almost a diary, Iraq

The Next Tirpitz?

The older Tirpitz. Ha – I knew it. My gentle readers, I am going to tell you a little secret.

On last new years eve I bet a young German Navy officer for six bottles of Champagne that, in ten years, Germany would have at least ordered a brand new Aircraft carrier… and today – according to Spiegel Online – Roland Koch, the premier of the German state of Hessen and friend of George W. and eternal conservative hopeful in the CDU took advantage of a day trip to the coast to explain that, well, the changed requirements of military interventions might very well include ordering an Aircraft Carrier…

Don’t worry, Roland Koch is not quite the next Tirpitz. This is, above all, funny – for the time being. But yes, the Navy brass will vote CDU next time… ;).

And for the real deal, Harvard’s Andrew Moravcsik shares his thoughts about „Striking a New Transatlantic Bargain“ (full text requires subscription) in the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs, entitled „After Saddam“.

Here’s Moravcsik’s brief sketch of the current transatlantic reality –

„The Iraq crisis offers two basic lessons. The first, for Europeans, is that American hawks were right. Unilateral intervention to coerce regime change can be a cost-effective way to deal with rogue states. In military matters, there is only one superpower — the United States — and it can go it alone if it has to. It is time to accept this fact and move on.

The second lesson, for Americans, is that moderate skeptics on both sides of the Atlantic were also right. Winning a peace is much harder than winning a war. Intervention is cheap in the short run but expensive in the long run. And when it comes to the essential instruments for avoiding chaos or quagmire once the fighting stops — trade, aid, peacekeeping, international monitoring, and multilateral legitimacy — Europe remains indispensable. In this respect, the unipolar world turns out to be bipolar after all.

Given these truths, it is now time to work out a new transatlantic bargain, one that redirects complementary military and civilian instruments toward common ends and new security threats. Without such a deal, danger exists that Europeans — who were rolled over in the run-up to the war, frozen out by unilateral U.S. nation building, disparaged by triumphalist American pundits and politicians, and who lack sufficiently unified regional institutions — will keep their distance and leave the United States to its own devices. Although understandable, this reaction would be a recipe for disaster, since the United States lacks both the will and the institutional capacity to follow up its military triumphs properly — as the initial haphazard efforts at Iraqi reconstruction demonstrate.

To get things back on track, both in Iraq and elsewhere, Washington must shift course and accept multilateral conditions for intervention. The Europeans, meanwhile, must shed their resentment of American power and be prepared to pick up much of the burden of conflict prevention and postconflict engagement. Complementarity, not conflict, should be the transatlantic watchword.

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German Politics, Iraq, US Politics

The Next Tirpitz?

Ha – I knew it. My gentle readers, I am going to tell you a little secret.

On last new years eve I bet a young German Navy officer for six bottles of Champagne that, in ten years, Germany would have at least ordered a brand new Aircraft carrier… and today – according to Spiegel Online – Roland Koch, the premier of the German state of Hessen and friend of George W. and eternal conservative hopeful in the CDU took advantage of a day trip to the coast to explain that, well, the changed requirements of military interventions might very well include ordering an Aircraft Carrier…

Don’t worry, Roland Koch is not quite the next Tirpitz. This is, above all, funny – for the time being. But yes, the Navy brass will vote CDU next time… ;).

And for the real deal, Harvard’s Andrew Moravcsik shares his thoughts about „Striking a New Transatlantic Bargain“ (full text requires subscription) in the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs, entitled „After Saddam“.

Here’s Moravcsik’s brief sketch of the current transatlantic reality –

„The Iraq crisis offers two basic lessons. The first, for Europeans, is that American hawks were right. Unilateral intervention to coerce regime change can be a cost-effective way to deal with rogue states. In military matters, there is only one superpower — the United States — and it can go it alone if it has to. It is time to accept this fact and move on.

The second lesson, for Americans, is that moderate skeptics on both sides of the Atlantic were also right. Winning a peace is much harder than winning a war. Intervention is cheap in the short run but expensive in the long run. And when it comes to the essential instruments for avoiding chaos or quagmire once the fighting stops — trade, aid, peacekeeping, international monitoring, and multilateral legitimacy — Europe remains indispensable. In this respect, the unipolar world turns out to be bipolar after all.

