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:: Friday, February 07, 2003 ::

Rewarding Treachery?

Steven takes exception to my previous post:

I'm afraid Erik misses a larger point: Germany must be punished so that no one else will decide to do the same. If we forgive-and-forget we'll face exactly the same thing again, in future, not only from Germany but from other nations. But if we establish the precedent that this kind of behavior has real long-term costs, others will be less likely to do the same.

If we reward treachery, we'll get more treachery.

I don't mean to suggest that we "forgive-and-forget" or that we reward treachery and unreliability. I do suggest that the target and form of any response be measured, appropriate and useful to our long term goals - including the long term goal of discouraging future acts of treachery.

Rumsfeld's latest fails on all counts -- it seems juvenile and doesn't "punish" Germany or move the game our direction in any useful way. In fact, the only real effect is to move German public opinion even further against the US; if anything it will strengthen Schroeder's position.

I think one underlying cause for our difference of opinion is that I draw a distinction between the Schroeder government and "Germany."

Gerhard Schroeder is unquestionably guilty of treachery or something very close. Undermining a friendly leader and taking cheap shots him just to score points on the campaign trail is simply outrageous and demands a response. The Bush administration is fully within their rights to shun him diplomatically and even to undermine him at home (e.g. by courting the opposition, adopting policies that weaken him, etc).

It's a mistake, though, to project Schroeder's treachery onto the whole population. Had there been a huge outpouring of support it might be appropriate to hold them guilty by proxy, but the election was very close and the bump he actually received was small. One could argue that many voters were shortsighted or parochial, but that's typical of most voters everywhere. All elections are local.

That's not to say that shortsighted votes should have no consequence, just that the consequences should be, well, consequential. For example: The election was a clear signal that Germany cannot be relied on in matters military, so it would be totally appropriate to do things like move American troops to countries that are less likely to object to their activities or ensure that no military contracts go to companies that might face political pressure not to deliver on them (see: Patriot Missles, Turkey).

Either of those would hit Schroeder right where he's most vulnerable - in the pocketbook - and would generate little or no anti-American sentiment in the process. Making statements (accurate or not) that are clearly intended to do nothing more than provoke public anger serves no useful purpose.

Rumsfeld's statement was accurate but that doesn't make it right. It's like people who complain that the US is the only country to have used nukes - the statement is accurate but it obscures so much context that it's inflammatory.
:: Erik | 2/07/2003 03:05:00 PM | | ::

Calm Down a Bit

I disagree with Steven Den Beste on Rumsfeld's latest remarks. However much fun it is to see people who've annoyed you squirm, we need to be thinking in terms of the Cold War II chessboard. And "he started it" is not sufficient.

Rumsfeld's "Old Europe/New Europe" statement was (perhaps inadvertently) powerful because it was unexpected and because it highlighted and focused attention on a very real division and a very real problem that few were willing to address.

Ongoing ill-tempered broadsides are destructive. They serve only to harden anti-American attitudes and seem to confirm the notion that problems with Germany are driven by childish pique rather than substantial policy disagreements. If we must be tart, our barbs should be targeted as precisely as our weapons -- Schroeder himself is a fair target, but Germany as a whole is not.

Germany is a friend and ally that is going through a rough patch but it is not (yet) an enemy. We should be trying to woo Germany back into the fold instead of pushing them into the arms of countries (i.e. France) that are truly working against us. Thinking strategically, we should be openly and actively working with politicians in Germany who oppose Schroeder's destructive policies.

It should be clear by now that France is actively working to destroy transatlantic cooperation as part of a campaign to position France as leader of opposition to the United States. To that end, they're in the process of knifing NATO, one of the strongest ties binding the United States to Europe and especially to Germany.

France is capitalizing on popular discontent due to the threat of war in Iraq. Afghanistan showed us that that discontent will fade if the war goes well, so that window of opportunity is small unless France succeeds in permanently damaging the institutions that bind the US and Europe together or in widening the rift between the US and Germany.

France wants to stay in the "threat of war" stage for as long as possible, to keep the European masses riled up and the French window of opportunity open. During that stage, they'll cause as much damage to the Transatlantic institutions and to the US-German relationship as they can.
:: Erik | 2/07/2003 07:06:00 AM | | ::

:: Thursday, February 06, 2003 ::
New Caution

The State department has issued a new worldwide caution which supersedes the one that was sent out in November. The cautions themselves have become fairly routine, but they're getting more blunt about the risk and specific about emergency preparedness.

