Wednesday, February 12, 2003
In all honesty, I don't have any opinion on Paul Krugman. He's an economist, and I prefer letting folks like Jane Galt and Mickey Kaus deal with him. But now he's trying to do foreign policy, arguing in the usual clich├ęs, and so I'll comment, ever-so-briefly and politely:

President George W. Bush's admirers often describe his stand against Saddam Hussein as "Churchillian." Yet his speeches about Iraq - and for that matter about everything else - have been notably lacking in promises of blood, toil, tears and sweat. Has there ever before been a leader who combined so much martial rhetoric with so few calls for sacrifice?
You know, I don't get this argument. We're not exactly taking on China hand-to-hand here. What is the point of calling for "sacrifice'? Yes, we know that there will good people dying on our behalf. But is Krugman really upset that Bush hasn't done enough to frighten us? Newsflash, Paul: we lost over 3,000 to mass murder less than two years ago. We get the 'sacrifice' part by now.

And though you don't hear much about it in the U.S. media, a lack of faith in Bush's staying power - a fear that he will wimp out in the aftermath of war, that he won't do what is needed to rebuild Iraq - is a large factor in the growing rift between Europe and the United States.
Wait wait wait wait waitasecond! All this time I've been told that "Europe" -- meaning "the governments of Germany and France" -- are opposed to any war at all, because the inspections are "working," that war is always a failure, that sophistimakated people can resolve everything through negotiations, from fishing rights to just how many people have to watch their kids tortured to death because some third-tier State Security colonel thinks they may be disloyal. Now, it turns out that this isn't the real cause -- that Gerjacques Chiroeder is actually concerned that the United States won't do enough to rebuild Iraq after such a war. (Unilaterally, right?) So all we had to do was show them some requisition forms for new highway construction, and they'd be all set? Wow -- misunderstanding indeed!

Now, a reasonable person, or a somewhat sentient cactus, might ask, given the American record in successful occupations and rebuilding, why anyone might be thinking along those lines. Fear not, intrepid Krugman readers, he shall explain all:

Why might Europeans not trust Bush to follow through after an Iraq war? One answer is that they've been mightily unimpressed with his follow-through in Afghanistan.
Incredible: the Europeans, who can't get their own act together to slap Mugabe on the wrist, who let did nothing but yell at Milosevic for years, who allowed Hitler to take a piece of Czechoslovakia and then make war on the world and kill people by the millions, the Europeans who engineered the Versailles Treaty, who brutalized Africa and then left it a gigantic clusterfuck -- those Europeans are not impressed with the American performance in Afghanistan?! Seems to me that the yardstick Krugman is using is short a foot or three.
But more broadly, they may have noticed something that is becoming apparent to more and more people here: the Bush administration's consistent unwillingness to take responsibility for solving difficult problems. When the going gets tough, it seems, Bush changes the subject.
As opposed to certain other unnamed leaders of unnamed nations. When the going gets tough, they surrender.

(Skipping some unrelated stuff about the budget deficit, which to Krugman must seem completely unrelated to the fact that there was a mega-terror attack and a consequential war a while back.)

Which brings us back to the war. Bush apparently regards Saddam Hussein as a pushover; he believes advisers who tell him that an Iraq war will be quick and easy - a couple of days of shock and awe, followed by a victory parade.
I don't know which White House meetings the good Dr. Krugman has been attending, but anyone who counsels Bush to enter Iraq expecting a cakewalk should be busted down to alphabetizing M&Ms for the White House candy bowl. No, somehow it seems to me that a straw sweeper is needed here -- nothing like "proving" someone stupid by ridiculing thoughts he doesn't voice. If Krugman has evidence that Bush is assuming Iraq will be an easy job, let him present it; otherwise, he's just talking to himself. Iraq's a big country made up of a whole bunch of tribes, including everyone from Stalinists to Islamists -- it's pretty damn self-evident that taking control of it will not be a trivial matter. Dr. Krugman's a smart man, but the people around Bush aren't the dimwits he imagines. (Or, perhaps, wishes -- hey, two can play this game!)
But even if it does turn out that way, is this administration ready for the long, difficult, quite possibly bloody task of rebuilding Iraq?

The Europeans don't think so. In fact, they view Bush's obsession with invading Iraq as a demonstration of why he can't be trusted to deal with what comes next.
That's funny: I was just thinking that Chiroeder's obsession with protecting a dictator and Franco-German financial and political interests are quite the demonstration of why they can't be trusted with any foreign policy more significant than just what names they plan to call the people that have to keep saving them from their own stupidity every few decades.
In the United States it is taken as axiomatic that America is a country that really faces up to evildoers, while those sniveling old Europeans just don't have the nerve.
Oh, sure, now Dr. Krugman decides to be kind. It's a bit more than that, though: America faces up to scum from Nazis to communists to Islamists, losing its men and treasure to protect the likes of France from Germany, Germany from the USSR, and the people of Afghanistan (and damn near every place else) from lunatics that think a mosque is just a swell place to keep an AK-47. Meantime, the sophisticated and principled and, hell, impressive Europod talking heads sneer at us, find clever and "subtle" ways of making some money by selling the scumbags a few weapons, all the while pointing out that it's those bad cowboy Americans who are out of control.
Tough-guy rhetoric aside, this image seems to be based on the following policy - as opposed to political - achievements: (1) The overthrow of the Taliban; (2) … any suggestions for 2?
Let's see: does the massive damage to al-Qaeda count? The return of inspectors to Iraq? (No, I'm sure it was the UN that accomplished that. Pay no attention to the thousands of American troops on the border...) Not to mention all those successful initiatives that I'm sure Krugman abhores -- repudiation of Kyoto, for example, or the abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, or the outright, unequivocal rejection of the International Kangaroo Criminal Court. Fine, don't like them -- but surely Bush can get some credit for pushing them through?

