Big Bad Wolfowitz and the coalition starting lineup
_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.