In summary: Stay alert, don't screw around with demonstrations, keep your papers in order, some spending money at hand and your prescriptions and gas tanks filled.
:: Erik | 2/06/2003 10:04:00 AM | | ::

It Worked So Well Last Time...

So I was reading Mean Mr. Mustard's rant about the UN Security council this morning, and this quote from the Chinese Ambassador sounded eerily familiar:

It is the universal desire of the international community to see a political settlement to the issue of Iraq within the U.N. framework and avoid any war.

Now let's see. Where might I have heard something like that before?
Ah, yes. Here it is:

In my view the strongest force of all, one which grew and took fresh shapes and forms every day war, the force not of any one individual, but was that unmistakable sense of unanimity among the peoples of the world that war must somehow be averted.

This slightly more flowery version is Neville Chamberlain, addressing Parliament in defense of the Munich Agreement.

The parallel is eerie but, truth be told, I think we're seeing coldly cynical political manuevering at the UN, not appeasement as such.

:: Erik | 2/06/2003 06:24:00 AM | | ::

:: Wednesday, February 05, 2003 ::
Credit Where Credit Is Due

The New York Times hasn't precisely been my favorite lately, but I have to credit them for running this Op-Ed piece in support of overthrowing Saddam (link requires registration). It's written by a (Kurdish) Iraqi, so the next time someone asks you if the innocent downtrodden people of Iraq want to be bombed you can point them to this.

Of course, they immediately lost any credit they'd gained by putting it on the same page as this typically incoherent emission from Maureen Dowd.
:: Erik | 2/05/2003 07:36:00 PM | | ::

Cold War II: Emerging Convergence?

I speculated about it last week, Cato the Youngest essentially calls for it here, Richard Perle bluntly described it, and now Steven Den Beste gives it his usual thorough and convincing treatment. Is this an emerging consensus that we're on the brink of a second Cold War?

Den Beste posits that Chirac has accepted that the UN and NATO are irredeemably damaged and that the Gang of Eight, I mean Ten, I mean Eighteen (via Instapundit) have "shredded" French plans to hold the reins of a "common" European foreign policy. Hoist by their own petard, they're now manuvering for the lead anti-American position in the emerging world order:

But if they continue as they have, then they would be uniquely placed afterwards to capitalize on any of several possible future trends. First and most important, they would be well placed to capitalize on any anti-American backlash afterwards, and well placed to become the de facto leader of any potential coalition of nations which might result.

Steven's analysis is compelling, but I think we may all be overestimating the real long-term impact of the open letters by the "Gang of Eight" and the "Vilnius Ten." The immediate impact was stunning, but we shouldn't yet assume that the battle for the hearts and minds of greater Europe has ended with French dreams of domination in tatters. Those letters were just the start of struggle whose outcome is far from certain.

The leaders of the Gang of Eight and the Vilnius 10 do truly represent a "New Europe" that poses a grave threat to the old order. As I've written here, the concept of a "New Europe" might just might be powerful enough to transform the continent. If they win.

The unfortunate truth is that many of the New Europeans lead countries whose populations are opposed to the notion of war and ambivalent about the US. Europeans are generally dissatisfied with the status quo, but that dissatisfaction has yet to manifest itself as a clear political movement. A concerted effort by the French, including a direct appeal to citizens of other European countries, could threaten or even topple some of the leaders of the Gang of Eight and tilt the balance of power in Europe back to the (now actively but not openly hostile) French.

My greatest hope is that the banner of "New Europe" will be enough to rally the reformers so they can present a unified, positive and forward-looking agenda and win over the people of Europe. My deepest fear is that opportunistic "Old Europeans" will whip that dissatisfaction into a frenzy of Euro-nationalism and outright anti-Americanism.

The race is on for the soul of Europe. The reformers have made a surprisingly strong start but there's a long way yet to go and the course is treacherous.

