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All in the game

"When you have things to say, you should say them to each other face to face." Those are the words of French Cooperation Minister Pierre-Andre Wiltzer. But do they reflect any intention on France's part to air out its differences with the United States over Iraq? No; they were offered (the Washington Post reported) as a rationale for France's insistance that Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe be included in the African summit that began in Paris today.

The French are such perfect scoundrels they make George Bush (who, incidentally, like Mugabe, is suspected of having stolen his last election) and his deceitful political rhetoric look painfully obvious and simplistic. But perhaps Bush's adoption of that entirely unprincipled, European-style politicking has somehow truly brought the U.S. into the European political community at last — maybe this petty war of words between the U.S. and all the various Europes (old and new and whatever) is the greatest sign yet that these world leaders are, in fact, all playing the exact same game. You can just see it now; when all's said and done, they'll retire together to some sunny ocean tropic and sit on the beach and share a good old laugh at how, back in '03, they each got one over on the other, and wasn't that just the best?

February 20, 2003 6:46 PM

Comments

get off it. we're more whacked than they are. we've got J. Dennis Hastert, noted hunk of conservative cheese, who was actually considering legislation to ban French wine and bottled water -- for "health reasons," he said, and not because France has smartly, logically, beautifully, humanitarily, responsibly dissed poor geedubya and his cabal on this whole bogus-war thing. Isn't that cute? Hastert claimed that some French wine is clarified using cow blood. Hee. Oh Dennis. As the kids say, are you high? Hastert also reportedly claimed (but not really) that certain molecules in French fries and French toast and French ticklers have perhaps been secretly coded by French porn stars with perverted terrorist messages designed to drive American babies insane and cause massive genital warts on teenagers and SUV owners. sorry. i don't know if i made a point, but I see nothing wrong with what chirac is trying to accomplish.

Posted by dan on February 21, 2003 7:54 PM

I dunno -- seems to me like Chirac is making a good-old power grap (of the political kind), and at the expense of any genuine chance for a peaceful resolution to boot; he's playing it up to the masses every which way he can, when if his true intentions were to stop a war he'd be working behind the scenes, preserving the unified pressure that represents the only thing that could possibly push Saddam to disarm peaceably, and trying to convince Bush that he'd be better off, and still come out looking good, if he backed down. As it is, he's done the opposite, and quite stunningly, too.

Kind of makes Hastert look like a Renaissance man, if you think about it.

Posted by M on February 21, 2003 8:48 PM

Well, the word is getting out about why Frence and Germany oppose a war they claim is over oil; because France and Germany have billions in energy and chemical development agreements with Saddam Hussein - billions that could be lost if Saddam is forced out. Pictures re-distributed this week of Chirac and Saddam inspecting a French nuclear power facility back in the 80's drive home the point, and look bad. It casts doubt on the French claim to a principled opposion to "any war, especially this one". It would look even worse for Chirac - and us - if the Israelies hadn't had the balls to bomb Saddam's French and German built nuclear facility back in 1981...

I just love seeing comments like "George and Jack are just about the most selfish, childish, spiteful and absurdly self-destructive world leaders imaginable in this day and age" (Feb. 13), and "Bush's adoption of that entirely unprincipled, European-style politicking" (Feb 20). Saying this conflict is for oil, or that the U.N. debate is a pissing contest between certain leaders, is simply making an ad hominem attack, not an argument. Surely, as you've pointed out, some feel bad about Gore not being president. But take that up in the next election, or come out and just say "Bush is a meanie and I don't like him." If you want to write intelligently about the Iraq / Europe / Al Queda thing, then stay on topic.

Bush's - America's - stance on Iraq is anything but unprincipled. We are staking American prestige and might on the principles that international law is not an oxymoron; that the U.N., through its members, can and should enforce the peace through agreements such as those Iraq agreed to regarding its disarmament; and that non-proliferation of certain types of weapons should be a primary focus of the U.N. The outcome of the confrontation with Iraq will affect how we and the U.N. deal with North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, India, and so on. Iraq is a good place to start precisely because Iraq's position has been so openly belligerent to the U.N., and because we have ample evidence of proliferation attempts and non-compliance with U.N. mandates since before the First Persian Gulf War. As any prosecutor will tell you, you take the easy cases first, and set strong precedents you can cite later.

