Monday, January 27, 2003

Although I love his site, I think Steven Den Beste is being overly negative about the French and German reactions. Basically, if I read him right, Den Beste believes that the French and the Germans are mealy-mouthed obstructionists who want the right to veto US military action against Iraq, possibly in order to preserve their lucrative contracts with Saddam's regime or even to cover up potential crimes committed with his regime. In Den Beste's analysis, the French and Germans have rendered themselves irrelevant by making clear that they won't back war no matter what we do.

I think Den Beste is overlooking the possibility that the French and/or Germans know that we are going in with or without them and have therefore decided to "free ride" on our actions.

In other words, say you're Jacques Chirac. You don't feel that you owe any duty to your NATO allies. After all, you quit NATO for most of the cold war, and you only joined when things were safe so that you could be part of the club again. Fine. You agree that Saddam Hussein is a menace, but you are afraid that your significant Arab population contains bio-weapon armed sleeper cells. Assuming you are completely self-interested, what's the best play? To make clear that no matter what the weapons inspectors find, you won't vote to attack Iraq.

Result: you win! (1) Even Colin Powell is forced to admit that you won't join the coalition, so he and Bush go into Iraq without you. (2) Your fingerprints aren't on the attack, and if Saddam is even vaguely rational, he will strike at Britain or Australia or Turkey or Israel to demonstrate to other countries that it's risky to back America. (This is a better strategy for Saddam than striking America directly, since (a) we're far away and (b) killing Americans makes us considerably more angry then killing our allies' citizens, although that makes us mad too.) If the Americans back out again, you can broker a deal for a share in the spoils. Even if the Americans win, you still get a reasonably good share of the spoils, because your people have the Iraqi contacts and because the Americans will allow a free market in Iraq instead of actually looting the country.

Of course, by forcing America to attack without UN or NATO backing, you weaken both institutions, but cie la vie, n'est pas?