Given these truths, it is now time to work out a new transatlantic bargain, one that redirects complementary military and civilian instruments toward common ends and new security threats. Without such a deal, danger exists that Europeans — who were rolled over in the run-up to the war, frozen out by unilateral U.S. nation building, disparaged by triumphalist American pundits and politicians, and who lack sufficiently unified regional institutions — will keep their distance and leave the United States to its own devices. Although understandable, this reaction would be a recipe for disaster, since the United States lacks both the will and the institutional capacity to follow up its military triumphs properly — as the initial haphazard efforts at Iraqi reconstruction demonstrate.

To get things back on track, both in Iraq and elsewhere, Washington must shift course and accept multilateral conditions for intervention. The Europeans, meanwhile, must shed their resentment of American power and be prepared to pick up much of the burden of conflict prevention and postconflict engagement. Complementarity, not conflict, should be the transatlantic watchword.

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Iraq, US Politics

God’s Own Agenda?

Haaretz reports that, according to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas President Bush allegedly explained at the recent Akaba summit that

„God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them.“

Mr Abbas words are, according to the newspaper, taken from selected minutes acquired by Haaretz from a negotiation between Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian faction leaders last week.

So God instructed Bush to strike at Saddam… [and probably allowed the use of some „white lies“]

But apparently God hasn’t spoken to Bush about the Middle East conflict, as the President is only „determined“ to solve the problem.

Reading this I can’t help but wonder – assume for a moment that God would indeed speak to President Bush about the Middle East a little too close to the 2004 US elections? Would Bush tell God that, right now, he can’t really concentrate on a divine mission because of the election?

The statement is interesting in another way as well – given the substantial support Bush has among the American people and apparently record breaking donation levels for his next campaign, why would he need to concentrate on the election. Wouldn’t „solving“ the Middle East suffice to win?

Maybe his camp is paranoid. But maybe, they really think they need a full-scale campaign because they stand a real chance to lose…

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Iraq, oddly enough, quicklink, sex, USA

Make War. Then Love.

Well, not quite love, but it’s closest capitalist pseudo-substitute. According to this Reuters report, a Nevada brothel has come up with a truly unusual marketing ploy.

It is offering 50 „free rides“ to US military personnel with Iraq exposure – „‚We want to feel patriotic and feel we are doing something for our servicemen,‘ [a brothel representative] said. ‚If we owned a Dairy Queen we would be giving away free ice cream…'“

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Iraq, oddly enough, quicklink, sex, USA

Make War. Then Love.

Well, not quite love, but it’s closest capitalist pseudo-substitute. According to this Reuters report, a Nevada brothel has come up with a truly unusual marketing ploy.

It is offering 50 „free rides“ to US military personnel with Iraq exposure – „‚We want to feel patriotic and feel we are doing something for our servicemen,‘ [a brothel representative] said. ‚If we owned a Dairy Queen we would be giving away free ice cream…'“

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Iraq, US Politics

Does Pride Indeed Cometh Before The Fall?

There are moments in life when we have to wonder how things would have turned out differently if we had taken a different road at a particular crossroads.

Today, I am wondering if it was the right decision not to read „Die Welt“ on a daily basis, because the Frankfurter Allgemeine provides more than enough Conservatism for a single breakfast. Plus, journalists at „Die Welt“ are contractually obliged to be pro-American. I don’t mind people being pro-American, the FAZ balanced significantly balanced the press bias in the run up to the war. But would like to have the journalists to come to that conclusion when looking at the world, not at their bank statements.

I am also wondering how I would look at this world if I had not preferred London and the LSE Government Department over the offer to join the Nitze School of Advanced International Relations in Washington under (it turned out leaving for the US DoD) Paul Wolfowitz back in 2000.

The first question came up when I realised that I found out about an interesting story „Die Welt“ „ran“ on Monday because it was quoted by the Guardian today. The second one when I had digested the content.

Well, I guess, part of the problem is that the original story was entitled „In North-Korea, Wolfowitz prefers a solution based on local powers“ instead of „Yet another shocking admission by the US Deputy Secretary of Defense.“ which, but I am evidently just guessing here, might have been a „pro-American“ editorial decision.

