:: Bite The Wax Tadpole ::

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:: Saturday, March 08, 2003 ::

Naked protestors are one thing but now they're mentally undressing other people. From an MSNBC article about weekend protests:

�Imagine President Bush nude addressing the state of the union. Imagine Saddam Hussein nude.�

I really didn't need either of those images, thank you very much.

On the other hand, the description of that particular rally makes it sound pretty, um, interesting:

�Women are most affected by war,� [Danny] Glover said, also acknowledging International Women�s Day. �It is the real caregivers of this mother Earth who are most devastated.�

Joining them on federal grounds were four women followers of the Raelian sect who stripped down to their thong underwear as a sign of opposition to war. The sect believes life on Earth was created by space aliens and claims to have produced human clones.

�Whenever everybody undresses, the ego goes away and then we can make decisions,� said Nadine Gary.

Perhaps the most thorough and insightful treatment of the complex geopolitical difficulties posed by the situation in Iraq that I've ever seen. Nothing but top-tier intellectuals in that group.

I'd say more, but Russel Working has already written the final word on the topic of these sorts of "protests."
:: Erik | 3/08/2003 09:37:00 PM | | ::

The UN Follies

Dean Esmay does a very nice job of putting the UN follies in perspective. His characterization of President Bush is spot on, too.
:: Erik | 3/08/2003 11:11:00 AM | | ::

The End of the UN is coming. And it'll be much sooner and much more brutal than most people expect.

Even those who've been predicting the demise of the UN seem to expect that it will fade into irrelevance. The weasel-bloc nations are betting that Bush willl just ignore the UN for the remainder of his current term, and that his replacement (in two years) will be eager to get back in the good graces of the UN. Even if Bush "temporarily" withdraws, they'll spin it as a fit of pique, batten down the hatches, and wait for his replacement. Two years of irrelevance is a small price to pay for the glory they've received, and the light at the end of a tunnel is an American President who will suck up to Europe like no one ever has.

They've seriously misread the situation.

Bush will not simply ignore the UN for the remainder of his term. He's a bit focused on Iraq at the moment, but once he turns his attention to the UN, he will systematically discredit and dismantle it to the best of his ability. And he'll be turning his attention to the UN very soon.

France and her followers have worked very hard to wring the maximum benefit out of the standoff at the UN. In the process, they've placed the credibility of the UN in direct opposition to that of the US, which means that the only way for President Bush to regain credibility is to trash the UN.

But that's actually secondary. Their real mistake was to demonstrate in no uncertain terms that the UN in its current form is a clear and present threat to the security of the United States as Bush sees it, and President Bush has made it very clear that he sees it as his duty to eliminate threats to the United States. Dominique de Villepin might as well have painted a giant bullseye on the side of the UN building.

The attack on the UN will begin at about the same time as the attack on Iraq, on the theory that its better to take the worst of the PR damage all at once. In the first salvo, Bush will publicly flay the UN and directly take on the weasels in the statesmanlike speech his supporters have been waiting for (which might be the speech that announces the start of hostilities in Iraq). He may well also "temporarily" withdraw from the UN but I don't think we'll see a joint walkout just yet, and Bush will probably offer to work with other nations to "reform the UN into an effective body." This last bit is primarily for Tony Blair's domestic benefit, and the UK will take the lead on proposing ways to reform the UN. None of them will work, but it's a PR exercise so that's beside the point.

In the medium to long term, the best and most effective weapon Bush will have against the UN any time soon is Iraq itself. Handled properly, his greatest liability can become his strongest asset. The war will be waged with exquisite concern for civilian casualties and the postwar peace should be managed cleanly, transparently and with extraordinary generosity toward the people of Iraq. And look for a PR campaign emanating from Iraq itself, aimed directly at those who supported Saddam - every hidden weapon and every atrocity that is uncovered in Iraq will be laid directly on France's doorstep.

If Iraq plays out as expected and world opinion calms down enough that Blair (and Bush) are feeling secure again, they'll decide that the UN is beyond hope and propose a complete replacement -- one built from the ground up to promote freedom in a unipolar world (Evan Coyne Mahoney's Alliance of Liberty is a pretty good template). The new entity might even arise from the reconstruction of Iraq itself, which will be run by (mostly) non-UN multinational entities and via non-UN multilateral agreements (ad-hoc coalitions of the willing, able and trustworthy).

Bush might surprise me and go straight to a replacement for the UN, but it seems like that would be too much for Tony Blair to survive right now and Bush won't sacrifice him. Bush values loyalty and knows that it goes both ways, and he understands that Tony Blair is essential for the next stages in Bush's project to make the world a safer place.

