Sunday, June 08, 2003

Here's an Englishman's view of the developing mess surrounding Tony Blair over the missing WMD:

Last year, Josh Marshall wrote an article which questioned the competence of the US administration.

A lot of us went ‘huh?’ at that. I mean, The Bushies seemed to be ruthless, aggressive, gung-ho and downright unpleasant, but incompetent? Well, it doesn’t look like it. But, the only viable challenge to Tony Blair’s authority will come if it is found that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or such a small quantity as to be laughable.

In a sense, this shouldn’t matter. As I’ve argued before, if Saddam used to have WMD, acted like he still had WMD, and refused to co-operate with inspectors then whether they actually had them or not is irrelevant to whether it was reasonable to assume they were.

Tony Blair is being punished right now, not because there are no WMD to be found, but because some Journalists, politicians and editors felt that not enough time was given to inspections. They believe that this process was rushed- that there was no attempt to wait and see.

Why was it impossible for the UN to wait a little longer on its investigations of WMD?

Because the US insisted. There was no evidence that Iraq was going to co-operate, but the Americans were so eager not to appear restrained by soft multi-laterals that they wanted action immediately and would brook no opposition. Another few weeks and Iraq still wouldn’t have co-operated, the International community would have been more settled. Not unanimous maybe, but clear that Iraq was not co-operating.

So right now, Tony Blair is paying the price for American impatience.

I happen to think for all sorts of reasons that Tony Blair did exactly the right thing. It was reasonable to assume that Iraq had WMD, The danger of a unilateral US was too awful to contemplate, Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, The cross-pollination of WMD and terror was a real threat. The question the world should be asking, and would be asking, were it not for Bush administration incompetence, is “why did Iraq act like it had WMD if it didn’t, even when it was clear that to do so meant invasion?”. Instead, and solely because of George Bush refusal to compromise, the world is asking “why did the US and the UK lie about WMD?”. They didn’t, but the perception of governments desperate to hurry a confrontation is hard to shake. Especially when US hawks were crowing about just that.

By next year it is now possible that Germany and Spain will have seen Pro-US parties lose elections because of their support for the US. France and Russia will see their strategic position strengthened as declared oppositionists to US policies across a range of proposals, that Pro-US governments in the UK and Italy will be significantly weakened and facing far stronger internal opposition.
In exchange for this, George Bush will have a recalcitrant, possibly still violent Iraq.

And all because George Bush would not wait a few weeks.

If that’s not terrible diplomacy, I don’t know what is.

Blame Bush for this mess.