OPED34 Mistakes along the way....
On the eve of military action against Iraq the United States finds itself with few allies by its side. The administration has singularly failed to rally many to its cause, and in fact has alienated many who would normally be predisposed to agree with its position. The alienation of so many has resulted not so much from weaknesses in the facts, as there are enough of these to justify action against Saddam. Rather it has been a result of the tactics, language, attitudes, and overreaching used by and exhibited by this administration. The root cause of this amazing 'achievement' has been the hubris exhibited by many in the administration, starting with President George Bush. Totally sure of the rectitude of their position they apparently believe that the correctness of their position is so totally evident that they admit of no other possibilities, and that any one who does not agree must be a fool or knave. Thus they have treated those who disagree as fools (e.g. the Turks who do not understand what is best for them) or as knaves (e.g. the French and their double-dealing), not exactly the best method for making friends or influencing people.
In sum, although starting with a strong hand and a world-wide reservoir of good wishes the administration has succeeded in frittering most of it away. However, the time for war appears to have arrived.... It is to be hoped that a fairly quick victory will be followed by the post-Saddam reconstruction of Iraq, and that the rifts between the U.S. and many of its natural allies will be healed.
- As the past several months have unfolded every action of the administration has shown their single-minded determination to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Prior to every action (e.g. the inspections under UN resolution 1441) the administration has disparaged the action and allowed as how it would prove of no use. Any success or advance has been minimized and dismissed out of hand, evidenced by an unwillingness to acknowledge the slightest positive development lest it detract in the least from the ultimate goal of 'regime change.' All checks, failures, or anything in the least bit negative have been celebrated by a chorus of "I told you so." Paradoxically, these are tactics one would expect of someone unsure of a weak case and not from an administration confident of its position.
- Of the arguments available to me to support their case the administration has chosen to emphasize some of the weakest:
- The administration has been especially fond of the 'Saddam is thumbing his nose at the U.N., if you don't authorize war it will diminish the credibility of the U.N.' argument. This argument is undercut by the fact that in recent times the U.S. has shown its disdain for the U.N., opting to chart a different course on a number of issues. Many members of the administration also have openly expressed contempt for the institution. Thus the administration's sudden concern for the sanctity of the U.N. strikes many as hypocritical. Added to this is the fact that there are many countries that have ignored U.N. resolutions for years without eliciting a similar response - examples include Israel (note that the resolutions in question here were not vetoed by the U.S., so presumably the U.S. agreed/agrees with them..), and Turkey (on Cyprus).
- Administration credibility has been further weakened by their multiple unsuccessful attempts to link Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda. When Usama Bin Laden issued a letter to Iraqis calling on them to rise up and resist the Americans, Colin Powell attempted to use this as proof of a "nexus" between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, even though further in the communication Saddam was denounced as an apostate...
- Also unhelpful is that some of the 'intelligence' cited by the administration has proved to be erroneous or shaky - for example the documents that purported to show that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from Niger turned out to be false (the FBI is investigating if the fake documents were intended to influence U.S. policy or were part of a disinformation campaign conducted by another country). The IAEA has also disputed that the oft-cited Iraqi aluminum tube purchase could be used for a uranium-concentrating centrifuge, as alleged by the U.S. Even after the British "intelligence dossier" on Iraq turned out to be a pastiche plagiarized from various Internet sources, mainly a graduate student's thesis from the early 90's, Colin Powell approvingly referred to it...
- The administration has even treated possible allies poorly, witness Turkey. The last time around Turkey allowed the U.S. to use its soil to attack Iraq, even though a majority of its population were against this action. Turkey's economy and people paid a fearful price, both as a result of the war and the following decade of economic sanctions against Iraq. This time around the Turkish military and government were again inclined to allow the U.S. to use Turkey as a base to attack Iraq, despite a population that was against this by almost 90%. However, this time they wished to be helped economically so as to not bear the entire burden on their own. Rather than being grateful for the great risks Turkish leaders were willing to take and paying the price, the administration seemed petulantly annoyed that the Turks did not automatically fall in line but had the effrontery to ask for aid. The Turks were characterized as hagglers in the market.. In the end the Turkish parliament voted against allowing the U.S. to use its territory.
- As parts of the administration have announced each 'diplomatic' effort other parts have explained that this was not slowing down hostilities as time was needed to complete military deployment and get a sufficient force in the region to wage war. This talking out of 'both sides of its mouth' has undercut U.S. credibility and made the President's claim that "..war is a last resort.." appear to be a sham. The administration's words have become almost divorced from reality e.g. when today's meeting in the Azores by the three countries that are the sponsors of a U.N. resolution authorizing war on Iraq is billed by the White House as ďan effort to pursue every last bit of diplomacy."
© SNi 03/16/03