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February 25, 2003

No wonder they hate him: Paul Krugman lays it out:
So it seems that Turkey wasn’t really haggling about the price, it just wouldn’t accept payment by check or credit card. In return for support of an Iraq invasion, Turkey wanted—and got—immediate aid, cash on the barrelhead, rather than mere assurances about future help. You’d almost think President Bush had a credibility problem.

And he does.

The funny thing is that this administration sets great store by credibility. As the justifications for invading Iraq come and go—Saddam is developing nuclear weapons; no, but he’s in league with Osama; no, but he’s really evil—the case for war has come increasingly to rest on credibility. You see, say the hawks, we’ve already put our soldiers in position, so we must attack or the world won’t take us seriously.

But credibility isn’t just about punishing people who cross you. It’s also about honoring promises, and telling the truth. And those are areas where the Bush administration has problems.

Consider the astonishing fact that Vicente Fox, president of Mexico, appears unwilling to cast his U.N. Security Council vote in America’s favor. Given Mexico’s close economic ties to the United States, and Mr. Fox’s onetime personal relationship with Mr. Bush, Mexico should have been more or less automatically in America’s column. But the Mexican president feels betrayed. He took the politically risky step of aligning himself closely with Mr. Bush—a boost to Republican efforts to woo Hispanic voters—in return for promised reforms that would legalize the status of undocumented immigrants. The administration never acted on those reforms, and Mr. Fox is in no mood to do Mr. Bush any more favors.

Mr. Fox is not alone. In fact, I can’t think of anyone other than the hard right and corporate lobbyists who has done a deal with Mr. Bush and not come away feeling betrayed.

[12:17 AM]
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Comments on No wonder they hate him::

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2003, 02:11 AM:

I suspect that the administration truly does value its credibility . . . but only among its core constituency of arrogant, realpolitik ideologues who scoff at the very notion of multilaterialism and can't bring themselves to accept that other nations could possibly have legitimate differences in opinion.

And by burning bridges, sneering at the opinions of long-time allies, and putting together a coalition through bribery and coercion, it has maintained its credibility . . . with its core constituency.

Michael Bernstein ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2003, 02:23 AM:

This might not be an original observation:

The Bush administration is turning the US into the Microsoft of geopolitics.

Barry ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2003, 09:42 AM:

This reminds me of the 'Three Musketeers', when the king first comes into the story. He describes himself as 'the just', and talks about how he is known as 'the just'.

Oh, Michael - Bush might not mind the US turning into the Microsoft of geopolitics. MS is a large company, which gets what it wants more often than not. The same government which protects its intellectual property, and provides a safe environment for trade, turns powerless when MS is caught (repeatedly) violating inconvenient laws.

"It's good to be Microsoft."


James Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2003, 10:35 AM:

The game may be going into extra innings. There's no guarantee that the Turkish parliament is going to okay the support. See http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/02/25/sprj.irq.wrap/index.html for more.

Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2003, 11:15 AM:

One of the things for which I loathe Tony Blair at the moment is that he has got absolutely nothing for risking a quarter of the British Army in a war we can't afford, don't want, and which won't do us any good. If he is going to sell the country to Mr Bush, he could at least have demanded $26bn of our own. Up front and in cash. It might even have got him re-elected if wisely spent.

Jeff ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2003, 03:44 PM:

Turkey isn't stupid. Anyone could see that last week. They weren't going to honor any agreement unless they got cash on the warhead (to coin a phrase). They figure, if Bush could stiff the New York firefighters, their puppet government in Afganistan, and nearly everyone else, they sure as hell will stiff little ol' Turkey when it comes time to pay the invasion bills.

The administration is living on borrowed time. They are maxing out their credit cards because if they don't invade now, this spring, they won't be able to invade at all. And possession of Iraqi oil fields is what Big Oil paid for when they bought George W. Bush the White House.

Barry ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2003, 04:30 PM:

"They are maxing out their credit cards..."

One minor quibble - I'd say '...maxing out *our* credit cards...'. [as in us, the USA]

The Bush gang understands the concept of doing it on OPM (Other People's Money). It's how they've lived their lives.