You obviously don't agree, but instead of emotional outbursts and pouting about meanie Republicans in Washington, why not make some real arguments against the war? Here are a few you can borrow: 1) Saddam is bad, but the most likely alternative leadership in Iraq is likely worse; 2) an attack on Iraq, even with U.N. sanction, will not result in greater respect for the U.N. and international institutions because the U.N. still relies on member nations for enforcement; 3) attacking Iraq will not impair proliferation of WMD because Iraq is merely a customer for such weapons, and depleting political and military capital on Iraq reduces our ability to confront the real proliferators (e.g., Pakistan, Iran, North Korea); 4) the cost to the U.S. in fighting and winning a war is greater than any reasonable benefit, since Saddam could be deterred from using WMD (even though the U.N. has mandated disarmament, not containment), since the U.S. does not have an interest in supporting the sort of multilateralism espoused by the U.N. and its supporters, and since the only strategic interest the West has in the region - oil - will continue to be available since, let's face it, the Mid-East has nothing else to sell and we are the only ones with the money to buy it, 4) the immediate humanitarian costs of a war would outweigh the likely future humanitarian costs imposed by Saddam with WMD, since Saddam's and Iraq's self-interest would lead it to negotiate disarmament for removal of U.N. sanctions anyway, or, 5) as Pope John Paul II has pointed out, even if everything the U.S. has alleged is true, the war would not be a "just war" since it would violate the priciple of proportionality and because other non-violent alternatives exist that are as likely to achieve the desired outcome.

See? Not one emotional, anti-American, capitalist-hating, Republican-baiting, Bush-bashing attack in there. Try it some time.

By the way, your comment starting with "maybe this petty war of words between the U.S. and all the various Europes (old and new and whatever)..." makes no sense. In NATO, it is 16-3 in favor of the U.S. position on Iraq. You can guess the three holdouts.

Posted by Phillip on February 22, 2003 2:07 AM

We are staking American prestige and might on the principles that international law is not an oxymoron; that the U.N., through its members, can and should enforce the peace through agreements such as those Iraq agreed to regarding its disarmament; and that non-proliferation of certain types of weapons should be a primary focus of the U.N.

If that were the case, though, why would Bush make such a point of repeatedly saying the U.S. will act with or without the U.N.? He seems to be staking U.S. "prestige and might" on his own objectives, regardless of whether they are shared by the rest of the world.

instead of emotional outbursts and pouting about meanie Republicans in Washington, why not make some real arguments against the war?

I dunno about the emotional outburst part, but the reason I don't make any arguments about the war is because I'm not actually arguing for or against it here. Why did you think I was?

See? Not one emotional, anti-American, capitalist-hating, Republican-baiting, Bush-bashing attack in there. Try it some time.

Ah, I see whose emotions we are talking about now. But I don't think that objecting to politicking makes me anti-American, capitalist-hating, Republican-baiting, or Bush-bashing; in fact I object in this very piece to French politicking even more than I do to Bush's. (To be honest, I have a hard time seeing where you are coming from here.) And I do not feel that objecting to parts of Bush's politics (even if I object strongly, which I do) necessarily makes me anti-American or even anti-Bush overall. Why should it?

Posted by M on February 22, 2003 12:17 PM

Oh, boy. We are missing the point, aren’t we? Let’s go step by step, as we had to do with your response to my comment to “Add it up” (2/13).

"If that were the case, though, why would Bush make such a point of repeatedly saying the U.S. will act with or without the U.N.?"

Because of two interrelated points: The U.S. has the right to act outside an international regime to protect its essential interests, especially if that regime won’t protect those interests; and, one of U.S.’s essential interests is to have a healthy U.N. and international nonproliferation regimes. It is one of the beautiful paradoxes of international relations that international control regimes rely on sovereign nations for the coercive power that makes them work. Thus we can have a situation where a power has to act outside a multilateral environment in order to save it. That is what is happening here. The U.S. is leading a coalition to preserve the meaning of peace accords, disarmament and nonproliferation agreements signed under a particular international regime, and acting to perpetuate an environment in that regime can function, even though the multilateral instruments of that regime are unable or unwilling to do so. But we all knew this bit of elementary IR theory already, right?

"He seems to be staking U.S. "prestige and might" on his own objectives, regardless of whether they are shared by the rest of the world."

This statement makes rhetorical sense only if: 1) You are asserting that these objectives are actually not shared by the rest of the world. This is factually incorrect. As we know, only 3 NATO members of 19 are opposed, most of the former eastern bloc – who are trying to join NATO, incidentally – are on board, and most opposition in other quarters (e.g., Mexico) can be explained as typical diplomatic deal-making prior to a big push. Are you actually arguing that French and German acquiescence should count more in world affairs than, say, the support of Brazil, Spain, or the Philippines? Many outside of the First World might disagree. 2) You are asserting that the U.S.’s objectives are Bush’s –the man’s - alone. This is also factually incorrect. I recall a vote by both houses of Congress authorizing the President to pursue the disarmament of Iraq, by force if necessary.

"I dunno about the emotional outburst part, but the reason I don't make any arguments about the war is because I'm not actually arguing for or against it here. Why did you think I was?"

My comment was directed not just at “All in the game” but the “arguments” contained in all the commentaries related to this topic.

"Ah, I see whose emotions we are talking about now. But I don't think that objecting to politicking makes me anti-American, capitalist-hating, Republican-baiting, or Bush-bashing; in fact I object in this very piece to French politicking even more than I do to Bush's. (To be honest, I have a hard time seeing where you are coming from here.) And I do not feel that objecting to parts of Bush's politics (even if I object strongly, which I do) necessarily makes me anti-American or even anti-Bush overall. Why should it?"

