At least the French have an excuse

Last night, in commenting about a piece by E.J. Dionne, I discussed the vacuousness of the oft-leveled charge that the Bush administration has not tried hard enough to obtain international support for its efforts in Iraq. Jonathan Rauch makes essentially the same point in this column from the National Journal. Rauch writes:
“Bush is not going it alone. He is setting his agenda and then looking for support, rather than the other way around. That is what presidents and countries typically do. It is certainly what France does — and how. France’s intransigence on farm subsidies has been the single greatest impediment to progress at the World Trade Organization. France’s determination to set up an independent European military-planning center risks splitting NATO. France’s refusal to comply with the European Union’s fiscal rules may result in the rules’ collapse. France freely uses its E.U. clout to bully dissenting European countries. It does not shrink from calling on them to ‘shut up.’ It did not shrink from announcing it would unilaterally veto any Security Council resolution authorizing military action against Iraq, ‘whatever the circumstances.’ This is not exactly team playing, although critics of American unilateralism rarely see fit to mention it.”
Rauch also notes that Bush has acted multilaterally on important issues:
“The administration is insisting on a multilateral approach to North Korea — not grudgingly, as NPR’s Shuster would have it, but in the teeth of allies’ reluctance to get involved. It is trying to mobilize the United Nations on Iran. It has set up a multilateral Proliferation Security Initiative to interdict weapons, with France and Germany among the eight European participants. It recently won a multilateral agreement with 20 Asian and Pacific countries to curb the trade in shoulder-fired missiles.”
It is normal for foreign powers, with interests that often conflict with ours, to complain about U.S. arrogance when things don’t go their way. They do this partly out of spite and partly in an effort to cow us into paying more attention to their interests. It is less normal for a major political party in the U.S., along with the “mainstream” media, to join foreign governments in sounding this bogus theme. What strange mixture of spite, opportunism, and ambivalence or antipathy towards our interests is driving them?

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