September 22, 2004


President Bush's Lead Balloon (New York Times, September 22nd, 2004)

Mr. Bush has never exhibited much respect for the United Nations at the best of times. But the United States now desperately needs the partnership of other nations on Iraq. Without substantial help from major nations, the prospects for stabilizing that country anytime soon are bleak. American soldiers and taxpayers are paying a heavy price for Washington's wrongheaded early insistence on controlling all important military, political and economic decision-making in post-invasion Iraq.

Other nations have generally responded by sitting sullenly on the sidelines. Even when they cast grudging votes for American-sponsored Security Council resolutions, they hold back on troops and financial support. With the war going so badly and voters hostile to it in most democracies, that situation is unlikely to change unless Washington signals a new attitude, and deals with other countries as real partners whose opinions and economic interests are entitled to respectful consideration.

Mr. Bush might have done better at wooing broader international support if he had spent less time on self-justification and scolding and more on praising the importance of international cooperation and a strengthened United Nations. Instead, his tone-deaf speechwriters achieved a perverse kind of alchemy, transforming a golden opportunity into a lead balloon.

For the sake of argument, let us allow that the question of whether the United States is over-extended in Iraq is a legitimate one. Let us also allow, on the general theory that the more the merrier, that help in Iraq could be a good thing. What magical transformation of European resistance does the NYT think could have been secured by the President seizing this “golden opportunity” to call for the strengthening of the UN?

We are hearing a lot these days about how the Administration is not being honest about the situation in Iraq. Any substance to this charge pales beside the dishonesty about European objectives and capacities being spread by the liberal media and certain presidential candidates. Should not someone ask Senator Kerry directly exactly what evidence he has that countries like France and Germany would assist in Iraq under any circumstances and what would be their price for so doing? Does the Times honestly believe a rousing presidential speech about international cooperation would send Legionnaires winging their way to Baghdad?

The Times, which presumably should know, is relying on treacly rhetoric to hide the fact that the UN (and, by extension, international law) exists to thwart, not to act. Europe has no interest in American security and never has. It wishes to be left alone, except when it needs American help, as in Bosnia, in which case it doesn’t even bother to send the UN a fax. Not only would Saddam still be in power if Europe had had its way (a prospect viewed with increasing equanimity by the world’s cognoscenti), but Europe would still be resigned to paying protection money to terrorists and be trying to mediate Israel into extinction.

The die in Iraq has largely been cast, which means debates on first principles are coloured by a complex military reality and therefore “nuanced” by necessity. That is not so in Iran and Darfur. It is unfortunate that inherently cautious electoral strategies prevent anyone from challenging the Senator and the Times directly as to how exactly they believe the United States should respond to a UN refusal to do any thing to prevent Iran from building a bomb or Sudan from mass-murdering in Darfur.

Posted by Peter Burnet at September 22, 2004 7:14 AM

Excellent post, Peter.

I think Kerry's "approach" completely ignores the free-rider problem.

If the Euros know we will take the problem on regardless of what they do, then why not make conciliatory noises to the Islamists and otherwise just sit on the sidelines.

It is definitely a girlie-man attitude (see girlie-men and Kitty Genovese), but Kerry is delusional if he thinks anything he can say or do will change it.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 22, 2004 12:19 PM

There may not be much support from the world for military operations in Iraq, but all European nations holding Iraqi debt have agreed to write off some or all of it, and to renegotiate payment terms.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 23, 2004 4:06 AM

The fact remains that President George Bush went gung-hoe into war without batting his eyes! That is the problem and now all Americans are paying the price for what. The men who died in the incidents were the terrorist that did the evil act to Americans. What was done afterward was more of the same by the Bush administration. The Klu-Kluc-Klansmen in the US are still operating in the same manner toward people of opposite color and race. I wish Bush would rid us of he or she so that Americans can have freedom here in America.

Posted by: Uley at September 23, 2004 7:30 PM


Since English isn't your first language, I very much doubt that "freedom in America" is a concern of yours.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 24, 2004 3:45 PM