July 25, 2004

Does anyone else remember the Cold War?

Watching Fox News Sunday today I was more than a little appalled to hear Internationalist Governor Bill Richardson (D, NM) grandstanding along with Governor Ed Rendell (D, PA) about the amount of money we're spending to rebuild Iraq. He actually went so far as to say something to the effect that (paraphrased) Why should we spend $200B to build bridges and schools in Iraq instead of spending $200B to build bridges and schools in Pennsylvania and New Mexico?

You heard it right, he asked us to subordinate a major spending element of the war on terror to provide pork barrel projects to two, ah, randomly chosen states. I was reminded of the common bumper sticker slogan I saw on many a burned out VW bus during the late Reagan years: It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.

This was never a very effective bumper sticker slogan, not least because it's rather too wordy to be effectively read on the back of a moving vehicle without causing an accident. But it ignores certain elemental truths about the way the world works, and why remaining defenseless but having really great roads is not a solution.

Implicit in that bumper sticker slogan from the '80s, and Gov Richardson's fatuousness today, is the misconception that isolationist America-first social projects can soak up all the money they want to, even at the expense of defense projects, without making us inherently less safe. This runs into the Butter Knife Problem we are warned of by the good folks over at Anticipatory Retaliation: namely, that if all the world's governments disarm completely and spend all their resources on building bridges and schools, then some lone aggressor outlier can conquer the entire world with no more competent weapon than a butter knife. And all those bridges we built will actually make it easier for our butter knife-wielding conquerers to spread their reign of terror throughout the country.

Disarming--and this refers to defunding any militarily necessary projects, not just buying fewer missiles--was hardly the answer in the Cold War, and it's even less the answer now.

The spending in Iraq is, in many ways, even more creative and damaging to our enemy than Reagan's massive military buildup was. Liberals really should love the Iraq rebuilding project, and an honest analyst could hardly reject it, given that we already actually conquered the country, regardless of what they thought about that initial conquering. The failure to rebuild Germany after Versailles should provide an adequate contrast to the Marshall Plan after World War II; Germany's failure since 1945 to overrun any of its neighbors is no coincidence and was largely because of the generosity with which our vanquished foes were treated.

Rebuilding Iraq into a democracy, to surround Iran with US-friendly nations along with Israel and Afghanistan, is part of the larger master plan of winning the war against Islamic fascist terrorism. Either Richardson, and his ilk, somehow fail to see that as desireable, or--rather more likely--they simply find it more important to thwart the evil George Bush at every turn, and complain of his every priority and plan.

Richardson was also asked how Kerry expected to "magically" gain military support from our "traditional allies" in Iraq, and to expand a bit on just who those providers of troops might be. Richardson bluffed nonsensically around the first question, saying that Kerry would "call a summit of NATO members" to request their support, and ask the UN Security Council for some non-specified help as well. His inquisitor, Chris Wallace, pointed out that President Bush has already done both of those things--witness, eg, the Istanbul NATO summit last month where Chirac declared himself "entirely hostile" to the notion of a NATO presence in Iraq, and the unanimous UNSC resolution calling on member states to assist in Iraq, which also has not eventuated into additional military assistance. Wallace went on to ask which specific nations Richardson thought might actually provide a major contribution of troops, which already weren't doing so? Richardson's answer: NATO.

Leave aside for a moment that any possible NATO-flagged mission would have to survive an inevitable French veto in the planning stages. Just consider that NATO, per se, has no actual troops of its own; a NATO mission under a NATO flag actually is comprised of member states' troops contributed for that particular mission. As most of the democrats have been appallingly quick to forget while dismissing our "fraudulent coalition," as John Kerry calls it, the majority of NATO member states actually do have troops in Iraq right now (or had them there until recently, in the case of pusillanimous Spain). The five most robust militaries in NATO (as measured by annual military spending), in declining order, are the US, France, Britain, Germany, and Italy. These nations #2-5 are clustered fairly closely in military spending ($25M-$40M per year), then there is a big drop to #6 Turkey at about $9M per year.

So, of 18 member nations with armed forces (NATO member Iceland has zero troops of any kind), right now the following nations (with rank in military spending among NATO in parenthases) have troops in Iraq:
1. US (#1)
2. UK (#3)
3. Italy (#5)
4. Netherlands (#9)
5. Poland (#11)
6. Portugal (#14)
7. Denmark (#15)
8. Czech Republic (#16)
9. Hungary (#17)

Who, from NATO, is not participating now but might be persuaded by the silver-tongued senator from Massachussetts to send significant numbers of troops? The rest of the top ten in NATO with no troops there now is France, Germany, Turkey, Spain, Canada, and Greece. There is another significant drop in military spending between #10 Greece ($6.5 million/year) and #11 Poland ($3.6 million/year) so there seems little hope of getting, say, 10,000 troops from any country which spends itself out of the top ten. So let's consider the six potential sorces for significant additional NATO assistance:

France. See above comment from Chirac that he is "entirely hostile" to this idea of participation in Iraq. It would be quite a reversal, and difficult for him to save face, over a French entry to Iraq. Such a reversal of policy might actually be difficult politically for him to survive, and would expose his shallow duplicitousness with regard to the Bush administration.
Germany. Who can forget Schroeder's petulant insistance that Germany would not participate in the American "adventure" in Iraq, even with explicit UN approval? Unless Schroeder considers John Kerry a higher authority than the UNSC as arbiter of German foreign policy, it's hard to envision German troops under a NATO flag in Iraq, even with Kerry as Commander in Chief.
Turkey. Having the participation of a Muslim nation would be undoubtedly welcome. But if the US incentive of billions of dollars just for permission to pass the 4th ID through Turkey was rejected, it's hard to imagine John Kerry really persuading the Turks to contribute actual troops, just because he asked them nicely.
Spain. Spain has taken itself out of the game. Going back just because John Kerry, rather than George Bush, is in power, isn't really likely.
Canada. The Canadians have quit their peacekeeping duties in Afghanistan and Haiti, among other places, and are sizing down their internationally deployed peacekeeping forces to just 1200 outside of North America. Canada does not seem the likeliest source of a significant contribution to Iraq either, no matter a President Kerry's persuasiveness and multilateralism.
Greece. At a recent press conference, Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Mr. George Koumoutsakos had the following to say regarding Iraq:

Regarding the Greek position, it is clear that, within the framework established by the UN Resolution, as well as the above-mentioned request, the Greek government will contribute to the reconstruction of Iraq, without direct involvement or a mission - we will not have a military presence in Iraq. I want to be clear on this.

Greece has already provided humanitarian aid in the amount of 4.5 million, and at the Madrid Donors' Conference we committed ourselves to a further 3 million.

In short, our position is this: We are contributing to the efforts toward a democratic Iraq, contributing to the reconstruction of the country. There is no question of Greek military presence in Iraq.

Consider also that Greece has not even been asked by the US for troops, presumably because their answer was clear in advance. John Kerry getting Greek troops can't be considered at all likely either.

So, in short, getting additional real contributions of troops from NATO is getting blood from a stone, and John Kerry--absentee member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee--can't possibly be ignorant of this. Any claim by Kerry, or on Kerry's behalf, that Americans are needlessly dying in Iraq because Kerry would be able to get NATO troops to participate where George Bush has not is purely, and knowingly, fictitious.

Posted by JKS at July 25, 2004 06:04 PM
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