Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

The good, bad and Ugly side of Multilateralism
Townhall ^ | 8/25/06 | Charles Krauthammer

Posted on 08/25/2006 4:42:55 AM PDT by Molly Pitcher

WASHINGTON -- The cowboy has been retired. Multilateralism is back. Diplomacy is king. That's the conventional wisdom about Bush's second term: Under the influence of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the administration has finally embraced ``the allies.''

This is considered a radical change of course. It is not. Even the most ardent unilateralist always prefers multilateral support under one of two conditions: (1) there is something the allies will actually help accomplish, or (2) there is nothing to be done anyway, so multilateralism gives you the cover of appearing to do something.

The six-party negotiations on North Korea are an example of the second. North Korea went nuclear a long time ago. Our time to act was during the Bush 41 and Clinton administrations. Nothing was done. And nothing can be done now. Once a country has gone nuclear, there is no return. The nukes themselves act as a deterrent against military measures. And no diplomat, however mellifluous, is going to talk a nuclear North Korea into dismantling the one thing that gives it any significance in the world.

Like most multilateral efforts, the six-party talks give only the appearance of activity, thereby providing cover to a hopelessly lost cause. Nothing wrong with that kind of multilateralism.

Lebanon is an example of the other category -- multilateralism that might actually accomplish something. The U.S. worked assiduously with France to draft a Security Council resolution that would create a powerful international force, and thus a real buffer, in south Lebanon. However, when the Lebanese government and the Arab League objected, France became their lawyer and renegotiated the draft with the U.S. The State Department acquiesced to a far weaker resolution on the quite reasonable grounds that since France was going to lead and be the major participant in the international force, we should not be dictating the terms under which the force would operate.

But we underestimated French perfidy. (Overestimating it is mathematically impossible.) Once the resolution was passed, France announced that instead of the expected 5,000 troops, it would be sending 200. The French defense minister explained that they were not going to send out soldiers under a limited mandate and weak rules of engagement -- precisely the mandate and rules of engagement that the French had just gotten us to agree to.

This breathtaking duplicity -- payback for the Louisiana Purchase? -- left the State Department red-faced. (It recouped somewhat when, Thursday night, France reportedly agreed to send 1,500 to 2000 troops.) But the setback was minor compared to what we now face with Iran. Hezbollah in south Lebanon is a major irritant, but a nuclear Iran is a major strategic threat.

The problem is not quite as intractable as North Korea because Iran has not crossed the nuclear threshold. And American diplomacy has, up until now, been defensible. Secretary Rice's June initiative, postponing Security Council debate on sanctions, was meant to keep the allies on board. It offered Iran a major array of economic and diplomatic incentives (including talks with the U.S.), with but a single condition: Iran had to verifiably halt uranium enrichment.

Iran's answer is now in. It will not. Indeed, on the day before it sent its reply to the U.N., Iran barred IAEA inspectors from the uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz. Our exercise in multilateralism has now reached criticality. We never expected Iran to respond positively. The whole point in going the extra mile was to demonstrate American good will and thus get our partners to support real sanctions at the Security Council.

But this will not work. The Russians and Chinese are already sending signals that they will allow Iran to endlessly drag out the process. Even if we do get sanctions imposed on Iran, they will undoubtedly be weak. And even if they are strong, the mullahs will not give up the glory and dominion (especially over the Arabs) that come with the bomb in exchange for a mess of pottage.

Realistically speaking, the point of this multilateral exercise cannot be to stop Iran's nuclear program by diplomacy. That has always been a fantasy. It will take military means. There will be terrible consequences from such an attack. These must be weighed against the terrible consequences of allowing an openly apocalyptic Iranian leadership from acquiring weapons of genocide.

The point of the current elaborate exercise in multilateral diplomacy is to slightly alter that future calculation. By demonstrating extraordinary forbearance and accommodation, perhaps we will have purchased the acquiescence of our closest allies -- Britain, Germany and, yes, France -- to a military strike on that fateful day when diplomacy has run its course.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; Government; Israel; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: americandiplomacy; frenchperfidy; irael; iran; lebanon; securitycouncil; un
perhaps we will have purchased the acquiescence of our closest allies -- Britain, Germany and, yes, France -- to a military strike on that fateful day when diplomacy has run its course.

Well, did this work in the run up to the Iraq War??? Hmmmmm...

1 posted on 08/25/2006 4:42:56 AM PDT by Molly Pitcher
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Molly Pitcher

Krauthammer is one of the few people writing clearly about these issues.


2 posted on 08/25/2006 4:50:41 AM PDT by Peach (The Clintons pardoned more terrorists than they ever captured or killed.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Molly Pitcher
The Russians and Chinese are already sending signals that they will allow Iran to endlessly drag out the process. Even if we do get sanctions imposed on Iran, they will undoubtedly be weak. And even if they are strong, the mullahs will not give up the glory and dominion (especially over the Arabs) that come with the bomb in exchange for a mess of pottage.



