The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Friday, January 24, 2003
UN - The Frog-bashing is fun, but.......
Axis of Weasels, indeed! I'm as much of a sucker for a good belly-laugh at French foreign policy delusions of grandeur as the next man.
For instance, the grand African summit in Paris to which Mugabe is invited is but the latest in a succession of ventures designed to sustain an African role deemed essential to the maintenance of French national dignity. (Past incarnations include Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, who became his father's 'Monsieur Afrique', gopher in the lucrative corruption that linked the state oil company Elf with the fabulously corrupt President Omar Bongo of Gabon; and de Gaulle's Jacques Foccart, who set up the system of relationships with sub-Saharan Africa following the completion of decolonisation in 1960 . All goes back to Fashoda 1896; if not the Battle of the Nile....)
But...fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, the French have to play diplomatic games. (To be fair, I don't think they're quite alone there.)
I can't believe that the US Administration is taking this anything like as seriously as the reports that inspired the weasel gag suggest: in particular, the French made no commitment to oppose any draft US UNSC resolution  authorising an attack on Saddam. The Germans, of course, have done so. Some axis, huh?
The Germans, of course, don't have a veto - they have the luxury of voting their 'conscience', such as it is, knowing that (excepting the unlikely situation of a 7-7 tie) their vote won't matter. Unlike the Stanley Baldwin crack about the press, they don't have the power - so that kind of absolves them of the responsibility. Schröder has political problems back home: he's indulging in a little Wag the Dog action - as if American presidents have never allowed domestic considerations to affect foreign policy choices!
The French, of course, have a public opinion extremely hostile to the war - polling two-thirds to three-quarters against over past weeks. French government drum-bashing against being railroaded into supporting war (notably from Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin) at least serves democracy in giving voice to such opinion, and thereby working off some popular frustration . It might well do the overall war cause some good in the long run!
The question for the US is, of course, what position could the Europeans take up, short of supine submission to each and every US proposal, that the Administration would approve? Any move, however constructed, to delay the moment of decision will, it seems, be seen as equivalent to opposition. In particular, any suggestion that the January 27 UNMOVIC/IAEA reports provide the basis for delay in military action.
The Americans (in public, at least) are making it a zero-sum game - any extent to which the European position, such as it is, is adopted in the UNSC is a corresponding loss to the Americans. A zero-sum game does not allow for diplomacy. It's my way or the highway.
To be fair, if the Administration is suggesting that disputes over the cogency of the inspectors' reports is a cover for substantive opposition to the war - in particular, to this war now - they're to a large extent right. Most of those looking for more time for the inspectors don't believe that the Administration theory that Saddam is no longer deterrable has been proved sufficiently to justify war; but they don't (I suspect) hold out much chance that another six months - another six years, even - of inspections would do much to clarify the point.
Strangely enough, AP has CJCS General Richard Myers saying yesterday that US forces in theatre have months of endurance; and that the hot weather was no problem because the fighting would be at night anyway.
So, while his boss is all about the big hurry-up, Myers is telling the diplomats that there's no need to rush on his account!
On balance, I prefer Myers for the real USG mood on the state of play in war diplomacy: Rumsfeld's public reactions have the authentic aroma of Captain Reynaud about then. (The blogosphere, to judge from an entirely unscientific trawl, seems to be taking him seriously. Or perhaps it's me who's in need of a sense-of-humour booster jab.....) War, I suspect, is neither less nor more likely as a result of the Franco-German intervention. But some steam has been released, and humour extracted.
Not so much an Axis of Weasels as a bracing ferret down the collective trousers......
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