Man Without Qualities

Saturday, February 08, 2003

A Zany New Franco-German Proposal

The French and Germans are reported to be readying a new proposal to avoid war in Iraq. The zany heart of the new proposal: the number of weapons inspectors should be tripled from the current 100 operating in Iraq. That is, the dishonest cat-and-mouse scavenger hunt now being played by 100 "inspectors" in a country the size of California would be expanded to the same cat-and-mouse scavenger hunt played by 300 "inspectors." The proposal would also pointlessly send thousands of U.N. troops - so-called "blue helmets" - "to enforce U.N. resolutions calling for Iraq's disarmament," apparently on the mistaken belief that the problem in Iraq is civil unrest, not pervasive dictatorial control directed to assembling the means of mass murder.

Other hilarious aspects are reported to include the proposal that the some 150,000 U.S. troops already deployed to the Gulf should stay in place to force Baghdad to cooperate and be ready to invade if it breaches the new proposed U.N. resolution. No mention is made of France or Germany actually paying any part of the many billions of dollars maintaining this semi-permanent police force would cost - and an actual authorization to invade would apparently still require a new Security Council vote which the French could veto. Gee, maybe the French and Germans should try turning their proposal around and propose that they assemble, maintain and finance a vast standing army and place it at the disposal of the United States. The proposal is predictably not reported to include any specific time frame for Iraqi compliance, although it does seem to contemplate creation of a whole new United Nations bureaucracy, including a new court and tighter controls on oil smuggling by Iraq's neighbors.

Oil smuggling by Iraq's neighbors? Leave it to the French and Germans to cut to the heart of the matter.

Der Spiegel said the initiative - uproariously dubbed "Project Mirage," but without apparent ironic intent - could help Schroeder out of the corner he seemed to have backed himself into over Iraq, risking international isolation if he sticks to his anti-war stance but political suicide at home if he changes course. And that's the underlying problem with the proposal. It is entirely and transparently structured to address pedestrian European political agendas in the most unimaginative and leaderless way, and addresses the real issues only as an afterthought. In short, it should be an embarrassment to it creators, who apparently have no shame and shockingly little political competence.

But Herr Schroeder should get used to that corner, because this plan is going exactly nowhere, nor should it.

UPDATE: Colin Powell nails the coffin.

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