Jewish World Review April 28, 2003 / 26 Nisan, 5763

David Warren

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New attitude


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | It strikes me that something fairly big is happening, fairly quietly, in Washington. It amounts to a new diplomatic strategy, post-Iraq -- of the kind which, given American power, generates in and of itself a "new world order". (The father talked; the son acted.) It emerges less from conscious thought than from years of frustrating trial and error, brought to a head in the Security Council just before the invasion of Iraq. And it begins to reveal itself as a way of dealing with immediate difficulties in Iraq and elsewhere (most immediately, North Korea).

But though not the product of committee foresight, I think it may emerge as the most important single element within the "Bush doctrine" that has been assembling itself since the morning of 9/11, and which may long outlive the administration of President George W. Bush. It may even penetrate into the U.S. State Department, over time.

Until someone has invented a more pretentious expression, I will call this the new "we don't care" policy. It consists of responding to major rhetorical and diplomatic challenges, including organized campaigns against U.S. interests choreographed through the United Nations, with something like total indifference.

But let me explain, not indifference to the challenge, but indifference to the argument given with the challenge. The U.S. will take note of the opposition, and act to defeat it, but without publicly arguing with it. Actual discussion on matters of significance is reserved to allies.

Example: yesterday, when the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, cut a verbal Gordian knot, by stating very simply that the U.S. would not allow a theocratic regime to arise in Iraq. One might deduce that it wouldn't matter whether the thing were voted or not voted, before or behind a fašade of "democracy"; or one might fail to deduce that. Either way, the thing itself is repugnant, and the U.S. will stop it happening.

Example: earlier this week, when the secretary of state, Colin Powell, was asked unambiguously by media whether the U.S. intended to "punish" (their word) France for her recent behaviour over Iraq, and he replied in one word: "Yes."

One had to refer to other officials to gather that this would be done most likely by cutting France out of the consultation process in NATO and among other U.S. allies, and by "disinviting" France to other trans-Atlantic fora, thus isolating the Chirac regime diplomatically even within Europe.

And then dig deeper to discover that the likely reason for this was not just the French threat to use their Security Council veto against the U.S. prior to the war, but also U.S. discoveries in Iraq confirming direct French help in preparing Saddam Hussein's defences, including arms shipments in the last year.

There is unlikely to be, according to my sources, any formal disclosure of evidence behind the impending decision to punish France. The position will be instead the unspoken, "You know what you did, and by our actions you can guess that we found out."

The motive for such punishment is not, however, revenge. The Bush administration is compelled to take action in the interests of basic U.S. security. They cannot allow the French to do things that cost American lives, without imposing a return cost that will discourage the French, and others, from ever trying it again.

(The sight yesterday of the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, sharing a podium with Kamal Kharrazi, the Iranian foreign minister, while the latter issued crude threats against the U.S. -- then of de Villepin inviting an ayatollah to visit France, in the wake of Robert Mugabe's visit, and recent French overtures to Libya and Sudan, was a reminder that French behaviour remains unspeakable.)

Further example: the U.S. response to the latest offering from Hans Blix to return to Iraq and "assist" in the U.S. and allied search for hidden weapons. There was no official U.S. response, that I could detect, only an unofficial, but also unambiguous, "Forget it."

And what was more interesting: when Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, made several remarks to the Russian media to the effect that the U.S. would have to "prove" any discoveries it made, before "competent international authorities", I was able to get only this amount of rise from a Washington source: "We hardly think U.N. inspectors are more honest than U.S. inspectors."

The U.S. is not ruling out future roles for the United Nations or its agencies, in the reconstruction of Iraq or on any other front. The Bush administration has simply ceased, as a matter of routine, to recognize the legal or "moral" validity of U.N. pronouncements. Or as another "unofficial" put it, the U.S. attitude towards the Security Council is now: "You guys continue talking, since that's what you do best; and we'll continue with what we're doing in Iraq."

In other words, "the perceived need for American self-justification before the international community" (I'm translating from French) has evaporated.

I suspect even the British government of Tony Blair is beginning to hear this message from Washington, as they seek to pin down American commitments to a Middle East "peace process" that recognizes European, Russian, and U.N. "partners". Yet another comment, characterizing the attitude to Mr. Blair: "Thanks for your help but your tail doesn't wag this dog."

Again: the policy is not one of retribution, or for that matter of "unilateralism", per se. Its ultimate purpose is to call bluffs.

For decades foreign powers have been able to influence U.S. policy simply by fomenting anti-American displays. This is what Arab regimes do, to put pressure on the U.S. State Department -- it's called the "Arab Street" -- and what President Chirac did, in touching off a frenzy of anti-Americanism in the "European Street", as a way to pressure President Bush to stand down, and Prime Minister Blair to fall down. The Americans, and British, went into Iraq anyway; and the former at least seem now convinced that anti-Americanism should no longer be either subtly or overtly rewarded. It will instead be subtly ignored, or overtly punished.

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JWR contributor David Warren is a Columnist for the Ottawa Citizen. Comment by clicking here.

04/22/02: The test
04/16/02: By way of Syria
04/14/02: The future is now
04/10/02: The new day
04/08/02: Bagpipes in Baghdad
03/31/02: Behind
03/28/02: The triple war
03/26/02: Shields & lances
03/24/02: Shock & awe
03/21/02: To Baghdad!
03/19/02: Hostage crisis
03/17/02: Bush, the "UN's cowboy," is really the "un cowboy" --- a softie
03/17/02: United? Nations?
03/12/02: Blair goes wobbly
03/10/02: Ready aye ready
03/06/02: Logic of war
02/10/02: Play up, play up
01/30/02: No ambiguity
12/05/02: A farce
11/13/02: A game of chess
10/30/02: Material breach
10/21/02: Armed & dangerous
09/11/02: The enemy within
08/21/02: Bush v. world
08/06/02: Has Sharon gone 'wobbly'?
07/24/02: Evil Sharon
06/19/02: The end is nigh
06/17/02: Those darn American imperialists!

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