Go Negative on the Allies

Duke political scientist Peter Feaver argues in today’s NYT that we should “Go Negative on the Allies.” [RSS]

For months, Senator John Kerry has been among the loudest in the chorus criticizing President Bush for not persuading our allies to shoulder more of the Iraq burden. But now it is time for Mr. Kerry to start admonishing the allies. The problem today is not the administration’s reluctance to woo allies, but rather the allies’ reluctance to be wooed.

In the past few weeks, Mr. Bush has, with the help of the United Nations, identified Iraqi leadership that appears to have sufficient domestic and international legitimacy to assume sovereignty after June 30. The next phase of the transfer of power has won unanimous endorsement from the Security Council. The Group of 8 summit meeting last week, however, showed that our on-again allies were reluctant to move beyond lip service to much real aid, either in the form of troops or Iraqi debt relief.

For instance, Senator Kerry says NATO should assume a greater role in Iraq. This prospect is blocked by a stubborn president, but not the one named in Mr. Kerry’s critique. Rather it is President Jacques Chirac of France who rejects a NATO role.

Mr. Kerry also said that the allies would find it difficult to contribute without greater cover from the United Nations. We now have it. Why can’t Mr. Kerry find it in his heart to express a modicum of disappointment with, say, the Germans, who for months have vowed not to provide troops even with United Nations endorsement, even if NATO authorizes them to do so?

Feaver spends the rest of the column discussing that issue, chalking it up to election year politics.

The charge that the Bush administration has pursued a “go it alone” strategy is probably the most asinine of the many arguments being put forth by the other side. It seems to be sticking even though it has no basis in fact. Indeed, one could argue that many of the misteps in Iraq–the overemphasis of the WMD rationale for the war, the failure to get a “second” UN resolution, and slowness to act in a couple of critical situations–came as a direct result of trying to attract token international support.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Boyd says:

    Candidate Kerry would never do anything to pressure Europeans to do more in Iraq. It might jeopardize his status as “Most Desired U.S. President” abroad.