Big Bad Wolfowitz and the coalition starting lineup

Wolfowitz Speaks! And State shows that, hey, one is *not* the loneliest number.

_Newsweek_ interviewed Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz last Wednesday. In this transcript, helpfully provided by the Dept. of Defense, Wolfowitz refuses to name names in the coalition (*see below), talks about how American leadership is different from other leadership and explains other countries’ opposition to the war by saying they’ve had a “free ride.” And that’s just in the first few questions.

*Newsweek:* … If a threat is so imminent and the dangers are so real, why is it so difficult to get the international community, or at least much more of the international community on board here? What happened? What’s going on? Is this a Kitty Genovese moment, you know, in the sense that people just don’t want to know how bad it is? What’s going on?
*DepSecDef Wolfowitz:* I think for one thing there’s a lot of what can be called free rider activity going on. People are so used to the United States taking care of problems and they know the President’s going to deal with this one so they can reap the benefits in whatever form serves their purposes, and frequently that’s domestic politics. Sometimes it’s as simple as they don’t want to buck a domestic tie. Blair’s a real stand-up guy and it takes a lot of political courage to do that, but unfortunately part of his problem is caused by a number of leaders who are actually demagoguing this issue and whipping up opinion.
*Newsweek:* But in all these countries it’s a really strong domestic tide.
*DepSecDef Wolfowitz:* But it’s fed by leadership. Leadership matters. American opinion is different because our leadership is talking about it differently.
*Newsweek:* But even in those countries that are really strong traditional allies of ours where the leadership is with us, a country even like Poland, their majority is against them.
*DepSecDef Wolfowitz:* But they’re hearing all these echoes from France and Germany and supposedly respectable European opinion.
I think another part is that they’re not threatened directly the way we are. They didn’t experience September 11th. They’re not the target of Saddam’s threats the way we are.

The rest of the interview is an interesting read, but be warned: if you don’t trust Wolfowitz, your head will explode with all the reasons he gives for attacking Iraq.
* Oops! The State Department released the starting lineup today. The “Coalition for the Immediate Disarmament of Iraq” (CIDI?) includes

Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Japan (post conflict), South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, Britain, Uzbekistan.

George over at Warblogging gets it right, again, calling it “Coalitionstan.”
(P.S. Warblogging is a consistently good read. I’m proud to be associated with it.)
The real question is, of course, how much help these countries are giving. Australia and Britain are sending troops — although the Brits kept Washington sweating until just now — but what about the other countries? Turkey is still dithering, despite initial reports that said Ankara was about to flip. Other countries have no doubt granted overflight or basing rights, but do those permissions and verbal cheering (i.e., issuing “me too” statements) count as being a member of the coalition? To use an sporting metaphor, are cheerleaders members of the team?
I guess it depends on how much support is forthcoming. Egypt’s keeping the Suez Canal open, to me, doesn’t count, since that’s what it’s supposed to do anyway. The deployment of Czech Republic anti-chemical troops does, however.
In other news, I’m _still_ waiting on word on my Syrian visa. The Turkish one should be forthcoming within a few days as I’m just getting a tourist visa. I’m not hopeful that I’ll be able to get in through Turkey, but the more visas in the passport the better.
My friend at the Washington office of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan told me that Iran closed the border today. Another journalist i know in Tehran told me that it doesn’t matter as the Persian new year (March 20-24) pretty much shuts down the country anyway. Just as well, as the Iranians were dragging their heels on my visa, not telling me anything. I may hit Rome first, as I heard the embassy there is easier to work with. I’m still looking at a departure date about two weeks from yesterday, though, which would put me in country in early April.

Clearing up some confusion

Responses to some misconceptions

First of all, so many people have been visiting that I suspect the server is straining. That’s, uh, good, I suppose. At any rate, it’s a good problem to have. The story was great for getting attention, but it seems to have created some new problems. I’d like to clear up some misconceptions:
1. I’m not in Iraq at the moment. I’m still raising funds via PayPal to get there. Departure date is around the beginning of April depending on when the visas from Syria/Turkey/Iran come through. I’m not sure where the impression came that I was there already, but this trip is still coming together. Currently, donations total more than $5000, but to jet off to a war zone for a month with less than $10,000 is suicide. I’m got my own savings of $1,500, but that’s not quite enough yet.
While I wish I could be there to be shocked and awed, the beginning of April will be a good time because by then, the northern front will be a _most interesting place_, with Iranians, Turks, Kurds, Americans and perhaps Iraqis running about.
2. I’m independent, not unbiased. There’s a difference. And when one is still in New York, working from your own sources as well as what’s out in the mediaverse, columns are what one writes. I never claimed to be unbiased, but my biases are clear and my reporting is transparent. The stories I will and have been reporting hopefully will stand up to scrutiny and history. That will be my credibility, not whether a reader agrees with my stance or not.
Yes, I’m opposed to this war, although I’m not opposed to war in general. I think this war is the wrong war at the wrong time. One of the things that this web site allows me to do is to call bullshit when I think I see it, and last night’s presidential address was an opportunity to do that. Other than a 48-hour deadline, it was the same arguments that have been presented for months. (For that matter, the anti-war crowd has hardened its positions — we’re now in ideological trench warfare.)
So I hope this clears up some confusion. And to people who have donated and/or written to express your good will and well-wishes, thank you so much. If I haven’t responded to you yet, please be patient. I’ve been swamped and it’s been a busy few days. I will write you today or tomorrow, depending on what happens in the world.