Jacob Weisberg calls for a “coalition of the grudging” – NATO, plus perhaps Jordan and Turkey – to bail out the U.S. in Iraq. Weisberg is absolutely right that lots of other countries have an interest in seeing Iraq avoid a complete collapse into civil war. But his plan is a non-starter, and he should know it. Everybody knows at this point that the Bush administration would never give up real control of any outside effort in Iraq. Or if it did, it would only be long enough for things to get back on track, at which point it would be back to trying to use Iraq to project American power to advance American interests. There is simply no way that other countries or institutions are going to pour blood and money into the project of advancing American hegemony. We’ve been here before: The U.N. was originally in Iraq, and I think the lesson was lost on no one that it paid dearly in lives for, essentially, the chance to provide a very thin veneer of legitimacy to the botched conquest of one country by another. This is the way that U.S. has structured the strategic dilemma here, and it’s very hard to see how it could restructure it at this point.
At any rate, notice that the interests of the relevant countries are complex, as always. No one wants Iraq to stay a mess or do worse for its own sake. But here’s something else that must be figuring into everyone’s calculations: The more badly the U.S. gets burned in Iraq, the less likely it is to pull this shit on anyone else in the future. Unfortunately, the U.S. isn’t the only country in the world that looks to see other countries punished or deterred by policies it doesn’t like. These countries also have an interest in making sure that every subsequent major U.S. foreign policy decision for years to come is made with Iraq firmly in mind.
Since the situation in Iraq is already so bad that the coalition of the grudging would likely fail anyway, and since success would inevitably bring with it a) a renewal of the U.S.’s original ambitions for the war, and b) a mitigation of the deterrence effect thus far achieved by the U.S.’s failure in Iraq . . . well, how likely is this?
I also note that Weisberg doesn’t mention international opinion polling to gauge what the support for such a plan might be like. If he had done so, and reflected on the fact that most of the countries in the proposed coalition are democracies, he might well have spared us this foolish column. (In Canada, support for the mission in Afghanistan is shaky. How plausible, then, to think that Canadians will be happy to lend soldiers to fight and die in these circumstances?)
Next plan, please.
Howls of outrage (4)