CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?
Matthew Yglesias wants us to give internationalism a try.
[W]hy should it be impossible? Why not give it a try? A real try, offering real concessions. A real effort actually aimed at European public opinion to convince the world that this is important. As part of the former an actual admission from the administration that it made something of a mistake in thinking that this could be done without allied support, combined with assurance of some sort that this behavior will not be repeated again.
It’s important to remember that our current policy has created a classic moral hazard problem for our allies. Looking at the situation narrowly, it’s very much in their interests for us to succeed even if that requires some sacrifice on their part. At the same time, the jam we’re now stuck in is one they specifically cautioned us against getting into. If they bail us out now, the message will be that the US need no longer give allied opinions any consideration whatsoever since we’ll know that when things go wrong we can get help. So they don’t want to help us. But they do want us to succeed. And to succeed we need their help.
The solution is to undertake a serious public commitment not to pull this kind of stunt in the future. Alternatively, regime change at home would bring a new president to power who doesn’t have the baggage, unpopularity, and record of ally-snubbing that the current president has worked so hard to achieve.
I’d like to think that France and Co. really want us to succeed. For most of our history as a Republic, I’d have taken that as a given. But for my entire lifetime, starting arguably with the Suez crisis in 1956–and certainly since deGaulle’s decision in 1966 to withdraw from the NATO command–France has pursued a foreign policy quite contrary to U.S. national interests. On occasion, most notably the denial of overflight rights in our reprisals against Libya in 1986 and their opposition to the U.S. in the present conflict, France has directly undermined U.S. policy. I have seen no plausible evidence that any amount of diplomacy would have led to significant French support in this conflict.
It is also difficult to argue that the Administration made no real effort to get international support. Not only did Bush and company therefore not think we could do it without allied support, they in fact have allied support. On paper at least, we have forty-seven coalition partners, although the number is certainly smaller than that in practical terms. But our staunchest allies, the UK and Australia, both had significant forces involved in the conflict and are actively engaged in the stabilization operations currently underway. While it would be nice to have some French, German, and other forces helping out, the price they’re asking seems ridiculously high. Better to maintain operational control along with our true friends and gradually turn the security of Iraq over to the Iraqis themselves.