Austria has decided to deny the USAF the use of its airspace and also prevents American troop-transports via train to Italy, as long as there is no new resolution by the UN Security Council authorizing the use of force. The troops probably will have to be transported by ship, via Rotterdam in the Netherlands, causing a delay of several days. I have never seen a weaselette myself, but I’m told they are just the right size to clean your pipe with. Sounds handy.
I don’t want to brag, but it took me only a couple of seconds to see through last weekend’s harebrained peace plan cooked up by Schroeder and Chirac. That has nothing to do with superhuman powers of perception; living in Weasel Central I simply have more practice watching them and know which way they’ll jump in any given situation. This plan has the sole purpose of showing French and German voters that those two are doing their utmost to prevent the war and aren’t the ones to blame when it inevitably comes to pass. Some American bloggers, lacking my expertise with small furry mammals were suckered into fearing this may derail the Bush Administration’s carefully laid plans. They couldn’t have known how impotent and at the end of the day inept our politicians really are. Then again, for all their inability to achieve anything themselves they are still adept at throwing spanners into other people’s works. Their willingness to plumb new depths surprised even me. They acquired a little sidekick (a weaselette?) and blocked Turkey’s access to defensive equipment by their vetoes. Actually, only France and Belgium vetoed the decision. Germany merely let it be known that it “approves” of the French-Belgian decision, but timed its motion in such a way that it still amounted to a veto in practice. At the same time Schroeder is sending Patriot launchers and missiles to Turkey, just like the Netherlands, but they will be manned by Dutch soldiers; Turkey will also be guarded with AWACS planes, but these are going to have German crewmen on board. In hindsight I have to say this is vintage Schroeder; he doesn’t even have to fake the courage of his convictions by vetoing the decision himself, he can tell his voters that Germany will neither be involved directly nor via NATO while still helping Turkey to get the equipment it wants without putting German soldiers on the ground there. This begs the question what kind of mind it takes to come up with such a convoluted scheme; at this point Chirac must feel pretty uneasy when meeting his good buddy Gerhard. The Bush Administration for its own part seems to have given up any attempts to bring Schroeder around and is now apparently just minimizing the damage he can do until he has to leave office. The readiness of France and Germany to accept severe diplomatic, political and to a lesser extent economic damage as a price for their intransigence has renewed suspicions that France and Germany are trying to hide some terrible secret that would come out once the files in Baghdad are open to American and British investigators.Taking this premise to its logical conclusion this secret would have to be the arming of Iraq with WMD by Germany and France in order to use it as a proxy against America or at the very least the sale of equipment for the making of WMDs by German and French firms, with the official approval of both governments, just as Lexington spelled it out in this post. I myself am still convinced that the motivation for this behavior is electoral and financial opportunism, just as I wrote here. Schroeder and Chirac know very well that they can’t stop the war on Iraq, but for their own purposes it is enough to show the voters back home that they tried everything they could to stop it. Chirac also is trying to increase his bargaining power, so that the French industry’s contracts with and investments in Iraq won’t be lost after the war. From the point of view of Schroeder and Chirac it is consistent with their former words and deeds to block any help for Turkey via NATO because officially preparing for the war would undercut their pretense that it still is preventable. Those claiming that France and Germany intentionally made Iraq a country armed with WMDs also cite as evidence Iraq’s declaration of its weapons programs, leaked to the Tageszeitung and translated by Deutsche Welle, and also an article by the former head of the Iraq’s nuclear weapons program. Then again: Even if a firm illegally delivered such technology to Iraq it doesn’t mean that that country’s government knew of it or approved of it, much less was or is wishing to make Iraq a regional power with WMDs. These articles also aren’t the whole story. If you want to know which firms supplied Iraq, go to the Wisconsin Project’s Database of Iraq’s Suppliers and simply type in China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom and United States to see lists of firms from these countries. The biggest number of firms comes from Germany, but with exceptions that was before Gulf War I. Back then Iraq was seen as a kind of bulwark against Iran and nobody was expecting that Saddam would employ use these weapons to occupy Kuwait and attack Israel. It makes no sense to retroactively interpret the events in the 80s in the light of Schroeder’s and Chirac’s behavior today. One more thing: At the time Helmut Kohl was Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder’s direct predecessor, one of the most pro-American German politicians. It is simply ludicrous to think that he would that have wanted to use Saddam against America, especially during the Cold War, even more so than it is ludicrous today to assume the same about Schroeder and Chirac. To conclude: Schroeder’s and Chirac’s behavior is stupid and wrong, but Germany and France haven’t become enemies of America, as some bloggers maintain, even if they aren’t behaving as allies should. Some firms may have broken the embargo, but there is no sinister plan to turn Saddam into a weapon against America.
Here’s an excellent refutation of the “It’s all about oil” anti-war argument.
On this business about France and German opposition to the United States attacking Iraq, Mr. den Beste was right and I was wrong. His basic argument was that the French and the Germans must have something to hide, and that was why they were so strongly opposing the upcoming U.S./U.K. conquest and occupation of Iraq. I argued that domestic political factors were sufficient to explain their behavior.
