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Wednesday, February 12, 2003


What's in a name?

The invasion of Iraq is likely to begin in a matter of days. What will the history books call it?

When Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990, the United States quickly moved in forces to prevent Hussein from continuing into Saudi Arabia. The very poetic name chosen was Desert Shield. That operation continued for the next five and a half months while the U.S. prepared its counterattack.

I fully expected the counterattack to be named "Desert Sword" -- it just seemed so obvious. Instead it became Desert Storm, and I remember thinking what a wildly romantic and inspired choice that was.

In a few days we'll know the identity of this new military operation. Perhaps it will be clever, perhaps it will be pedestrian.

What would you name it? Post your suggestions in the Comments section, and we'll see if anyone guesses right. We'll also see what better names could have been selected.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003


More ULTIMATE IRONY from France and Germany as they skewer NATO.

Three of the 19 NATO countries, France, Germany, and Belgium, have vetoed an official request from NATO member Turkey for military defense assistance, thereby plunging the NATO alliance into a crisis which might well destroy it.

That's fine by me. Good riddance to NATO, which long ago outlived any possible useful purpose and now just sucks up money and troops and equipment from the United States.

But what I find really amazing is the stupidity of the French and German actions. Is this any way for them to head off U.S. military action?

Turkey, with a new Islamic government and much popular opposition to an Iraqi invasion, had been dragging its feet in acquiescing to U.S. requests to use airbases and launch military strikes from Turkish territory. Now Turkey has been spat upon and publicly betrayed by France and Germany. How is that likely to sit with Turkish public opinion?

France and Germany have just solidified support for the U.S. in Turkey, a critical front-line nation. What kind of masterful diplomatic maneuver is that?

When so many French and German actions are so consistently counterproductive, you almost have to wonder whether they secretly do want the United States to invade Iraq...

Sunday, February 09, 2003


THE ULTIMATE IRONY: France and Germany have just eliminated the last practical chance of avoiding war in Iraq.

When President Bush proclaimed that "The game is over," the French and Germans went into panic mode. They obviously are aware from their own intelligence sources that (almost) irrevocable orders have now been issued, and the U.S. countdown is underway. So they are floating a last-ditch plan under which French and German forces would lead a "peaceful" military occupation of Iraq in support of additional inspectors, as a way of staving off the U.S. invasion.

There is obviously no way that Bush will accept this gambit. He is politically and militarily committed. His Thursday speech was a de facto declaration of war, and an ultimatum to the United Nations to either get on board or be tossed into the dustbin of history.

At this point there are only two ways to stop the tanks and troops and precision bombs and cruise missiles from being launched:
1. Saddam Hussein is deposed (and killed) by a coup.
2. Saddam Hussein and his entourage flee into exile.

While neither of these were high probability options, they were not negligible either. Saddam has repeatedly purged his military forces of anyone who might be the least bit dangerous to him, but even so the remaining officers have no desire to die on his behalf. If they were absolutely certain that the Americans were invading, they could be motivated to take pre-emptive action. But there are enormous risks either way, and the odds of a successful coup remain low.

Similarly, the only thing that could conceivably convince Saddam to accept exile would be the absolutely certainty that the Americans were about to invade and would shortly kill him. Even then, given his megalomania and desire for power, exile would remain a long-shot. It definitely would not happen until the very last minute when all hope was lost.

The French and Germans could have delivered that final death blow to Saddam's hope. They could have privately sent word to Hussein that it was impossible for them to prevent or further delay U.S. military action, and therefore they were switching sides and climbing on board the U.S. bandwagon. Coupling that with a credible offer of a very cushy exile, it might barely have been enough to draw Hussein out of Iraq. France and Germany would then claim credit (and be given credit by all of Bush's foes) for negotiating a peaceful solution. Just as importantly from their perspective, they would have denied the U.S. the prestige of another successful lightning military operation, while maintaining the U.N.'s aura of authority and "relevance".

Instead, the latest French and German plan allows Saddam Hussein to cling to hope. He's already made new promises to do everything the inspectors want, including U-2 flyovers and interviews with scientists. Now he'll likely announce his "conceptual" agreement to the French and German plan. Saddam will pretend to accept anything that looks like it might postpone the invasion, because he knows it will be difficult if not impossible for the United States to rebuild momentum and support if it backs down now.

The French-German plan allows Saddam Hussein to rationalize to himself that he still has a chance to out-maneuver Bush and remain in power. And his military officers will calculate that a coup attempt is just a high-probability death sentence.

France and Germany have outsmarted themselves with all their oh-so-clever diplomatic strategies. They've just destroyed the only realistic alternatives to a U.S. invasion.

[UPDATE: I now see that Donald Rumsfield is effectively saying the same thing.]

My guess is that the person this really pisses off is Vladimir Putin. Unlike Schroeder and Chirac, Putin is not reflexively anti-American, nor is he eager to humiliate Bush. He just wants to protect Russian interests in Iraq and keep the U.S. somewhat in check. Putin was urgently trying to arrange an exile deal with Hussein, and the French-German plan has torpedoed that. Putin is a hard-headed realist, and he is now going to have to bow to the inevitability of U.S. military action. If I'm right, Russia will not sign on or even give lip service to the French-German plan, because it would just make Russia appear as impotent as them when the U.S. ignores their plan and proceeds with its invasion.

I have no doubt that diplomatic efforts are going to get more and more frantic and hysterical in the coming days, as the countdown nears zero. But war is now inevitable.

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