Friday, August 16, 2002

Foreign Media Reaction

I like the Department of State’s Foreign Media Reaction section. On issues of the day it summarizes world press reaction. Sometimes, I have trouble getting into the issue at hand. I’d love to know how State decides it really needs to know the world’s reaction to our latest bean curd subsidy as opposed to the China-Taiwan dispute, but that’s a small point (As Homer Simpson put it, “Just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand.”)

Some topics are very interesting. On preparations for war with Iraq, I saw some glimmers of hope that nations will go along with an inevitable attack, side with us when we decide, and, even grudgingly accept that getting rid of Saddam is good as long as nothing really bad happens, as they predict. A couple points made by some commentators seem particularly dense.

NORWAY: "To Attack Or Not To Attack"
In the newspaper-of-record Aftenposten, Washington correspondent Morten Fyhn commented (8/1): "We know that President Bush wishes to topple Iraq's dictator, but he has not convinced the American people and the rest of the world that it is necessary to go to war against Saddam Hussein.... While the United States busies itself with war planning, most other countries are content with demanding that Iraq give access to the UN's weapons inspectors."

Well, I think the majority of Americans has pretty much concluded that it supports war against Iraq. The question is what kind of war will the majority support? The last part, about he world being content with demanding compliance, is the problem. Just how much access has Iraq given the world in response to the demands Europe is busy making? Oh yeah, zip. The world has been content for too long with demanding compliance. The world will always be content with demanding compliance, no matter how long Saddam Hussein obstructs compliance with the ceasefire terms of the Persian Gulf War.

MEXICO: "Iran To Iraq?"
Carlos Fuentes wrote in independent Reforma (8/7): "…Rational voices should work though negotiation channels, accept Iraq's offer to send arms inspectors to Baghdad, and put Saddam's words to the test. He is an undesirable despot. But so is President Bush's arrogance and unilateral stance. I hope that the international intellectual community finds a way to subject the White House to reasonable multilateral policies and the will of the Iraqi people in order to overthrow Saddam."

Did we not try inspectors? Did not Saddam obstruct and then kick them out, tiring of the sport? Put Saddam’s word to the text? Is Fuentes insane? What doubt is there at this point about Saddam’s word? For a moment it seems that Fuentes is willing to be somewhat reasonable when he admits Saddam Hussein is an undesirable despot, but then he says that President Bush’s purported “arrogance” and “unilateral stance” is equivalent? Good Lord. It is arrogance to use our power to destroy those who would kill us? It is unilateral stance when we try to get our Allies to help us topple Saddam yet they refuse? To be fair, many countries are helping us significantly every day in the war on terrorism. For this I am truly grateful. We want and need help. The Department of Defense notes this help on their web site. On his last points, just what reasonable multilateral policy would he have us follow? Would trying to get the world to compel compliance with disarmament with an embargo do it? Oh, right, we’ve been trying that for 12 years and every foreign nation and their cousin has railed against it and helped Saddam evade it. But I guess twelve more years, or thirty, or fifty, will do the trick. The weaseling out of direct action to overthrow Saddam is of course to advocate the Iraqi people do the job. Yeah, that’s reasonable. Let the unarmed masses take on Saddam’s ruthless minions. Even a successful revolt would be bloody and destructive. Yeah, admit Saddam deserves to be overthrown but argue actually doing something about it is wrong.

I try hard to avoid assuming all the citizens of friendly countries agree with their newspaper writers. I certainly don’t assume that some loon writing from San Francisco, who doesn’t know anybody who supports the war, reflects America as a whole. But when the stakes are so high for us and when our military service members risk and give their lives to protect us, it is hard not to be offended. We’re going to Baghdad. And I hope we hang Saddam before the residents of Baghdad do it.