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.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Meezer says:

    Apparently Matthew’s mother didn’t say, “Mathew! If Europe jumped off a cliff would you do it, too?”

    Europe is jumping off a cliff in many ways – some slowly, some quickly. What I don’t get is why so many think we should follow after, or worse yet, join hands and go over together.

  2. melvin toast says:

    Huh? Name an international effort that has succeeded? What major humanitarian triumph has Europe promulgated…ever?! The UN is comprised mainly of totalitarian dictatorships who only hold Israel responsible for terrorism while France and Russia violate sanctions that the their own UN council put in place. In the past 100 years it has been the US that has prevailed internationally. WWI, WWII, Marshall Plan, Cold War, Kuwait, Gulf War… History doesn’t provide any evidence that internationalizing is feasible or would be successful.

    And incidentally, for those who find Clinton’s policies to be examples of conceeding to the international community, please note that Kosovo was never approved by the UN. Why you may ask? Because the Russians would have vetoed any action against Serbia. If Clinton had made Security
    Council approval a prerequisite, we never would have invaded. So much for conceeding to international opinion.

    Let’s also make one other observation. Leaders like Lincoln or Churchill did not look for wide spread support in accomplishing their goals. They saw what the situation was and they were hell bent on doing what they had to do to resolve it. It wasn’t always pretty but in the end they prevailed and we are better off because of it. Churchill himself said,”You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something”

  3. Paul says:

    How many ways can one guy be wrong?

    A real effort actually aimed at European public opinion to convince the world that this is important.

    50 nations gave money in Madrid last week to rebuild Iraq. The whole world knows this is important. They only people that don’t know it are France and Germany. But according to Matthew, the fact they don’t know it is precisely what makes them qualified for the job???

    …with assurance of some sort that this behavior will not be repeated again.

    THIS IS WHY DEMOCRATS KEEP LOSING ELECTIONS. Matthew thinks the war on terror is a mistake we need to apologize for. The liberals think we did something wrong. We don’t have to apologize. France and Germany need to apologize for selling Saddam weapons against U.N. sanctions! Only a liberal would say the U.S. should apologize for stopping a guy that has killed over a million people.

    It’s important to remember that our current policy has created a classic moral hazard problem for our allies.

    Define Allies. Our allies have no moral problem with stopping a murderous dictator. Apparently France, Germany do.

    At the same time, the jam we’re now stuck in is one they specifically cautioned us against getting into.

    Who is stuck in a jam? We lost more soldiers in Vietnam on a bad day then we have lost during this whole war and we are getting a lot more done here. The people that want America to fail keep saying we are in a jam. By no measure of history is this true.

    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.

    If France and Germany really wanted us to succeed they had every opportunity to help out. Again, rather than place blame on the people who sold Saddam weapons and wanted him to stay in power to kill more untold millions, Matthew places the blame on the U.S. (And one more thing… If we EVER reach a point in history where France and Germany need to “bail us out” we can freaking kiss it good-bye.)

    The solution is to undertake a serious public commitment not to pull this kind of stunt in the future.
    OH- So national defense is a stunt… See you in November.

    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.

    The “regime change’ line. To liberals George Bush is just as bad as Saddam Hussein. — BTW who is unpopular? Did Matthew see the results in Kentucky? The DNC asked for a referendum on George Bush. They lost by 10 points. — The Dems are self-destructing in a ball of America hating flames. Matthew is a typical blame America first liberal who wants us to give all power to those who want to see us harmed.

    This is why dems keep losing elections. They are bad for America.

CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?

CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG? WaPo reports looting and other “lawlessness” taking place in southern Iraq as government forces are driven out and Coalition forces continue their march towards Baghdad.

Villagers in Mushirij gathered today outside the command post of the Fusiliers’ Zulu Company, complaining loudly that while the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, dubbed “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” promised them a better life, after just one week they have seen only heightened insecurity.

The main problem, many complained, is that while the British troops patrolling here confiscate weapons from ordinary villagers, the thieves — many of them deserters from President Saddam Hussein’s 51st Mechanized Division that was based here — roam outside the control of any authority, preying on villagers.

“The Americans occupied us. They said they would protect us,” said a 47-year-old Iraqi man, an engineer in bluejeans and black sandals with a moustache streaked with gray. “But the thieves come and steal from our companies. How can we restart our companies?”

“We are afraid from both sides,” said the man, who asked that his name not be published. “We are afraid of the thieves, and we are afraid of them,” he said, pointing at the British troops garrisoned in what was the headquarters of the ruling Baath Party. “The thieves have guns, but we have no guns.”

He added, ominously, “If this continues, in seven days or more, we will fight them,” he said, referring to the British soldiers. “We have no guns, but we can get guns. If this place is still without water, still without electricity, we will fight them. Even this child,” he said, patting the head of an 8-year-old who was listening intently in the crowd.

“He can fight,” the engineer said of the child. “He is an Iraqi.”

Apparently, gun control works has the same effect in Iraq as in the United States.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.