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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

February 14, 2003

Friedman is at it again.

Tom Friedman continues to hold America back with unfounded assumptions and wishful thinking.
Yes, we can (defeat Iraq and not destroy the UN)— if we, the Russians, the Chinese and the French all take a deep breath, understand our common interests and pursue them with a little more common sense and a little less bluster.
If we had common interests we would be in full agreement. It is the divergence or perhaps incompatibility of our interests that lead to the disagreements. On the one hand, France, Germany and Russia have strong economic interests in maintaining Iraq whereas, because of the sanctions, the US has none. Furthermore all three probably have egregiously violated those sanctions which the US has not and therefor are desperate to avoid being exposed. Finally they all need the UN to maintain its credibility because they leverage it to gain influence over the US. The US on the other hand is sick and tired of the UN.
That means the Bush hawks need to realize they cannot achieve their ultimate aim of disarming and transforming Iraq without maximum international legitimacy. And the Euro-doves need to realize they cannot achieve their aims of a peaceful solution in Iraq and preserving the U.N. and the whole multilateral order without a credible threat of force against Saddam Hussein.
Saying it doesn't make it so. Legitimacy comes with success. Reconstruction can proceed without the war having had the stamp of approval from the UN and the EU and without the assistance of the three. If they decline to get on board afterward, which is highly unlikely, they do so at own peril both in economic terms and world stature.

As for the latter, we all know that the US has been bristling at the "multilateral order" that the EU is trying to impose on the US.
But it is worth doing only if we can do it right. And the only way we can do it right is if we can see it through, which will take years.
He's got that right.
And the only way we can see it through is if we have the maximum allies and U.N. legitimacy.
For a smart man he says incredibly stupid things. We can see it through with the allies we have, thank you very much, and UN legitimacy is sullied merchandise.
We need a compromise. We need to say to the French, Russians and Chinese that we'll stand down for a few more weeks and give Saddam one last chance to comply with the U.N. disarmament demands — provided they agree now that if Saddam does not fully comply they will have the U.N. authorize the use of force.

What, again? Why?

If war proves inevitable, it must be seen as the product of an international decision, not an American whim.

On the contrary. The US should demonstrate that their actions are not dependant on an international decision but the interests of the American people. It should not in anyway give credence to the idea that it is not an independent nation or that the international community has a veto over its decisions. That would be a catastrophe. As for "whim", what an insult. The US has gone to great lengths to debate this in Congress, the Senate and the UN. They have made great attempts to garner the support Friedman thinks so necessary and have had a major debate within the Administration. Whim, indeed.

Friedman is quite content to postulate the negative consequences of the US going it alone, but doesn't at all consider the negative consequences of the US crumbling to the demands of France, Germany and Russia et al.

If the US does not now, stick to its guns, literally and figuratively, in this matter, when will it ever. To succumb to the blandishment of the EU and others, will do irreparable harm to the credibility of the US in the future. In the face of such American weakness, the ME will be totally unmanageable and the US will have many more challenges to its will and authority from all sectors of the world.