Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan denounce the Pentagon’s decision to exclude certain countires that have not supported our efforts in Iraq from bidding for Iraqi reconstruction contracts. They call the decision “stupid,” “heavy-handed,” and “counterproductive.” However, if you believe as I do that nations like France and Germany have opposed our efforts in Iraq not out of good faith disagreement on the merits, but because of a combination of economic self-interest and a desire to reduce American (hyper) power and influence, then the presumption should be in favor of the Pentagon’s ban. It seems self-evident that bad faith opposition to our goals and interests should carry adverse consequences. Otherwise, nations will have less incentive than they should to support us in the future.
To be sure, the “punitive presumption” can be overcome. Kristol and Kagan seek to overcome it by claiming that the Pentagon’s decision “has made former Secretary of State James Baker’s very important effort to get these countries, among others, to offer debt relief for the new government of Iraq almost impossible. This is to say nothing of other areas where we need to work with these governments.” But these artful locutions raise more questions than they answer. What are the prospects that, if the Pentagon relents, Baker’s efforts will succeed? How important to overall debt relief are the decisions of the specific countries banned from assisting in Iraqi reconstruction? What are the “other areas” where we supposedly need the help of these governments, how important are these areas, and how likely is that we will get this help if we relent? Kristol and Kagan do not say. Thus, in my view, they do not overcome the presumption that the nations that organized international opposition to our efforts should be cut out. Indeed, I think we should demand assurances that these nations will support our efforts in concrete ways before we cut them back in.
UPDATE: Reader Dafydd ab Hugh has this to say about “the terrible threat that has Bill Kristol quaking in his bunny slippers — that France, Germany, and Russia may not agree to restructure the ‘Iraq’ debt.” He proposes that “we gently suggest to the Iraqi Governing Council that, since those debts were contracted to the tyrant and dictator Saddam Hussein, and the Iraqi people never benefitted from them; and indeed, much of the money was used for Saddam’s wehrmacht, which was used by and large to suppress and brutalize the Iraqi people; and in fact, much was sold illegally to Iraq in defiance of the sanctions which all three countries ostensibly supported — therefore, if France, Germany, and Russia want their blessed money back, they can bloody well look up Saddam himself and present a bill. The Iraqi people have no responsibility for debts run up with French complicity by totalitarian thugs ruling by terror and murder.”
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