Sorry I did not post that much interesting stuff this week. But, luckily, I have readers who do.
Sebastian Holsclaw commented on my analysis of Steven denBeste’s theory and points out that it only makes sense as long as one assumes that Germany and France never actually believed they could keep the US from pursuing a violent regime change in Iraq. He writes –
If they believed that Bush could be talked out of it, they could attempt to hide their theoretical arms dealings by making sure that the US did not go into Iraq. This interpretation gains credence because the French could have avoided the damage which has been done to the UN if they had known that the US was going forward against Iraq….
I don’t think preempting a US preemption would have really saved the UN’s authority. But that’s not the problem at hand, of course.
I agree that France and Germany might have believed that there was a possibility to solve the conflict peacefully, let’s say until the end of last year. But I argue they arranged themselves with the seeming inevitability early in 2003, predominantly for populist causes and in total disregard of the Steven denBeste argument.
I have argued before that I believe France and Germany could have stopped the imminent war within the last twenty-four hours of diplomacy in March by signing the British bullet point list, agreeing on a date with Blix, El Baraidei and Blair, and offering serious military and political support in case of a negative Blix-report in, say, July. It would have been very difficult – not to say impossible – to poltically justify the imminent war in light of such a proposition of international support. In case of a negative Blix report in July, the Iraqi weather might not have been ideal for war, especially given that most people believed the resistance would be stronger than it turned out to be. In autumn, it would probably have been too late for a US president who wants to be reelected, plus the problem of fighting during Ramadan. So, from this perspective, France and Germany might have actually have stopped the war by pledging military support, which would have also solved the Steven denBeste problem in my interpretation.
So why didn’t they do it? Some people I told this said they will not have thought about it. That is clearly a possibility, albeit one I tend not to believe, given that there are a lot of professional diplomats working for the Auswaertiges Amt as well as for the Quai d’Orsay.
The explanation I favour is political – all relevant players had invested too much personal political capital in the respective positions to switch in the last minute. Yet another explanation is – they could have cornered Bush in the last hours but decided against it because actually smugly demonstrating how the American eagle could be tied would have proven more complicated for the transatlantic relationship than quietly arguing “we could have”, so do what you think you have to do – and if it goes well, we’re in for a free ride.
See, lots of stuff for future phd candidates to write about ;-). For the rest of us, the comment Mitch left is probably the most appropriate way to think about it –
The whole WMD argument for going into Iraq has become irrelevent at this point. The American public has a very short attention span and will have forgotten all about what the reasons were by the end of the month, perhaps sooner. And they couldn’t care less about what the rest of the world thinks.