Friday, March 21, 2003

Operation Inflate the Coalition

I asked yesterday if Rumsfeld was engaging in new math when he claimed that the "coalition of the willing" was larger than the coalition that went to war in 1991. Jake Tapper is on the case:
Some critics have questioned how much of a true coalition this is, given that only three countries -- the U.S., U.K. and Australia -- have actually sent soldiers. Asked about this apparent weakness in the "coalition," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer on Tuesday said that the White House has "all along said, in terms of actual active combat, there will be very, very few countries." Since that admission, the White House has gone on an offensive to prove how multilateral this coalition is. It's No. 1 in the administration's talking points. But they may have gone too far. On Thursday, when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters that the coalition behind Operation Iraqi Freedom is even bigger than the one behind Operation Desert Storm, even some military leaders and veterans of Republican administrations disagreed and were dismayed at the disingenuousness. Meanwhile, some countries the U.S. counts as among the "willing" are continuing to criticize the U.S. military moves against Iraq, raising questions about how willing they really are.
Tapper has an interesting comment from Thomas Pickering, the U.S. ambassador to the UN during Bush 41:
In an interview with NPR, Pickering recently said that the current coalition was so small because the current Bush team "began the effort saying we really didn't need anybody else's help, and I think that that became the self-fulfilling prophecy, almost as if we didn't want anybody else's help, and that's certainly where we have ended up. "They played the unilateral card too hot, too heavy, too fast and too early," Pickering said, "and then shifted to having a multilateral strategy." Even after that, he said, the current Bush administration "continued to do a unilateral shtick on the issue at every occasion that it found possible to do so."
Pickering gives voice to the idea that is becoming increasingly obvious: the Bushies never wanted this to be a multi-lateral operation under the palaver of international organizations like the UN or NATO. They wanted it to be a US operation from the beginning in order to prove that we could do it without the rest of the world. The subsequent "shift to having a multilateral strategy" was just a cover for the troop buildup. If they had not gotten the UN to pass 1441 it would have been harder to move the troops into place without really turning world opinion against us. Indeed, if we had done so, the UNSC would have probably been convened anyway to discuss how to reign in the belligerent actions of the United States. The "diplomatic failures" of the last few months were not failures at all. It all went exactly according to plan.

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