Update: I really have to remember to read USS Clueless before I sit down to write. Steven Den Beste is on the same wavelength.

Update: Andrew at Pathetic Earthlings wrote about possible non-UN multilateral administration of Iraq several weeks ago. I'll admit that the notion of France lobbying Poland has a certain appeal, but it's unlikely -- effectiveness is primary, and whatever structures emerge can't even appear to have been designed to retaliate against France. The new Iraqi government, on the other hand, can do whatever it wants.

:: Erik | 3/08/2003 02:33:00 AM | | ::
:: Friday, March 07, 2003 ::
I think I've figured out why Saddam confidently predicts victory, should America attack. He's seen this video.
:: Erik | 3/07/2003 10:04:00 AM | | ::
Peace in Our Time

I was listening to the UN presentations on the radio this morning, and the Russian foreign minister just said that the security council was "laying the foundation for peace in our time."

Yeah, that worked so well the first time. It's bad enough for peace protestors to be historically illiterate, but the Russian foreign minister?
:: Erik | 3/07/2003 09:17:00 AM | | ::

:: Thursday, March 06, 2003 ::
The more the merrier?

President Bush made it clear this evening that he will push ahead with a new UN resolution, regardless of whether he thinks it will be approved. He also made it clear that plans for Iraq will be largely affected by the outcome -- he has already made the determination that Saddam is not complying and the second resolution is reallly a challenge to the UN to prove that its words actually mean anything.

This is a pretty good approach. Anyone who's paying attention understands the real contents of resolution 1441 and the meaning of a no vote or a veto. Unfortunately, most people aren't paying very close attention and most media coverage leaves the impression that the full text of resolution 1441 is "Bomb Iraq." The end result is that forcing a vote will deliver the message that the President intends, but only to people who already understand it.

I think I have a better idea. Submit two resolutions for consideration.

The first resolution would affirm that Iraq is in full compliance with resolution 1441 -- that the WMD declaration was accurate and that Iraq has complied with and cooperated fully in implementing the requirements of that resolution.

After that resolution is defeated, the US et all would submit proposed resolution 1442, with no changes.

Even if both resolutions fail, forcing a vote on two resolutions would achieve several things:

  • It forces the burden of explanation onto France et al. If they vote no on both resolutions, they'll have to explain the difference between "not yes" and "no."

  • It underlines the fact that the proposed 1442 is not a resolution to "authorize war" but a judgement on Saddam's compliance with previous resolutions that already authorize war.

  • The fact that it is so completely unexpected would prompt lots of media discussion about the real contents of the proposed resolutions and smash the notion that the proposed resolution 1442 "authorizes war."

  • As with many ideas, I can't tell at first if it's clever or stupid.

    Update: As it turns out, the proposed amendment goes in sort of this direction by attempting to force a second vote which positively affirms that Iraq has fully and completely. The fact that it has a trigger date makes it a non-starter, though. If they want to force the council to affirm (or deny) that Iraq is in full compliance, they should stop playing games and just do so.

    :: Erik | 3/06/2003 07:55:00 PM | | ::
    Next question?

    Citing news reports that the UN is drawing up plans for the postwar administration of Iraq, Mark at Web.Kafe asks the question "UN Control of Iraq - Good or Bad?"

    Let me ponder this for a second. Okay, I'm done. The answer is:


    It's true that the world will be watching for signs that America is "stealing Iraqi oil" or building an empire and is predisposed to believe the worst. Handing control to the UN has a superficial appeal as a simple and ostentatious way for the administration to keep its hands clean. In the medium- to long-term, though, it would be a disaster.

    Just consider the sterling job that the UNHCR has done for the Palestinians and the blue helmet's heroic defense of Srebenica. The UN will set up a permanent aid bureaucracy while France and Russia graciously offer to patrol Iraq's oilfields. Outside of Baghdad and the oilfields, tentative peacekeepers and ethnic tensions will lead everyone to arm themselves to the teeth.

    In the best case, one of the thugs hits on the right combination of toadying and blackmail, and the UN hands over control of everything but the oilfields before internal strife gets out of hand. The new strongman keeps things calm in the short term but setting up another thugocracy feeds the cynicism and fear of neocolonialism that is a real root cause of Arab discontent.

    In the worst case, the UN "powers" can't find one thug who is willing to suck up to all of the players simultaneously, so they back different factions. Turkey and Iran get involved "to ensure security" and pretty soon we're looking at Afghanistan all over again but with guns and money galore.

    The postwar administration of Iraq absolutely must be transparent, squeaky clean and temporary. Other nations should participate in specific aspects of the reconstruction (individually or under UN auspices), but the UN must not get overall administrative control.