Recent developments, in particular the leaked “peace plan”, have shown I was mistaken.
Den Beste has excellent coverage and analysis of this leaked Franco-German plan. (here and here and here.) There is no need for me to repeat or summarize his posts. Read them if you haven’t already. The recent Franco-German effort to thwart the military build-up in Turkey is consistent with all of this. David Warren has excellent coverage of this episode, though he mistakenly attributes the Franco-German actions to “vanity”.
No. It is not vanity. There is something far more serious and menacing going on here.
After mulling this business on and off today, I am left with the following train of thought. The Germans and the French are not just making gestures of opposition. They are seriously trying to prevent the United States and Britain from going into Iraq. They are persisting in this in the teeth of the manifest intention of the U.S. to go in. In other words, they are putting themselves into explicit opposition to the United States on a matter which the United States has made clear is necessary for its security. This is a very serious thing to do. They are openly and explicitly and consciously making themselves allies of a country the United States has made clear is its enemy. Moreover, the French and Germans know they have a weak hand, and they are imposing great political costs on themselves in continuing to push this. But they are persevering. So, as den Beste notes, where they are going to such extraordinary lengths to try to prevent the US from going into Iraq, and their public explanations are inadequate or incredible, they must have some concealed motive. What motive? Fear of discovery of their complicity with the Iraqi regime is the most likely explanation. The thinking along these lines has been that the French and Germans don’t want the world to know that they have been selling weapons technology to Iraq. This disclosure would be embarrassing, but is it enough to justify the increasingly desperate efforts the French and Germans are making?
Let us take it a step farther. Let’s assume that the French and Germans have been actively assisting Iraq to acquire WMD, especially nuclear weapons. Why would they do this? First, of course, money. That has to be part of it. In the German case, I think it is probably the main part. But they are running huge risks just for money. There must be more. What?
At least in the case of the French, a plausible explanation would be a positive desire to see Iraq armed with WMD, and to assist it to acquire them. Why? Pure power politics. France sees itself in a zero-sum power struggle with America. But America is the Hyperpower. France is forced to dance to Washington’s tune. So, France is a non-status quo power, which wants to terminate American Unipolarity. But it cannot do so on its own. It simply lacks the size, economic power, military power, vitality, efficiency – everything which it would need for a direct challenge to the United States. There is no way for France to get into the same league as the United States. France has tried to build a European Union which would offset U.S. power, with itself as primus inter pares, but it is clear to everyone with half a brain that this project will never be a true challenger to the United States.
That leaves to France only the option of doing of things which positively harm the position of the United States. France cannot do this overtly, because the United States can crush French militarily if it came to it. Therefore, arming Saddam is a way to covertly harm the United States to the advantage of France. The French benefit from nuclear weapons proliferating, because this has the effect of neutralizing American conventional military power. The French benefit from Saddam becoming an unassailable regional power in the Persian Gulf, as a client and covert ally of France, because this makes them a major player in the region through their ties to Saddam, and damages American interests in the region. The French might even believe that they would benefit from the provision of nuclear weapons to terrorists, so long as they were used against the United States. A nuclear detonation in New York or Washington or Chicago or all three would severely damage the United States. Destruction on this scale would cause worldwide economic disruption. But it would also render the United States a much less formidable actor, far less able to make its influence felt abroad, since it would be absorbed with police activity and reconstruction at home. This would enhance the relative power of other states at the expense of the United States, including France. Complicity in the destruction of millions of American lives is a price the senior political leadership in France would probably be willing to pay to enhance France’s political position in the world, if it could get away with it, and if its own consequent economic losses were not unendurably severe.
Now, with the United States about to invade Iraq, all contacts between Iraq and its European trading partners and covert allies will be dragged out into the daylight. Hence the last-ditch attempt to impose a U.N. “occupation”. The game of using Iraq against the United States, if it existed, is now over. The goal of the French and Germans, with their half-baked ongoing inspections proposal, is now damage control and cover-up, to sanitize the place and prevent disclosure of their role.How’s that for a good old Jacksonian conspiracy theory? I’m not sure how much of this I believe. Brooding in my car on the Eisenhower Expressway leads to a pretty dark view of the world. My wife thinks I’m going nuts. But the behavior of the French and Germans is so far out of whack that something very ugly indeed may well lie behind it. And I have always considered the French political leadership to be a malign force. They are implacable enemies of America, not the contemptible but basically unserious “cheese eating surrender monkeys” scorned throughout the wide realms of blogistan. My sense is that the average Jacques and Marie dislike America but don’t wish us any harm. Their leaders are different.
The documents and witnesses we will obtain when we take Baghdad are going to yield up secrets which some people would rather never saw the light of day, not all of them Iraqi. It will be time for truth, though whether that truth ever gets out to the American public is another question. (See David Warren’s excellent column on our government’s refusal to speak the truth about the behavior of various foreign countries.)
This is all one more good reason to conquer Iraq.
We’d better do it soon.