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Thursday, October 07, 2004

Who will help Kerry fix Bush's mistake?

John Kerry claims that he can rebuild America's alliances to help with the "hard work" needed in Iraq. Remember what Kerry said in the debate?
I believe America is safest and strongest when we are leading the world and when we are leading strong alliances.

I'll never give a veto to any country over our security, but I also know how to lead those alliances. This President has left them in shatters across the globe. And we're now 90 percent of the casualties in Iraq, and 90 percent of the costs. I think that's wrong, and I think we can do better...

I know I can do a better job in Iraq, where I have a plan to have a summit with all of the allies, something this President has not yet achieved, not yet been able to do to bring people to the table.
The President countered by arguing that allies will not follow Kerry -- because he's sending such a mixed message about Iraq. The US cannot gain more allies unless it signals to the world that it is on the bright and shining path in Iraq:
...[Senator Kerry] says the cornerstone of his plan to succeed in Iraq is to call upon nations to serve. So what's the message going to be? Please join us in Iraq for a grand diversion? Join us for a war that is a wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time?

I know how these people think. I deal with them all the time. I sit down with the world leaders frequently and talk to them on the phone frequently -- they're not going to follow somebody who says this is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time.
The past two days, interesting news reports from Germany and France suggest that both these states may well be willing to provide more assistance in Iraq -- even though they think President Bush has fought the wrong war in the wrong way. Both states argue that the situation in Iraq is precarious and that there could be a common interest in preventing Iraq from becoming a failed state.

This line of analysis completely undercuts Bush's position and provides support to Kerry's. In short, perhaps Germany and France can be rather easily convinced to help fix Bush's mess. Note, however, that both states currently maintain that they will not send troops to Iraq.

Let me begin with the Germans. August Hanning, who heads Germany's Federal Intelligence Service today offered an interesting analysis of the situation in Iraq. His speech at a terror conference (and the subsequent news conference) was reported by
Hanning also warned that violence in Iraq risks plunging the country into the chaos of a disintegrating "failed state" resembling terrorist havens like pre-Sept. 11 Afghanistan....

A breakdown in Iraq would destabilize the Middle East, boost Islamic terrorism worldwide and might allow terrorists to put scientists involved in Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to work for them, the intelligence chief added.

Extending security across Iraq, with its diverse ethnic and religious groups, is "a tough task that will still claim many victims," he said.

"The outlook is dark if this task is not mastered," Hanning said in a speech at a terrorism conference. "In this case a trend like in Afghanistan or Lebanon in the past is a very likely scenario."

Stoked by radical Islamic views inspired by bin Laden, terrorist attacks and military action by U.S.-led troops are pushing Iraq toward "a crossroads" that could end with peaceful reconstruction or chaos, he said.

Setting Iraq firmly on the path to security and democracy "is by no means ensured because the way there is still very rocky," Hanning said.

Hanning suggested that Western nations are losing the battle for the hearts and minds of young disaffected Arabs.

"I detect a still growing, generally anti-Western mood in the Muslim countries," he said.
Now, look at what Hanning says about the solution to this:
Hanning said all countries now have a stake in the country's future because Islamic radicalism posed a global threat.

"That is why all of us have a common interest, whether we take part in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq or not," he said. "This country must be stabilized."
Doesn't that sound like someone hinting that Germany might be brought into the coalition?

The latest news about France isn't quite the same, but is interesting nonetheless and potentially suggestive of a willingness to cooperate about Iraq in 2005. This is from the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler, yesterday:
French officials were prepared to provide as many as 15,000 troops for an invasion of Iraq before relations soured between the Bush administration and the French government over the timing of an attack, according to a new book published in France this week.

The book, "Chirac Contre Bush: L'Autre Guerre" ("Chirac vs. Bush: The Other War"), reports that a French general, Jean Patrick Gaviard, visited the Pentagon to meet with Central Command staff on Dec. 16, 2002 -- three months before the war began -- to discuss a French contribution of 10,000 to 15,000 troops and to negotiate landing and docking rights for French jets and ships.
The book, by two French journalists, claims that Chirac was willing to send troops if Saddam Hussein had blocked UN weapons inspectors. According to Kessler's account of the book, "French President Jacques Chirac decided that the Americans were pushing too fast to short-circuit inspections by U.N. weapons inspectors."

The book apparently describes an intense personal hostility between Bush and Chirac that sets the tone for US-French foreign policy.

What about the future? Do the French provide the same diagnosis as Kerry and the Germans? They do. This was from the French Embassy in the US last month:
"Yes, we had a real divergence of opinion," Jean-David Levitte told about 150 people at the World Affairs Council of Greater Richmond. But now, "let's work together to rebuild Iraq," he said.

The two countries want to see the international community stand united on the challenges of Iraqi reconstruction.
"The mood in Europe is we have to make Iraq a success story," Levitte told the group, which met at the Omni Hotel Richmond.

Levitte said French President Jacques Chirac believes that "what is at stake in Iraq is huge" - the future of the Middle East.

Failure to build a stable Iraq would mean the further spread of Islamic terrorism, Levitte said....

Though Saddam Hussein was a bloody dictator, Levitte said, in France's view he posed no imminent threat to western interests.

"Now after the war, you have terrorists in Iraq," and the U.S. military occupation of that country could trigger greater resentment among Iraqis, Levitte said....

"Our dream is to see a moderate, democratic regime in charge," he said. "It will not be a French democracy. It will not be an American democracy. It will be an Iraqi democracy.

"However, "for the time being, it is a real nightmare," Levitte said.

"It's going downhill. That's where we have to join forces."
It's almost entirely consistent with the Kerry view of the situation.

Would a new President be able to mend that relationship and encourage French help? It seems a lot more likely that Kerry could attain French cooperation than could Bush, that's for sure.

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