Monday, January 27, 2003

But the Next Day After That?

I have never been suspicious of Secretary Powell. In the world of international relations, State is the good cop. I never believed Powell was doing more than carrying out his duty to give the president his advice. The UN detour was a policy that I did not oppose as long as it did not delay the invasion. What's the harm in getting UN approval if we can? Yet at the end of the day, Powell executes American foreign policy, however, and he is showing it now. (It certainly helps that the French just screwed him over royally) I do hope that Secretary Powell was being very literal when he said, on Sunday at the Davos forum, "To those who say, why not give the inspection process more time, I ask, how much more time does Iraq need to answer these questions?" Mr. Powell said. "We're in no great rush to judgment tomorrow or the day after, but clearly time is running out," he said. "We will not shrink from war if that is the only way to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction." Yes, and hope that he means we could decide to go on Wednesday or Thursday, or on Friday when Blair is in town to meet with the President.

Other gems of Powell include, "I don't think I have anything to be ashamed of, or apologize for, with respect to what America has done for the world," [Powell] said in response to a question asking why the United States always falls back on the use of "hard power" instead of the "soft power" of diplomacy. "We've put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives," he said, his voice growing hoarse. "We've asked for nothing but enough land to bury them in." Take that you bunch of Euro-appeasers. You give us two world wars last century and you want to complain about what we have done? And the last part was a particularly good shot at the French. Just how many French soldiers are buried here, after dying to defend America? I'll let you count before I continue—no need to take off your socks to tally the number, either.

Powell, responded nicely, too, when the British head of Amnesty International, Irene Khan, was applauded when she questioned whether the Iraq threat "risks provoking a massive humanitarian and human rights catastrophe." In reply, Powell said the United States was "sensitive to the plight of the Iraqi people, not only in case of conflict but also right now." I do wish he had jumped on her for saying we will "provoke" the catastrophes. Doesn't she read her own material? Good for Powell for jamming it right back at her, although far too politely as far as I'm concerned. Yet, diplomacy is his game. For blunt, we've got Rumsfeld…

The article goes on to note that Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said that if Hans Blix, the head of the chemical and biological weapons inspection team, asked the Security Council for more time when he submitted his report on Monday, he should get it. "I don't think that we are talking about an infinite amount of time," Mr. Solana said. "Time has been given to Saddam Hussein before. So we are talking about a question of weeks, perhaps months." Obviously, infinity is not on the table. Our sun will go supernova in a finite amount of time. But why weeks or months more? As he notes, he has had time—years. Delay only increases our casualties should we need to fight in the heat of summer. The day we let some EU proto-dictatorship tell us how to protect ourselves is, well, never mind. It ain't happening in this administration I dare say.

And then, our friends the French. Speaking on French television, the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, called for an extension of the inspections for "several weeks, or for a few months." This time he said it without his Solana hand puppet, but at least we see the origins of the vast French-wing conspiracy where talking points are drafted in Paris and passed out to the good little soldiers in the EU to repeat to the world. More to the point, after nearly twelve years, why would a few more weeks or months matter in the face of Saddam's absolute refusal to disarm as the Persian Gulf War ceasefire terms require? Again, all it does is at best is increase our casualties and at worse, give time to opponents of war to derail the invasion completely. And do not doubt that they seek delay only until the can achieve a halt. The French have already said that "nothing" could justify war so what charade do they play claiming we should delay for even longer? And why should we believe anything they say?

Finally, the article notes that Mr. Powell's speech did little to change the view of the Democratic leadership in Congress that Mr. Bush is acting in "a very precipitous way," as Senator Tom Daschle, the minority leader, put it. Big sigh. We've eased into this fight, if we ever get to it, with the care and delicacy of a senior citizen coaxing a squirrel a little closer to the park bench to take a cracker. Precipitous, indeed. I don't think that word means what the good senator thinks it means.

On to Baghdad. In four days, please. I want to believe that we have what we need to start the war already in place.