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Subject:  Letter to a European Friend Date:  2/5/2003  3:24 PM
Author:  JimiH3ndrix Number:  15116 of 53868

I post this here because I noted DoctorBombay's recent thoughtful post, The case against a war with Iraq. I confess to being somewhat ambivalent about this specific war, but below lay out what I believe is the broad case for it, and the benefits of it.

A forwarning: it is long. It takes the form of a letter I recently emailed to a German friend, who I met when I was a student in Bonn. His academic credentials in international and European politics are as sterling as they get, and he was no doubt provoking me for a response (as you will see in his paragraph that introduces the post). That said, I have no doubt that he truly believes this is a catastrophic move on the part of the United States, and would have thoughtful reasons why; and I can assure you, he is not "just another thoughtless leftie American-hating European peacenik" (That tedious charge is why I am not posting this over at PA). His command of American diplomatic history exceeds that of 99% of Americans. I do below what I can to deflect his claim.

For a bit of context, he is writing to acknowledge receipt of the wedding present I sent to him. A kitchen discussion is referenced that ensued before his wedding between his godfather (a former General in the German military) and the godfather's French friend, Pierre (former officer in the French Occupation sector of West Germany, where he met the godfather).

I hope this contributes productively to the on-going dialogue on war and security,



Hope everything is going well in the west - but you, “Jimi,” should finally do something to stop the empire americain from making its worst hegemonic move in the last 50 years!

Would be glad to hear from you!

Patrick, my good man! Damn glad the package arrived: use them frequently and in good health.

Now, since you've broached the topic, let's talk shop.

The first thing I must say is that at this late stage, the Empire will not be stopped. Iraq's fate and the course for war were sealed by a 15-0 vote in the Security Council supporting Resolution 1441. For some “parties” to step forward at this late hour and say, “Mais, non!” and profess surprise and concern at our building military capacity in the Gulf is surely, well, ridiculous. There was no doubt in my mind, as there should have been no doubt in the minds of voting (and veto-wielding) members of the Security Council, that the Bush administration was not going to feel obliged to return to the Security Council for a subsequent final resolution. Here are the appropriate holes from 1441 through which the Bush administration can drive its heavy armor on to Baghdad:

4. Decides that false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution and failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of, this resolution shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq's obligations and will be reported to the Council for assessment in accordance with paragraphs 11 and 12 below;

13. Recalls, in that context, that the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations;

The Bush administration set the trap that 1) foresaw obvious lies originating from Baghdad (see Iraq's subsequent report to the Security Council about its WMD) resulting in 2) “serious consequences,” which at the time, no one mistook for anything other than war.

Thus, it is a war we will have, barring the unlikely departure from Iraq of the Hussein Entourage, or his sudden death from lead poisoning viz. a bullet to the temple. If I were a bookie, I would assign a probability of either of those two outcomes to < 10%.

Let's now consider briefly the protests emanating from the Axis of E-ville… the E, of course, referring to “(Old) Europe.” I suspect that you would concede that 1) Saddam is a bad man, 2) Saddam is a liar, 3) Iraqis would be far better off without Saddam, 4) He has plenty of WMD, 5) Evidence suggests he has used chemical weapons, 6) The world would be a more bucolic place without Saddam. Why precisely the administration has decided to scratch this burr from between its backside and saddle at this moment in time seems to elude Old Europe: I will even entertain the possibility that some of this is about oil, Bush family honor, and most cynically, about the presidential election cycle (thanks to Karl Rove).

That acknowledged, I also believe—for better or worse—that Bush is also pursuing this military campaign because he thinks it is “just,” and it serves broader American strategic interests. I'll consider each in turn.

Linking the term “just” with any military action that will no doubt leave many innocent people dead always causes me discomfort. But let me emphasize that it does not matter whether I find the current course of action “just,” but rather to believe that I think President Bush finds the current course of action “just.” Which I do.

In opposition to this “just war” are the opportunistic Schroeder and the ever-conniving Chirac. What is it that they want? Seemingly, “more time… more time… why now… more time.” Yes, well, it seems to me that the conditions they seek to establish have a certain, “heads-I-win-tails-you-lose” element, in that, 1) if the inspectors find something, France (and its poodle, Germany) will point to that as evidence that inspections work, and therefore war should not be pursued; or, 2) if the inspectors fail to find anything (i.e., the elusive “smoking gun”), France/Germany can point to that “insufficient evidence” as reason why war should not be pursued.

Again, in all fairness and in the interests of analysis, I will also acknowledge that the Bush administration uses a similar approach when it insists that the failure to find anything is clear evidence of Iraqi intransigence, and therefore yet further “material breach,” while the discovery of anything (e.g., the paltry cache of chemical weapons munitions) is further evidence of “material breach.”

But all this is so-much political and diplomatic trivia that does nothing more than confirm for me that war is a +90% likelihood… and that the Security Council can work itself into paroxysm of indignation, as can Berlin & Paris, but war is coming, and when it is concluded, the Bush administration will point to the cited passages from 1441 as its justification... and when Saddam is gone, the protesters will disperse and the rhetoric that came from Berlin & Paris will appear in retrospect rather cowardly strident. Which makes the current Franco-German obstinacy seem not only feeble, but in vain. And while I admire the pure Realism of unprincipled French foreign policy that permits it to tack 180 degrees when self-serving advantage requires (as I have every expectation they will when use of American force seems imminent… la gloire dictates that France participate in any successful campaign!), Schroeder's shrillness is just down-right perverse.

I would suggest, additionally, that I am not alone in that perspective, given the proclamation issued by the so-called Gang of Eight European leaders yesterday [N.B. Obviously, I was slow to post this letter here]. While conservative commentators here thoughtlessly drool over what they see as vindication for Bush's “Just War,” I see it more as a clear slap at the determination by French and German leaders to equate Franco-German condominium with the position of the European Union. These eight were saying, “Ummm… no. You two are definitely NOT in charge of either any EU foreign policy position, nor will we submit to a political tyranny of your consensus.” As such, Franco-German obstinacy in the face of inevitability has set back, if not exposed the terminal futility of a common foreign and security policy for Europe. Quite a diplomatic achievement… while simultaneously, Blair has shown deft diplomatic acumen, demonstrating the primacy of security and foreign policy formulation outside the bureaucratic corridors of Brussels.

As such, Schroeder/Chirac do not promise to join the august ranks of Kohl/Mitterrand, Schmidt/d'Estaing & Adenauer/de Gaulle as tho