If you actually read what I wrote, you’ll note that I never charged you with being "anti-American or even anti-Bush overall"; just that the arguments I gave you did not have those traits. The other implication is yours alone, M, as are your “feelings”. As I recall from Frosh PC 101, one would talk about how one “feels” rather than how one “thinks” in order to deflect criticism by calling it an attack, rather than dealing with the criticism’s intellectual content. Further, as I implied in my comments to “Add it up”, your objecting to politicking is disingenuous, given your other commentaries.

It is not that I mind what side of the fence you argue from, M – it is just that you do it so poorly.

Regarding "emotionalism," let’s look at some language:

“Hell, maybe Bush actually wants a North Korea crisis. I mean, if he times all his crises just right, maybe he can set it up so he always has another one to deal with, and then maybe he won't have to answer any of those annoying little questions about how he handled the last one…” (“Spin it George!”, Feb. 14).

Are you actually arguing that the President triggers dire international crises for tactical domestic political advantage? Or are you making some more visceral rhetorical point? This kind of comment is usually heard in the bumpers for political talk shows.

"George and Jack are just about the most selfish, childish, spiteful and absurdly self-destructive world leaders imaginable in this day and age." (“The Media Monkeys Have Surrendered, Too” Feb. 19.)

This statement is so patently absurd that calling it an emotional outburst was, if anything, too kind. Which country’s leaders since WWII should we compare Bush and Chirac to, to test this assertion? Guatemala? El Salvador? Cuba? Venezuala? Columbia? Chile? Argentina? South Africa? Mozambique? Ethiopia? Rwanda? Libya? Algeria? Soviet Russia? Communist China? Cambodia? Vietnam? IRAQ?

This is getting boring. For other emotional outbursts, I refer the readers to the rest of your content. They are easy to find.

To think Copernic sent me here on a search for the latest jokes about the French.

Posted by Phillip on February 24, 2003 2:06 AM

Yes, you are missing the point, I am afraid (just as I explained in response to your comments in the other post you refer to).

"He seems to be staking U.S. "prestige and might" on his own objectives, regardless of whether they are shared by the rest of the world."

This statement makes rhetorical sense only if: 1) You are asserting that these objectives are actually not shared by the rest of the world. ...

And yet Bush still insists that he will act with or without the rest of the world. Why does he say this if it is not true? Moreover, if, as you say, the rest of the world also supports this policy, then Bush's insistence on this statement is not only unnecessary, but it needlessly marginalizes his supposed partners in this action. What's the advantage in that?

It may be true that ousting Saddam is indeed in the world's best interests, whether much of it knows it or not. But I am not arguing against action against Saddam, nor have I elsewhere. I am objecting to Bush's handling of the situation.

My comment was directed not just at “All in the game” but the “arguments” contained in all the commentaries related to this topic.

Again -- what arguments have you seen me make against the war itself?

If you actually read what I wrote, you’ll note that I never charged you with being "anti-American or even anti-Bush overall"; just that the arguments I gave you did not have those traits.

I apologize; I had thought you were implying that your arguments were unlike mine in that regard.

It is not that I mind what side of the fence you argue from, M – it is just that you do it so poorly.

I am sorry to have disappointed you, Phillip. Perhaps if you actually knew on what side of the fence I sit you would not be quite so disheartened. But I'm afraid you've missed the thrust of my "arguments" (as you call them) entirely. (I already explained this (even before you made your comment here, in fact) in the other post, and am sorry you did not bother to read it; perhaps it would have helped.)

As for your remaining criticisms of my writing (and its purported emotionalism), well, yes, I quite agree they are boring. I see no need to defend my writing in general, and certainly not specific passages removed from their original contexts. For the sake of clarity, however, yes, it was a rhetorical point about Bush actually wanting another world crisis; I don't believe that is difficult to discern. And the other leaders you list, who I agree are more childish than Bush or Chirac, are not world leaders, so the comparison is unhelpful.

I am sorry you are bored and don't like my writing, and even more sorry you don't understand what I am trying to get at here, but I thank you for what I assume at least is an honest attempt at discourse.

Posted by M on February 24, 2003 11:05 AM

bomb the fuckers and hurry. deficit spend to eternity. diplomacy by meathook. can you smell it? this is when all that pro-war fifties-style jingoism starts to reek, its fumes just a little sour, a little venomous and toxic and soul curdling. or that could just be rummy's aftershave. mr. phillip sounds like he's gushing, gnashing a bit at the prospect of seeing poor black kids from detroit toting li'l weapons of mass destruction in baghdad neighborhoods. that'll show 'em. phillips have their minds made up so all the writing, rebuttles, blogs all read like regurgitated newsweek cut n paste jobs. "emotionalism?" heh. friggen-a! i like orgiastic outbursts. they're like human.

Posted by dan on February 24, 2003 1:34 PM


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