Update: Mark Steyn sees the same battlefield.
:: Erik | 2/05/2003 05:23:00 PM | | ::


Welcome Instapundit readers! As you can see, I'm just moving in. There isn't too much to see at the moment, but please check back. Please also bear with me as I tinker with blogger - with any luck I'll have comments enabled shortly.
Update: Comments work now. The comment form is a bit ugly at the moment, but they seem to work.
:: Erik | 2/05/2003 09:30:00 AM | | ::
Getting Nervous Now

When North Korea's nuclear program splashed onto the headlines, there was lots of blogospheric concern about the apparent inconsistencies in the visible aspects of the diplopmatic process. It also seemed that many doves (somewhat disingenuously) and a few hawks (somewhat sincerely) wondered why the administration wasn't taking a harder line. "Why," some asked almost plaintively, "is the US massing troops near Iraq rather than North Korea?"

The sometimes contradictory and frequently odd public statements on the diplomatic front didn't bother me too much, as all of the real action was behind the scenes. The US, for good reasons, couldn't openly participate, which meant that the announcements and rumors that made it out to the public were basically coded messages to the participants in the real dialogue. We were listening to one half of an already confusing conversation, so it was no surprise that it didn't seem to make a lot of sense.

The goal in Iraq is regime change, and that means a big military presence. The build up to military action in Iraq has been the longest, largest and most deliberate "rush to war" we've ever seen. It has also been the most public -- strategy, tactics and even troop movements are detailed and discussed on the op-ed pages and in the blogosphere. The public nature of that buildup is part of the psychological war against Saddam, every bit as much as the bombers dropping leaflets on Iraqi military positions. Stealth is not a option so it makes sense to be as noisy and threatening as possible. In this case, being frightening should serve to reduce or even eliminate resistance.

The only plausible military goal in North Korea would be to neutralize their nuclear capabilities. That at most a handful of "surgical" strikes on selected targets, the preparations for which are next to invisible. Stealth is an option in this case and being noisy or threatening would just give the DPRK enough time to hide weapons or materials. In other words, preparation for military action in North Korea would not look anything at all like the preparations for Iraq and probably wouldn't be visible at all.

What would be visible is preparation for the aftermath of a surgical strike on North Korean nuclear facilities. The DPRK is famously paranoid and aggressive and they have enough artillery pointed at Seoul to flatten it in very short order. Worse yet, they have missiles capable of hitting Japan and probably have a couple of working nukes. It just isn't possible to quickly or stealthily build conventional defenses to all of those vulnerabilities, which means nuclear deterrence is the only real military posture (hopefully coordinated with some very tricky diplomacy). I've taken the absence of any sort of visible deterrent capabilities in the area as a comforting sign.

This looks an awful like a deterrent-in-the-making. It's being spun as "diplomatic pressure" and a check on North Korean adventurism, but that hardly seems plausible. It looks to me like a limited strike on North Korea is at least being considered, and I quite honestly don't know how they'll respond. I fear that this could go nuclear pretty quickly, and articles like this and this (via OxBlog) don't make me feel any better.
:: Erik | 2/05/2003 07:47:00 AM | | ::

:: Tuesday, February 04, 2003 ::
Red-Tape Curtain About to Fall?

Has Donald Rumsfeld unwittingly begun the liberation of Western Europe from reflexive oppositionism and sclerotic bureacracy?

His "Old Europe/New Europe" meme is taking hold broadly and in some surprising places (see the Vanguardia article cited here at Iberian Notes) and "New Europe" is becoming a rallying cry for the forces that want to save Europe from itself.

The sputtering outrage from the establishment and the chattering classes serves only to highlight the difference between the dynamic and forward-looking "new" Europeans and stodgy, reactionary old Europe. I'm sure the "age is wisdom" tack seemed clever in the heat of battle, but by using it they've endorsed the notion that there really is a "new" Europe and placed themselves firmly in opposition to it. Once tempers have cooled, they'll find themselves on the wrong side of a real and growing divide.

The self-satisfied tone of the old European response is out of touch with the reality of Europe today - it probably wasn't, um, wise to smugly defend the policies and policy makers that gave us the massacre at Srebenica (not to mention widespread unemployment, dissatisfaction and economic stagnation in the West). Most Europeans understand the serious problems facing Europe and the failure to date of European diplomatic efforts, even if many are uncomfortable with the "American" prescription for addressing those problems. We just might discover that the necessary bitter medicine is easier to swallow if the label reads "New Europe" instead.

I'm starting to wonder if we'll look back on this as a turning point similar to Reagan's "Evil Empire" - a statement so simple, stark and true that it ends up changing the world.
:: Erik | 2/04/2003 08:59:00 AM | | ::

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