Le Scapegoat




Just when we thought that we could put the French back in fries, Bush and his commrades released a new round of salvo on Paris. Bush, still frustrated that he can’t manage to convince his European counter-parts go along with his idea of a new U.N. resolution, is once again blaming the French. And now, perhaps because he’s just fresh out of new ideas, has reverted back to his old plan: isolate the opposition.

The opening session of the U.N. General Assembly begins next week and anti-French sentiments are becoming more of a stark reality than merely just annoying cliches. It seemed to reach its peak after France’s president, Jacques Chirac called on Washington to transfer power to the Iraqi’s within a matter of “months and not years.” Thomas Friedman encapsulated the anti-French agenda last week calling France “our enemy“:

“If you add up how France behaved in the run-up to the Iraq war (making it impossible for the Security Council to put a real ultimatum to Saddam Hussein that might have avoided a war), and if you look at how France behaved during the war (when its foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, refused to answer the question of whether he wanted Saddam or America to win in Iraq), and if you watch how France is behaving today (demanding some kind of loopy symbolic transfer of Iraqi sovereignty to some kind of hastily thrown together Iraqi provisional government, with the rest of Iraq’s transition to democracy to be overseen more by a divided U.N. than by America), then there is only one conclusion one can draw: France wants America to fail in Iraq.”

Ouch! Those are strong words considering France isn’t alone in its request. The Guardian reports:

“France’s position was supported last night by Chris Patten, the EU external relations commissioner, who said it was vital for the US to hand over power to an Iraqi government as soon as possible. Speaking after a one-day visit to Baghdad, he said the EU would play its role in Iraq’s reconstruction, but that security was paramount. ‘I want to be prepared for reconstruction work, but it won’t be much good if our experts are being shot at and our projects are being blown up.’ he said”

And perhaps Bush and Friedman are gearing up for a fight that won’t happen. According to The New York Times, Paris isn’t likely to veto any resolution that Bush conjures up:

“‘[T]he fact is they are not in a combative mood on this,’ a senior European diplomat said. ‘Behind closed doors, the French are saying they would never dream of vetoing. There is no fighting spirit here.'”

What’s more is last week, following Germany’s example, Chirac offered to help train Iraqi troops and police. Nevertheless Bush is rekindling his agenda of isolate the bad reward the good, writes the Los Angeles Times:

To press its new Iraq initiative, the United States is crafting a strategy to isolate France and entice other countries to commit new troops and funds by offering them the prospect of an active role in the transition and after the U.S. returns political control to Iraqis, according to officials.

But with US troops dying nearly everyday and the cost of the war reaching astronomical figures, it’s going to be hard for Bush to convince Germany and France to give him what he wants. Even the pro-American, pro-business Financial Times of London has, in the words of Bill Moyer, thrown up its hands in despair at Washington’s tendency “to regard international consultation and cooperation as a burdensome bore or intolerable constraint.”

Meanwhile, Germany’s leader Gerhard Schroeder offered up his support but warned of the dangers of unilateralism. The New York Times reports:

“My country is willing to shoulder more responsibility. This may entail using military force as a last resort in resolving conflicts.

However, we must not forget that security in today’s world cannot be guaranteed by one country going it alone; it can be achieved only through international cooperation. Nor can security be limited to the activities of the police and the military. If we want to make our world freer and safer, we must fight the roots of insecurity, oppression, fanaticism and poverty — and we must do it together.”

But as The Economist points out, even a new resolution may not be the cure-all for Bush’s problems in Iraq:

“Even if a resolution is passedÑwith the French most likely abstaining, rather than using their veto — plenty more worries lie ahead. For one thing, it is far from clear that a new UN resolution, whatever form it takes, would bring in the piles of money and thousands of troops that America hopes for.

Secondly, even if there is a resolution, suspicions are likely to linger between America and what Donald Rumsfeld, its defence secretary, called ‘old Europe.’ Mr Chirac’s world view seems to involve encouraging other leaders to check America’s power; Mr Bush would prefer to keep his freedom of action (European leaders will see his latest efforts at the UN as owing more to necessity than a genuine conversion).”

And as The Sydney Morning Herald adds, “the trans-Atlantic gap is wide and seems destined to keep widening the longer President George Bush stays in power.”