2003 7:20 AM

The problem for me is to know how different the polis
is in foreign countries. In the USA, it is impossible to imagine a short, successful war against a dictator that is not, after the fact, wildly popular. But we are a selfish, war-like people with little concern that others will do unto us as we do unto them.

Posted by: David Cohen at February 9, 2003 9:19 AM

I wouldn't call us warlike...selfish, absolutely. When war comes, and it most likely will, we will have a consensus from most of Europe (we already do) to do what we have to do to topple Hussein.

Posted by: Bartman at February 10, 2003 8:52 AM