While we are on the subject, Bush has been in office for only two years. In that time, he has shifted U.S. policy in major ways, while successfully prosecuting a war to destroy a hostile regime that harbored, aided, and abetted a major terrorist network with a track record of killing Americans in large numbers. He now is poised to take out the Middle East's answer to Hitler (complete with mustache and a nuclear weapons program), despite the stench of Chamberlain-style appeasement rhetoric emanating from Paris, Berlin, Brussels, and Berkeley since before the WTC rubble stopped smoldering -- and with the backing of a huge number of European and Arab nations. Krugman is not impressed? Well, let's hear it for high standards! Perhaps the good Doctor can refresh us all on what Bush's predecessor accomplished in his first two years in office? I'm really not into Clinton bashing, but can anyone please remind me of any major achievements of that Administration, concentrating particularly on the years 1992-1994? All I seem to remember is the noise about gays in the military, settled with typical Clintonian adherence to principle on "don't ask don't tell," and, if memory serves, the "Hillarycare" fiasco that pretty much destroyed any hope anyone might have had for a government-run guaranteed-healthcare system in America for the foreseeable future. And that's when both houses of Congress were solidly in his party -- an advantage Bush didn't get until this year. (Oh, and of course, no credit to Bush for that, either.)

And while I am on the subject of Clinton, just what did he manage to do about al-Qaeda? You know, after they bombed the WTC the first time, then the American embassies in Africa, then the Cole? He had seven freaking years, and Europod goodwill by the bushel, to take those assholes out -- what happened? Really, I'm not out to bash Clinton here, but what other yardstick should we judge Bush by, anyway? FDR's first two years in office weren't anything to cheer about, either.

Sorry if I got a bit distracted there; back to Krugman:

Meanwhile, here's how it looks from Paris: France was willing to put ground troops at risk - and lose a number of soldiers - in the former Yugoslavia; we weren't.
If they were so "willing," why did it take the arrival of the U.S. military to get anything done in the Balkans -- even though they were in Chirac's back yard, and are of absolutely no strategic interest to the U.S.? Good God, is the man actually giving credit for Milosevic's capture to the French? Also, we are putting our ground troops at risk in Iraq, and we put them at risk -- and lost some -- in Afghanistan. We don't need to prove our bravery and commitment -- certainly not to the Germans and French!

The United States didn't make good on its promises to provide security and aid to post-Taliban Afghanistan.
No? Just what are all those bases doing there, anyway? Who guards Hamid Karzai? Or were we supposed to have the place totally pacified by now? The French did such an admirable job of that in the Ivory Coast, non?
Those Americans, they are very brave when it comes to bombing from 10,000 meters, but they expect other people to clean up the mess they make, no?
Marvellous, Dr. Krugman! Just super! Sure, that's how we won Afghanistan: just bombed the snot out of everything from our planes, whose pilots knew where their targets were by means of tea leaves and magic potions. Nope, we lost not a single man out there, no special forces guys lived with the rebels and behind enemy lines for months, plotting out targets for the Air Force. That Taliban base raid video footage we all saw on CNN? They taped it in Nevada, next door to the set where NASA filmed its bogus moon landing. You know the score, man -- they ain't foolin' you!

And yeah, Americans just made a mess and left it to the Canadians, Germans, Turks, and the fearsome French to deal with it. Nope, no Americans on the ground there. No sir!

And French officials have made no secret of their belief that Bush wants to invade Iraq not because he is truly convinced that Saddam Hussein is a menace, but because he'd rather have an easy victory in a conventional war than stick to the hard task of tracking down stateless terrorists.
Sure. I mean, if you can't trust a French politician to be sincere with his beliefs, who can you trust? It's not like they have any financial interests in Iraq or nuthin'...
I'm not saying they're right; I have no idea what Bush is really thinking.
Oh, come now, Doctor, it's way too late to be modest.
But you can understand their point of view.
Absolutely. Their point of view is that they are no longer the world players they used to be (and still believe they deserve to be, all evidence to the contrary be damned). There is much innocent Iraqi blood on their hands, and a matching amount of Hussein's blood money in their treasuries. They don't like the idea of being revealed for the third-rate powers that they are, so they use our own openness against us, and abuse the privilege of living in the safe bubble that comes from having a large benefactor willing to come to your aid when scum come calling.
In the days ahead, as the diplomatic confrontation between the Bush administration and the Europeans escalates, remember this: Viewed from the outside, Bush's America does not look like a regime whose promises you can trust.
I love that word "regime" thrown in there, really. And while I certainly don't put blind trust in Bush or any other Administration, I've got to say that when compared to Chirac and Schroeder ("regime" heads, the both of them!), Bush is the epitome of integrity. Either of those two Europod tie racks would make Arafat look good by comparison. Their "skepticism" and distrust of Bush -- what little part of it is genuine -- is nothing more than projection of the most revolting kind.

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