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December 16, 2003

Another Bad Timing Nominee

Scott Rosenberg, the editor of Salon, wrote last Thursday on the Pentagon's decision to bar businesses in countries that did not support the war in Iraq from bidding on contracts to rebuild that nation.

This week's devastating case is the Iraqi contracts-and-debt fiasco. If you haven't followed closely, this is the sequence of events:

(1) President Bush announces that he's calling in his favorite fixer, James Baker, to handle a new diplomatic effort to obtain some relief for Iraqi debt from the many nations Saddam Hussein had run up debts with. Among Iraq's big creditors: Germany, France and Russia.

(2) The Pentagon publishes a rule that, on grounds of "national security," forbids nations that failed to join the military coalition against Saddam from bidding on contracts to help rebuild Iraq. Among those the rule blocks: Germany, France and Russia.

(3) Bush's and Baker's new Iraq debt-relief initiative has its knees kicked in before it even starts, as Russian and other leaders scorn the U.S.'s overtures.
Is revenge against perfidious "old Europe" -- and lucrative contracts for former employers and pals of Bush and Cheney -- more important than building a financial coalition to share the prodigious cost of Iraqi reconstruction? Or is the train wreck more simply a sign of an administration that can't coordinate important policies at the most basic levels?

Whatever the answer, shouldn't we expect our executive branch to not trip itself up in such bizarrely self-defeating ways?

The New York Times, today - France and Germany Agree to Substantial Cuts in Iraq Debt

France and Germany agreed to work toward a "substantial reduction" of Iraq's towering foreign debt next year, marking a significant step forward in the United States' effort to rebuild the devastated country as well as progress in mending ties with the two countries most opposed to the American-led war there.

"Debt reduction is critical if the Iraqi people are to have a chance to build a free and prosperous Iraq," said the statement released by French President Jacques Chirac's office following language agreed upon by the three countries. "Therefore, France, Germany and the United States agree that there should be substantial debt reduction for Iraq in the Paris Club in 2004, and will work closely with each other to achieve this objective."

There's been no comment thus far from Mr. Rosenberg, though admittedly the story is still only about 8 hours old. Plenty of time for a post on the subject, one would think.

[Zod: Great, Now we'll never write for Salon.
BW: Sad, since we're such a natural choice for that audience.]

Update: Rosenberg's post is symptomatic of a pattern of practice on the Left. Every decision taken by the Bush administration is seen as stupid, ill-considered or, at best, plain clumsy. There's never even an attempt to consider other possibilities, which is why the Left is so often blindsided by events.

Given the close juxtaposition in time of the Pentagon announcement and the Baker trip, it doesn't take a genius to think "There must be more here than meets the eye." Krugman and Kaplan both managed that, even if they did attribute the odd pairing of events to administration in-fighting.

What I thought at the time, and still do, was that the annoucement of the Iraqi contract restrictions was a warning shot, a clear message to Jacques, Gerhard and Vladimir that they need to co-operate this time, or else.

Or else what? I don't know. It could be that the administration threatened to release evidence detailing French, German and Russian cooperation with the Saddam regime, or it could be that we made it clear that the only way around the contract restrictions was to reduce the amount of Iraqi debt toot suite.

Either way, France and Germany have come round admirably. Russia remains--for how long is anyone's guess.

Though if I were a betting man, I wouldn't take the over on this one.

Posted by Bigwig at December 16, 2003 09:13 PM | TrackBack
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