Alex Steffen ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2003, 10:54 PM:

For comparison, we spend about $1.3B for food aid, despite the fact that 800,000,000 people worldwide are suffering from chronic hunger and are just one bad harvest away from famine.

The Administration has said several times that that 1.3B is all we can afford.

And the "new" funds the President promised to fight HIV/AIDS? Turns out a big chunk of the money comes from programs to fight other infectious diseases.

Being able to cough up another $26B on demand kind of gives the lie to the Administration's credibility on these and other humanitarian issues, no?

Barry ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2003, 04:40 AM:

Has Bush every had a problem with giving himself the lie? He reminds me of that SNL character who's a pathalogical liar (the one whose tagline is "yea, that's it, that's the ticket!").

Hard Pressed ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2003, 12:49 PM:


"Realpolitik ideologue" is an oxymoron. The realpolitik solution to Iraq would be to send covert arms to the Kurds, the Sunnis, and the Marsh Arabs, pay off Turkey and Iran to stay out, and let the fur fly. If worst comes to worst, we set up a phony UN-sponsored "humanitarian intervention" in the aftermath of genocide, and then install our pet.

That's what Kissinger or Brezynski (sp?) would've done. And as much as I loathe those two, I'd certainly prefer that kind of solution to a nonexistent crisis to the one we're currently looking at. Of course, there'd be blowback aplenty (but not for 20 years or so), and at least we could keep our standing with other governments.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2003, 01:26 PM:

That that they're ideologues doesn't means they can't engage in or be enthused about realpolitik. It just makes them *bad* at it.

Barry ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2003, 03:18 PM:

Also, the problem with relying too heavily on proxies is that the US government loses a lot of local control. This is what seems to have happened in Afghanistan (e.g., local warlords letting Taliban/Al Qaida go, for cash). However, in Afghanistan, there was never much of a plan or need to actually control the country. From everything that I've heard, most of what went on was bribing nominally Taliban warlords to support us, a bit, for now.

In Irag, the way things are going, it looks like the plan is that:

1) The kurds will (cough, cough) 'cease to be an issue', courtesy of Turkey, who has, shall we say, current experience *dealing* with kurds.

2) The center of Iraq will be under US control, with US forces on the ground (i.e., all oil regions that the Turks don't get). At that point, to the extent possible, Baathist forces ^H^H^H^H^H^H government people who Were Against Saddam All Along will be used. However, US forces will be there, in force, if necessary compliance is a problem. My guess is that 'necessary compliance' = 'secure the oil, and some WMD to show to the press'.

3) The Shiites will be a problem, but the New Iraqi Army will mysteriously have a lot of experience in dealing with them. I expect that the New Iraqi Army will have a lot of new recruits who have very generic names, and seem to have lots of oppression ^H^H^H^H^H^H peace-keeping experience from somewhere.

The end result, if everything works out according to US plans, is for the US to control from the top, with on-site forces, but with good deniable, expendable locals who can be destroyed if they get out of line.

Sigivald ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2003, 05:14 PM:

Hard Pressed: Did I just read you correctly as saying you'd prefer genocide to removing a dictator from Iraq?

Just wondering.

Barry ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2003, 10:09 AM:

Sigivald, you didn't read him correctly. What he was describing was the 'realpolitick' solution - arming some opposition groups. If they weren't immediately successful, then there'd be a lot of slaughter (describable as 'genocide') which could be used to justify a UN intervention, to install whomever the US government preferred.

markp ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2003, 09:18 PM:
the 'realpolitick' solution - arming some opposition groups.

hasn't that been done already?

If they weren't immediately successful, then there'd be a lot of slaughter (describable as 'genocide')

hm, that too.

charlie b. ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2003, 10:41 AM:

I think I might take what Senor Fox has to say publicly with a pinch of salt. As to credibility, the principal problem is not that things are said that it is difficult to substantiate, but that the things have had to be said in the first place to placate constant demands from everyone under the sun. The main problem the administration has is not being able to pursue its foreign policy without press, pundits and public demanding to have every ass-wipe carefully examined and justified every single hour of every day. The great diplomats of the past would not have lasted a day under this relentless know-it-all sceptically hostile intrusion.

Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2003, 12:35 PM:

Yeah, that free press is annoying, isn't it?

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2003, 01:13 PM:

Wow, Jon, I assumed he meant the FOX administration until I read it more carefully.

Let me just say that the idea that this administration has been under more scrutiny, or treated with more hostility, by the press than the Clinton administration is bizarre, to say the least.

Even if it were, the press would just be making up for $70 million in taxpayer-funded scrutiny...

Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2003, 02:56 PM:

I can't quite puzzle out what about the article charlie b. links to should make me take Vicente Fox's public statements with a grain of salt, nor indeed how it relates to the Bush administration's failure to come through on yet another set of promises made at election time.

charlie b. ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2003, 10:33 PM:

Thanks for the replies. My comments about the demands that public opinion should drive foreign policy would apply as much to any recent administration, that of Pres Clinton certainly included, as to the current administration. I don't think that the idea of foreign policy needing a somewhat different treatment by mature voters to everyday interest group conflicts in any way contradicts the notion of a free press. Nor does the idea of a free press exempt its practitioners from criticism, or an assessment of the accuracy and helpfulness of their record. With resepct to Mexico I merely wanted to suggest that the citizenship issue has a longer history and more perspectives than a "deal" between Fox and Bush.

Barry ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2003, 05:07 PM:

Somebody (Josh Marshall?) pointed out that this is another mark against the competancy of the Bush administration. Bush sold out the Kurds, only to find that Turkey wasn't buying today [this may change in the future]. So Bush doesn't have Turkish support, and the Kurds are well aware that Bush betrayed them.

Bart ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2003, 10:36 PM:

This administration must be taking a direct page from Zero Mostels's hilarious movie Springtime for Hitler.(apt).

They have promised/bribed everybody anything to get to their goal.

The end game will blow up on them.

Hard Pressed ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2003, 03:24 PM:

I don't know whether anyone's still following this thread (I was away for the weekend) but maybe I should clarify: If my only choices are between two schools of psychopathic, sociopathic, megalomaniacal foreign policy, I would prefer the competent school of war-crime typified by Kissinger to the current bunch of idiots. It's not much of a choice. I can think of no way for the U.S. to "resolve" the Iraq "crisis" that does not involve genocidal levels of violence. The sanctions lead to massive death, invasion will lead to massive death, and Kissinger-style realpolitik leads to massive death.

However, if history is any guide, repressive regimes tend to fall dramatically only after a period of liberalization. The Soviet Union collapsed only after Glasnost (and the Tsars in turn collapsed only after reforms in the treatment of serfs), the French monarchy collapsed after the formation of--what was it called?--the House of Deputies or whatever. And it was precisely that kind of "liberalized dictatorship" period that Iran was entering right before the "axis of evil" nonsense sent the ayatollahs right back to full repression. I have no doubt that if Saddam relaxed his grip for a moment, the Iraqis would rise up en masse. But he can't do that with his back up against the wall.

charlie b. ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2003, 07:21 AM:

I don't post again in order to disagree. I think that many of the points above are well made. But I am not sure it is appropriate to characterise the fall of ancien regimes as brought about by liberalisation. It has generally been because administrations ran out of money, largely because of war and/or foreign policy costs, and were forced to raise more through grants by very traditional bodies that were turned to contemporary radical ends (like the Estates General in pre-Revolutionary France), or demands that people refused to meet. This was the pattern in England in the 1640s, the American colonies in the 1760s, France in the 1780s, Russia in the 1900s (and World War I in 1917) and Russia in the 1990s (Afghanistan, Cold War). But I don't think these are appropriate analogies for post-colonial military dictatorships. What the appropriate comparisons for Saddam might be is another matter. Perhaps Ferdinand Marcos. But I think it is grossly over-zealous to expect or demand that a functioning democracy be established on the wreck of the Ba'athist dictatorship. The goal should be the establishment of civil society: the rule of law, independent and honest police and courts, freedom of speech and assemly, free and enforceable contract, minimum standards of social welfare. Without those first, nothing can be built.