I can’t believe the journalists would not have realised she had hit the jackpot. On the other hand, google-news doesn’t list any other newspaper that ran the story on Monday. Be that as it may, the US DoD published the transcript of the press conference, and this is what Paul Wolfowitz actually said last Sunday –

„Look, the primarily difference — to put it a little too simply — between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil. In the case of North Korea, the country is teetering on the edge of economic collapse and that I believe is a major point of leverage whereas the military picture with North Korea is very different from that with Iraq. The problems in both cases have some similarities but the solutions have got to be tailored to the circumstances which are very different.“

It may be torn out of the context, but that really doesn’t change a lot.

What is going on here? Who let Wolfowitz off the leash? Why his sudden urge for ex-post truth?

Could it really be carelessness induced by smugness? Or Pride That Cometh Before The Fall? Whose Fall you’re asking? Good question – does anyone in the US administration wants to get rid of Tony Blair, quickly? Hands up, please. Der Spiegel quotes some Labour MP’s who say that „WMD-gatetm“ is already worse than Watergate.

Man, I would like to get an uncensored copy of the phone conversations between Downing Street and the White House these days – it’s probably a good thing Americans only understand half the British swearwords.

UPDATE: The Guardian has pulled the story off the website. Also, check the comment section for interesting remarks and links to two discussions regarding this subject.

Rereading the quote from Wolfowitz after receiving comments by Florian and Markus I realize last night was another moment in my life when things would have turned out differently if I had taken a different road – this time, not writing stuff quickly late at night. I was wrong to say that the quote’s context doesn’t change a lot.

The North Korean comparison does make the statement a lot less clear. Now I think there are two possible interpretations, one being that economic sanctions wouldn’t work because Iraq swims in sea of oil of which it could sell enough to remain a threat, the other one being that Iraqi oil was so important for strategic reasons that there was no other way to handle the situation. I guess Wolfowitz wasn’t really let off the leash again and he intended to say the first.

UPDATE: The Guardian has a correction of yesterday’s report online. Thanks to Markku Nordstrom for the info.

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Iraq, media, web 2.0

Blogging Your Way To A Civil Society?

Papascott links to Jeff Jarvis, who believes that Salam Pax – the blogger who shared the sights and sounds of his life in Baghdad and is now writing a forthnightly column in the British Guardian – is an example of how sponsoring Iraqi blogging could create a true Iraqi Civil Society –

„What comes out of this: A hundred Salam Paxes. A thousand Salam Paxes. The intelligent, caring, involved future of Iraq will come online to share their experiences and opinions and hopes and fears and Iraq will be better for it; so will the world, for we will build bridges to Iraqis online. History has never had a better, cheaper, easier, faster means of publishing content and distributing it worldwide. Now is the time to take advantage of this for sake of democracy and freedom and nothing less than that.“

I am not too convinced that the outcome of setting up „blogspots“ in Baghdad would necessarily be the creation of a happy modern all-Iraqi civil society, even assuming that enough people would care to learn how to use the technology. I suppose there is hardly anyone who would be able to tell how blogging would fit into institutionalised Iraqi patterns of societal communication.

Thinking of the almost violent way the pro-/anti-war debate evolved in the western blogosphere in the first few months this year, I would say that there is no guarantee that blogging does enhance the way any civil society works – just read my post about Rebecca Lucas below. In fact, remembering how Karl Deutsch has described long ago in „Nationalism and Social Communication“ that increased communication does not per se translate into more understanding between the communicating parties, one might be tempted to think that blogging actually requires a significant amount of civil society and mutual understanding to start with in order to deal with all the Rachel Lucases around. Otherwise, it might just ignite a fire no one wanted to light.

I am not saying this would be the case in Iraq. But given the way a „modern/pseudo-socialist“ authoritarian government has been superimposed on a semi-tribally-organised, ethnically and religiously diverse country I’d say that there is a certain chance for a negative development.

So while I think that the idea put forth by Mr Jarvis is clearly worth to be tested, those involved would have to be very attentive and careful not to become too hopeful about the possible positive effects of such a project.

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