    :: Erik | 3/06/2003 03:03:00 PM | | ::

    :: Tuesday, March 04, 2003 ::
    So much for my prediction that the worst of the diplomatic head-butting was over. At the time it seemed that Tony Blair and "new" Europe had held steady while Chirac had flinched. Alas, the dynamic trio are at it again, with Russia and France stopping just short of promising a veto.

    Steven Den Beste thinks we're seeing another game of diplomatic chicken and that the goal is to prevent the resolution from ever coming to a vote. I don't think they really care whether it comes to a vote or not -- the name of the game now is to hurt the US and Britain as much as possible. Chirac's ultimate dream of toppling Blair might even be within reach, and Chirac probably thinks that would be enough to stop the war. As an added bonus, Blair's fall would pressure those upstarts who had the temerity to challenge Franco-German stewardship of Europe.

    Here are the various scenarios, as I see them and in probability order (most likely first):

  • The coalition attacks Iraq without UN approval
    This would enrage pretty much everyone except the "American Street" (with a solid assist from France et al, no doubt). Blair's position is secure during the fighting, but he'd be at risk again as soon as the situation stabilizes. It doesn't matter much whether they drop the new resolution or if they try and fail. The least damaging (but still bad) scenario is if France is forced to veto. This looks a lot like a new cold war, but there's enough support left for the US that Europe doesn't harden into a solid anti-American bloc.

  • UN haggling takes long enough that Blair falls -- The US attacks anyway
    The British pull out of the coalition but Bush presses on regardless. The consequences for US-European relations are disastrous. A domino effect clears out most of the leaders who stood up to Chirac, and the growing gulf between the US and Europe becomes a chasm. From this point on, it would truly be the US against (most of) the world in a new cold war.

  • The coalition attacks Iraq with grudging UN approval
    This is the best outcome Bush and Blair can hope for. The politicking is open enough that many voters would still be disgruntled, but they wouldn't be outraged. Blair probably survives in this case, and the tensions between the US and Europe ebb (very) slowly.

  • UN haggling takes long enough that Blair falls -- The US backs off
    Bush and the US become a laughingstock. The security council makes noises about Iraq until the public stops paying attention, declares victory, and France and Russia get to form their "counterweight" to the now severely weakened hyperpower. Whoever wins the 2004 presidential election (not Bush) busily sets about trying to "fix things" with Europe by immediately surrendering American sovereignty, security and economic interests to any organization or agreement that claims to be multilateral.

  • So if you're France, what's not to like?

    Update: Andrew at Pathetic Earthlings comments. If scenario 4 plays out, I'll be in the rubber room next door.

    Update: Looks like option 1, folks. The President made it clear that he's going to force a vote at the UNSC and then go ahead, win or lose.

    :: Erik | 3/04/2003 09:19:00 PM | | ::
    :: Monday, March 03, 2003 ::
    If Angela Merkel's trip to the US was actually a cynical ploy for domestic political advantage, it didn't work. I'll grant that Schr�der took a few shots at Karneval, too, but this parade float featuring Merkel is mighty harsh. And eye-catching.

    I still give her the benefit of the doubt and think that it was an honest (and risky) attempt to mend fences a bit.
    :: Erik | 3/03/2003 11:26:00 PM | | ::

    From a bit further north, Pravda weighs in:

    Iraq has a right to use the same instruments of war that Israel and the USA do. It is enough to compare words of Saddam Hussein said at the above-mentioned meeting with Russian parliamentarians and texts of Bush� hysterics in order to make sure that the Iraqi leader deserves much more trust than America�s president. The advantage of the latter is based upon military force, not intellect. In this case it is more immoral to indulge in �the right of the strong� than in the times when Japan attacked China and when Germany occupied Czechoslovakia.

    Got that? Saddam deserves trust and Bush is worse than Hitler.
    :: Erik | 3/03/2003 10:16:00 PM | | ::
    This Just In......from the KCNA (North Korean) newswire:

    Delegates of the Bulgarian Communist Party, the Bulgarian Communist Party (Marxist), the Workers' Party of Bulgaria (communist), the Bulgarian Communist Party (bolshevik), the Bulgarian Communists Union, the Bulgarian Movement for Justice and Humanism, the Romanian Working Party and the Socialist Party of Romania released a joint statement on February 13, denouncing the U.S. moves to stifle the DPRK.

    Is it just me or does it sound like this announcement came from eight guys in black sitting in a Sofia cafe?
    :: Erik | 3/03/2003 09:43:00 PM | | ::

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