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Diplomatic Riffs
Posted: Monday, February 17, 2003

by Charley Reese

The diplomatic riff with Europe is about the only amusing thing that has happened in this buildup to war with Iraq.

It's funny that the president brags about having the support of Spain, Italy, Slovenia, Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria and Denmark. Those countries together couldn't whip Iraq. They haven't played a significant military role in the past two centuries. He can call France and Germany the "Old Europe" if he wants to (nobody would mistake him for being well-informed about geopolitics anyway), but they are the powerhouses of the New Europe.

Another funny thing is the United States trying to get NATO to defend Turkey from Iraq. You probably don't know this, but the original U.S. proposal was that the NATO countries would agree to defend Turkey and to help pick up the tab for rebuilding Iraq. All Europe, old and young, said, "No way." So the United States adopted the fallback provision of defending Turkey, just so the United States can claim NATO support for its war. So far, France, Germany and Belgium have said, "Get out of here."

What's funny is that Turkey isn't going to be attacked by Iraq. Iraq wouldn't dare attack Turkey. Any time it chooses, the Turkish army could fight its way into Baghdad without any help from NATO or us. The Turks ruled that whole part of the world for half a millennium, and at the end of World War I, they bloodied the British and the French. They were the only country in that area that didn't become a European colony or protectorate. The founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, once sent a telegram to a British politician who had said Turkey was ruled by "a drunk and 11-man council." You are wrong, Ataturk wrote, Turkey is ruled by one drunk. Ataturk was not only a great soldier and revolutionary, but he had a sense of humor.

The Turks don't fear Iraq. They are only going along with this ploy because they want to be members of the European Union and think that full participation by NATO in their defense would help them. By the same token, the United States doesn't need allies in a military sense. The little countries of Europe are just window dressing so that President Bush can deny that a war he wants and that our forces will fight is not "unilateral." Why wouldn't this "coalition of the willing" be willing, since it's not going to cost them any soldiers or equipment or money? They are woefully short of all three. I'm sure the Bush administration has offered them bribes in one form or another.

I'm afraid that our fearless leader has talked himself into a diplomatic hole. It's hard to insult people and enlist them as allies at the same time. It will be hard to blame the U.N. Security Council if he goes to war without a resolution. The whole world knows what most Americans don't: Israel has defied more U.N. resolutions than Iraq, and it has defied them because the United States blocks any attempt to enforce them. In other words, our claim to be concerned about U.N. credibility is a sham. We use the United Nations if it suits our purpose and ignore it if it doesn't. That's been true since Day One of the United Nations' existence.

On the other hand, the president, having foolishly said he would go to war with or without the United Nations, now stands to lose credibility if he doesn't go to war. We went through this crap in Vietnam; 58,000 Americans died to save face for politicians in Washington who in the end stabbed them in the back. George Bush's credibility isn't worth a single American or Iraqi life. He can say simply, "I've changed my mind." That's a hell of a lot better alternative than war.

In the meantime, he has sent exactly the opposite message from what he wanted to. He has said to the world, you'd better arm yourself like North Korea or we'll attack you. Not a good message.
© 2003 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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