The first salvoes of the war have been fired. Less than two hours after the expiration of the ultimatum set down by President Bush, coalition forces took advantage of a “target of opportunity” — attempting to decapitate the Iraqi leadership (including Saddam Hussein).
The beginning of the second Gulf War may overshadow another, beneficial development — the first signs of healing in the trans-Atlantic rifts.
Professor Philippe Raynaud, a leading French commentator on the United States, observed this week that France, having made clear its opposition to military action, would nonetheless move to offer concrete assistance. “Given the end of the diplomatic phase of the conflict, France will not impede the United States. More than that, it will show certain signs of goodwill … France, now, is not looking to impede the American intervention, given that the time for diplomacy has passed.”
Moscow also realizes that “the game is up.” For the last few months, it has sought to “triangulate” between Washington and the continental Europeans. In its maneuvering, the Putin administration, according to commentator Yevgeny Verlin, has been guided by the following principles: “That as a result of any war the security of Russia should not suffer; Russia’s economic interests should be taken into account; Moscow’s relations both with Europe and America should not be interrupted; Vladimir Putin’s domestic political position should not be shaken.”
The president, in his remarks to the nation Wednesday evening, praised the 30-plus-nation coalition that has been created to deal with Iraq. This might be seen as the “inner” coalition. But we now have the opportunity to form an “outer” coalition. We were unable to convince some of the other great- and medium-powers to accept our assessment of the Iraqi threat, in part because they had no stake that was threatened. Once the Hussein regime has been overthrown, however, “there is a unique chance to use this situation to bring together all of these various corporate interests in a common international project,” as Verlin concluded.
Dimitri Simes and Paul Saunders summed it up succinctly as follows: “Determination, Not Recrimination.”
— Nikolas K. Gvosdev is editor of In the National Interest.