Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Bringing Allies To The Table

John Kerry has placed a lot of importance on reaching out to allies as part of his Iraq plan. It has served to distinguish him from Bush in a very stark way since one of Bush's brilliant strategies in the war has been to alienate European powers (no, George, we know, not Poland.) When pundits and journalists talk about this aspect of Kerry's plan, however, there is a definite tone of skepticism. Certainly, Saturday Night Live targeted it for ridicule ("I will reach out to our allies as this president has not, and that, my friends, is my plan") and on Face The Nation on Sunday, an incredulous Bob Schieffer asked John Edwards about how exactly they plan to do this. This was Edwards's reply:

I think first if you start where George Bush is, I mean, he has pushed these allies away in the lead-up to the war, and then he pushed them away a second time with respect to the reconstruction. He can’t do it. We know that. Then you look at what John Kerry can do. I think that basically success breeds participation. I mean, if we do the other things that I just talked about quickly, you know, for example speeding up the training of the Iraqis, which they’re not doing – they’ve got less than half of the staff on the ground that’s needed in order to do that job—that will have an impact, you know, speeding up the reconstruction, using the money that’s been allocated—you know, there’s only a small percentage of it that’s been used—making sure the election takes place. I mean, if they see success beginning to occur on the ground, plus they have a president who’s actually reaching out to them not just for troops but also to participate in the reconstruction, to have a seat at the table with America leading, then I think there’s a much greater chance of getting those countries involved.

Hearing Edwards explain it, while it makes sense, it does still seem a bit naive. For while the administration can't come out and say it, one wonders who in their right mind would want to be involved in Iraq now.

Well, maybe Germany for one...if there's a change in strategy. According to The Financial Times:

[German Defense Minister Peter] Struck departed from his government’s resolve not to send troops to Iraq under any circumstances, saying: “At present I rule out the deployment of German troops in Iraq. In general, however, there is no one who can predict developments in Iraq in such a way that he could make a such a binding statement [about the future].”

Mr Struck also welcomed Mr Kerry’s proposal that he would convene an international conference on Iraq including countries that opposed the war if he were to win next month's election.

Germany would certainly attend, Mr Struck said. “This is a very sensible proposal. The situation in Iraq can only be cleared up when all those involved sit together at one table. Germany has taken on responsibilities in Iraq, including financial ones; this would naturally justify our involvement in such a conference.”

Maybe not so naive after all.


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