Jewish World Review April 15, 2003 / 13 Nisan, 5763
Game over--but for whom?
http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Saddam Hussein's statue falling in Baghdad's Paradise Square will be a lasting symbol of the coalition's liberation of the Iraqi people. But I believe the comments of Iraq's United Nations ambassador, Mohammed al-Douri, last week sum up the collapse of the Saddam regime. Al-Douri simply said, "The game is over."
Game? Al-Douri went on to say he meant that the war was over. But his first statement was more telling. The Iraqis, with the able assistance of Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroder, Vladimir Putin, and, of course, Kofi Annan, gamed the United States and the coalition at the U.N. for six months.
And to their lasting credit, President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair went about the serious work of removing Saddam from power. The forces of the coalition have carried out that mission with remarkable success.
But Chirac, Schroder, Putin, and Annan don't understand that al-Douri finally grasped the truth in his last words as Saddam's envoy: The game really is over. Chirac, Schroder, and Putin chose to meet in St. Petersburg, dead set on preserving their de facto geopolitical bloc, which has one aim: to oppose U.S. policy on Iraq and the Middle East.
Annan was supposed to be in St. Petersburg as well, but he apparently decided at the last minute that would be too obvious and too public a show of obsequiousness. The secretary general's motives can't tolerate that level of transparency, as he tries to maintain control of the U.N.'s Iraq oil-for-food program and as Chirac, Schroder, and Putin frenetically scramble to preserve some portion of their billions of dollars in commercial interests in Iraq.
Dangerous game. Annan's alignment of the U.N. with the appeasers has only widened the rift between the U.N. and their governments and the coalition. Theirs is a dangerous game and one that is likely to significantly alter economic and political blocs for years to come. "We are no longer in an era where one or two countries can control the fate of another country," Chirac said last week. "Therefore, the political, economic, humanitarian, and administrative reconstruction of Iraq is a matter for the United Nations and for it alone."
"Rather than focus on what the U.N. alone should have as a role . . . it would be nice if these people talked about . . . the Iraqi people first," replied White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.
Don't hold your breath. Instead of mediating the dispute, Annan--as usual--further inflamed it. First, he lectured that U.N. involvement is needed to bring "legitimacy." By agreeing to attend the meeting in St. Petersburg, he dismissed any claim by the U.N. to either legitimacy or relevance. When he thought better of publicly positioning himself and the U.N. with this treacherous trio, he must have discovered some inner sense of shame.
Going back to business as usual at the U.N. isn't possible. President Bush made it clear that this time around, he won't wait for U.N. approval when Iraqi lives and the very future of this country is at stake. And the damage that France, Germany, and Russia have done to geopolitical alliances won't easily be undone. "What is at risk here right now is the long-term solidarity of the European Union," says George Friedman, chairman of the global intelligence firm Stratfor. He adds that Russia is particularly vulnerable. "If Iraqi oil comes online and the price of oil falls, they have a very high production cost--and they depend heavily on oil exports to finance their economy."
Faced with such grim realities, you would think that Putin, Schroder, and Chirac might soften their obstructionist politics. And you'd certainly think that Annan would be working hard to move France, Germany, and Russia closer to the coalition's positions and to the new reality of the Middle East.
Instead, just the opposite is occurring. And the long-term effects of the
increasing divisiveness are sure to be disturbing. Since the Cold War ended,
we've been living under the optimistic assumption that shared geopolitical and
economic interests would drive globalization, which would, in turn, drive
prosperity. But now the governments of France, Germany, and Russia, with
the help of Annan's U.N., have chosen to pursue their political and
commercial interests rather than join with the coalition in the pursuit of noble
purpose. France, Germany, and Russia have created an ignoble bloc, and its
members deserve one another.
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04/08/03: No more fool's games