I take issue with Charlie's description of the run-up to the Iraq War and the whole cowboy/unilateralism/multilateralism thing. Caall me retarded or stupid or whaatever term you like, my recollection of the run-up to the start of the Iraq War was a wasted 6 months at the UN playing the multilateralism game to no avail. The UN wanted to continue issueing pointless resolution after pointless resolution. Bush saw that it was a waste of time and took necessary action.

I give Krauthammer credit with the quoted passage, however, I think he fails to clearly see the end game. China and Russia may be indicating that they won't wait forever, but the question is, if we wait on them, how long will they wait? The day after Iran uses a nuclear weapon to wipe out Tel Aviv, or Haifa, or Jerusalem, or Baghdad, or someplace else is too late. The multilateralism game only gets us in bed with weak-kneed "allies" who are more afraid of getting Iran and the rest of the ME mad at them, than the consequences of a nuclear attack by terrorists using an Iranian produced nuclear device. This is a poker game with very terrible stakes on the table. If the wrong player blinks, we are all in big trouble.

3 posted on 08/25/2006 5:08:15 AM PDT by DustyMoment (FloriDUH - proud inventors of pregnant/hanging chads and judicide!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Molly Pitcher

Another example of Krauthammer's clear thinking on this topic- excellent piece and thanks for posting..


4 posted on 08/25/2006 5:16:07 AM PDT by SE Mom (Proud mom of an Iraq war combat vet-prayers for Steve & Olaf & Israeli Soldiers))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Molly Pitcher
There will be terrible consequences from such an attack. These must be weighed against the terrible consequences of allowing an openly apocalyptic Iranian leadership from acquiring weapons of genocide.

We have a clear choice. This is the biggest test we face in the present times. I hope and pray the Administration does not let us down.

5 posted on 08/25/2006 5:26:33 AM PDT by Rummyfan
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: dennisw; Cachelot; Nix 2; veronica; Catspaw; knighthawk; Alouette; Optimist; weikel; Lent; GregB; ..
If you'd like to be on this middle east/political ping list, please FR mail me.

High Volume. Articles on Israel can also be found by clicking on the Topic or Keyword Israel.

also Keywords 2006israelwar or WOT [War on Terror]

----------------------------

6 posted on 08/25/2006 6:00:01 AM PDT by SJackson (The PilgrimsóDoing the jobs Native Americans wouldn't do!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: DustyMoment
The multilateralism game only gets us in bed with weak-kneed "allies" who are more afraid of getting Iran and the rest of the ME mad at them, than the consequences of a nuclear attack by terrorists using an Iranian produced nuclear device.

The weak-kneed "allies" have a considerably larger population of muslims in their countries and it could be difficult for them to suppress and internal uprising of these muslims with their troops elsewhere.

7 posted on 08/25/2006 7:47:42 AM PDT by Ouderkirk (Don't you think it's interesting how death and destruction seems to happen wherever Muslims gather?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Ouderkirk
The weak-kneed "allies" have a considerably larger population of muslims in their countries and it could be difficult for them to suppress and internal uprising of these muslims with their troops elsewhere.

And that, my FReeper FRiend, is exactly why America tends to be left to its own devices when it comes to global diplomacy. Someone, has to take a stand against the random and arbitrary murders committed by Muslims in the name of Islam. If the US is the only one willing to anger the Muslims within its borders to address eggregious evil and wrong doing that affects many civilized nations on this earth, so be it.
8 posted on 08/25/2006 8:38:24 AM PDT by DustyMoment (FloriDUH - proud inventors of pregnant/hanging chads and judicide!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: DustyMoment

Amen


9 posted on 08/25/2006 8:48:11 AM PDT by Ouderkirk (Don't you think it's interesting how death and destruction seems to happen wherever Muslims gather?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Rummyfan
We only have 2 military options that can bear fruit.

1) Bomb the facilities. But the success of that depends completely on our intel. We know most of the sites but do we know all? Can our bombs/missiles deliver a hard enough blow to buy time? How much time? 6 Months? 1-2 years? Will a future President Clinton, Romney, Guiliani, Feingold be prepared to strike again when necessary?

Or if the sites are very hardened would we need to send in special forces/airborne troops to assault a few key facilities and destroy them on the ground? Risky but we would have greater assurance of success.

2) Create an Iranian 'Contra-like' force inside Iran to wage an insurgency inside the country. That raises it's own questions. Is there an indigenous group(s) willing take up arms against Iran. I'm sure the Kurdish population might, but what about the others (Turkmen, Azeri, etc.) They would probably not be strong enough to overthrow the regime but they could disrupt oil production enough to crash their economy and possibly bring up regime change from within.

I would prefer number #2. Iran only exports 2.5 mbp of oil. If we could get the other countries to boost production to cover the loss we could bring down the Iranian economy in months with a concerted insurgency campaign against their vulnerable oil production facilities.
10 posted on 08/25/2006 11:29:32 AM PDT by DHerion
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson