Politics & Policy



Just try to imagine President Bush talking to America’s dissenting allies the way Jacques Chirac spoke about the pro-American European states at a press conference yesterday: “They missed a good chance to keep quiet.”

And imagine – imagine! – if President Bush threatened France and Germany the way President Chirac threatened the candidate-members of the European Union: “Romania and Bulgaria were particularly irresponsible to [sign the letter] when their position is really delicate. If they wanted to diminish their chances of joining Europe they could not have found a better way.”

As I read that, France – a nominal American ally – is threatening to wage economic warfare against other American allies as punishment for attempting to aid the United States. Read the news yourself and check whether I am right. If I am, France’s conduct raises the question: What should the United States do to protect Bulgaria and Romania against France’s economic aggression?

I do not mean this as a facetious question – and the right answer is not “boycott Brie.” France’s behavior, often unhelpful in the past, is now rapidly moving toward the actively hostile – or, as diplomats say, “unfriendly.”

On the same day as the press conference, Chirac informed Tony Blair at the EU summit that France would veto a second Security Council resolution against Iraq if Britain introduced one.

Unfriendly again.

The French claim that they are just as determined to stop Saddam Hussein as anybody, but that they prefer the nonviolent alternative of sanctions and inspections. It is, as they say in France, to laugh.

For all practical purposes, France is Saddam Hussein’s most important and most loyal ally. Had it been up to France, Saddam Hussein would have acquired nuclear weapons back in 1981. France helped Iraq subvert UN-imposed sanctions in the 1990s – and the illegal revenues from sanctions-busting have paid for the rearming of Iraq. France talks now of “giving the inspectors more time” – but it was French support that emboldened Iraq to thwart inspectors through the 1990s, and it was French opposition at the Security Council that finally destroyed the inspection regime in 1998.

The good news is that the American public has noticed France’s support for America’s enemies. One-third of Americans now have an “unfavorable” impression of France, according to the Gallup poll, which notes that France’s image has deteriorated more rapidly over the past year than that of any country in the annual survey. (The country with the highest favorable rating is Britain, followed by Canada; the country with the largest increase in its favorability rating is Israel.)

The bad news is that the U.S. government is unlikely to impose any consequences on France for its unfriendliness. So – a quiz for readers: Should there be consequences? If so, what? I’ll post the most interesting suggestions tomorrow.

The “Peace” Marches

The pro-Saddam movement in England has succeeded in corroding Prime Minister Tony Blair’s popularity. Subtract his unfavorables from his favorables, and he is now polling at negative 20 points.

There’s no serious doubt that it is Blair’s support for the war that is hurting him. Some British opposition to the war seems purely opportunistic – if the polls are right, Conservative voters are now more antiwar than Labor voters.

Damaging as the antiwar movement has been in Britain, it has had virtually zero impact in the United States. In fact, Gallup finds that President Bush has at last won over large majorities of Americans to almost all of his positions.

*94% of Americans believe it is certainly true or likely true that Iraq possesses chemical and biological weapons. 90% believe Iraq is seeking nuclear weapons. 86% believes that Iraq has ties to al Qaeda.

*59% believe the President has a clear, well-thought out policy toward Iraq.

*63% support war against Saddam Hussein.

The trouble the marchers face is that while anti-American rhetoric may wow them in the streets of Europe, it does not work nearly so well in … America.

A Leftist’s Question

The Guardian of all places has a very moving letter from a veteran British leftist, David Aaronovitch. It consists of a series of haunting questions directed at the London antiwar marchers. Among them:

“I wanted to ask whether, among your hundreds of thousands, the absences bothered you? The Kurds, the Iraqis – of whom there are many thousands in this country – where were they? Why were they not there? When Tony Benn was confronted by a young pro-war Iraqi woman on Channel 4 news on Saturday night, why did he describe the organisations of the Iraqi and Kurdish opposition as ‘CIA stooges’?

“Did some of the slogans bother you? Do you really believe that this parroted ‘war about oil’ stuff is true? If so, what were the interventions in oil-less Kosovo, Bosnia and Afghanistan about? What did you feel about the marchers wearing stickers bearing the Israeli flag and the words ‘the fascist state’? Did you say to yourself, ‘Actually, there’s only one fascist state in this equation, and it’s the one we’re effectively marching to save’?”

Reading Aaronovitch’s questions reminded me of the question that the philosopher Michael Walzer asked as he observed the opposition among his fellow-leftists to the war in Afghanistan: “Can there be a decent left?” On the evidence of this past weekend, one has to conclude that decency on the left is growing scarcer by the minute.

Freudian Slip

Speaking of decency, I notice that in his latest column in Al-Ahram, the Egyptian government newspaper, Columbia Professor and Palestinian-American activist Edward Said alleges that White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer is an Israeli citizen. What a very odd error for this famous scholar to make. I wonder what he could possibly have been thinking of?

Whoops, He Did It Again

As of 11:50 pm Monday, Drudge was developing an item that claimed that Jimmy Carter has backed the “Not In Our Name” antiwar campaign sponsored by Britain’s left-wing Daily Mirror tabloid. If this is true, I think we can declare a definitive end to the two-year-old contest between Carter and Bill Clinton for the title of “Most Disgraceful Former President in American History.” If true, the old champ will have proven that he has more disgrace in him than the young challenger even at his very yeastiest.


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