"You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We'd all love to see the plan"
Datelineóabove the garage in Portsmouth, 9 April
As I scan the newspapers today, I am beginning to realize why the editors at the Washington Post were excited enough about the piece I submitted to run it this Sunday. They consider it highly provocative and sure to elicit a lot of comment. Frankly, I considered it the tenth of the ten ideas we submitted to them (I and Putnam) a couple of weeks back, preferring to have written any of the other nine more than that one.
I felt that way primarily because it was the least developed, having begun mostly as a toss-off sort of end-of-response point that I made in response to an interview question from Junk Yard Blog concerning 3/11 in Madrid. Basically, I said, maybe the U.S. should spend less time worrying about what it takes to keep the paltry number of Old Core (meaning Europe) peacekeepers in Iraq and ask itself what it would take in terms of concluding deals with such New Core powers as Russia, India and China for far larger numbers.
Right now the U.S. has 135,000 troops in Iraq, and the 35 nations there with us have added a total of 20,000 troops, or about 500 per country on average. If you add up the classic Old Core European states such as the UK, Spain, Italy, Denmark, and the Netherlands, then already you're talking about over two-thirds of the mix. I get these numbers from 9 Apr Wall Street Journal story entitled, "Nations Helping in Iraq Are Under Fire at Home," by Michael Phillips et al., p. A4.
[And in getting those numbers, I realize that in my piece for the Post, I used the Polish numbers on peacekeepers [2,500] for the Spanish one [only 1,300], so I immediately call my editor at the Post. No worry, she says, they caught the mistake. She sends final copy to me and gives me one last chance to tweakóalways dangerous. However, I am so pleased by how the piece hums, given their final edits that I send it back with no proposed changes. This is a good Friday!]
My point is this: a sure sign that the U.S. hasn't sold this intervention, or this Big Bang strategy in the Middle East to the Core as a whole is that we're only able to attract Old Core peacekeepers to date. Again, if we had gotten those 17,000 peacekeepers from India months back, it's a very different ballgame, because India isn't exactly somebody who gets squeamish over terrorism or uprisings (see their years of effort in Kashmir or their bloody efforts in Sri Lanka with Tamil separatists).
If we had gotten India's troops, it's that much easier to attract a China who believes itself to be a far more important international security player than New Delhi, plus it really relies on all that oil coming out of the Gulf. Get those two in line (and yeah, quid pro quos would cost something), then Russia doesn't want to be left out. Get those three in Iraq, and tell me it isn't a whole lot easier to keep the Europeans.
But nobody is thinking this way. The Wall Street Journal today runs a story on Bush's options ("As Insurgency in Iraq Rages, Bush Faces Unappealing Options," Carla Anne Robbins, Christopher Cooper, and Neil King, Jr., 9 Apr, p. A1.) and when it gets to the section entitled "Getting Help," it's solely about getting more Europeans in there, or NATO itself. Apparently, kissing ass in Bonn and Paris is the only imaginable option. Isn't that pathetic? Everybody talking about this new world out there, and yet no one able to see that a new world equals new possibilities for strategic partnering!
If I'm John Kerry trying to live down that dumb-ass comment about foreign leaders secretly wanting me elected president, I would be speaking to my practical willingness to horse-trade with such New Core powers as a way to transform this "transformation" of the Middle East from its currently perceived all-American democracy-project status into a Core-wide effort to integrate Iraq into the global economy. Russian oil companies would gain access. Russia would be repaid all those Iraqi loans. India would be hailed (as it so wants to be) as a new security pillar of SW Asia, and China would secure its access to oil a whole lot more. The only thing standing between this future worth creating and our present suffering is our inability to negotiate without arrogance, and here I do blame the Bush Administration. All the little bridges burned over the ABM Treaty (what in God's name did that get us?), Kyoto (ditto!), the International Criminal Court (could have been explained much better in terms of Core-Gap difference in rule sets) now come back to haunt us. Or another way to put it is to say, all that "unilateralism" of the past few years really accomplished was to raise the price America inevitably ends up paying to win the peace in Iraq. Time to pay the piper, Mr. President.
Meanwhile, I selfishly wonder how the Post is going to title the piece. The staff is full of inveterate punsters. I cross my fingers and hope for the best.