How far can perceived self-interest go in blinding one to impending peril? A very long way apparently:
- On the pedestrian-only streets of Munich’s historic downtown yesterday, couples walked arm in arm past elegant boutiques and narrow stores offering 100 different kinds of homemade chocolate truffle. Cathedral bells pealed through the snow. Skaters in an open-air rink twirled to the sounds of Tina Turner and the cheering smells of roasting chestnuts beneath the enduring walls of great medieval structures.
And here was Herr Rumsfeld to tell them that “the security environment we are entering is the most dangerous the world has known.” This is a historic moment of testing for the world’s free nations, he warned. “The lives of our children and grandchildren could well hang in the balance.”
Who would want to believe such a thing? Life here does not seem dangerous. Life here is civilized. Iraq is far away. Between Rumsfeld, who addressed a security conference here yesterday, and the thousands of demonstrators against war in Iraq who were kept at a distance by 3,500 police officers, there may be many differences, but probably none more significant than the gap in perception of risk.
….The immediate source of tension was a NATO proposal to help Turkey prepare for a possible attack from Iraq by sending it Patriot missiles, AWACS planes and units trained to deal with chemical or biological attack. France and Germany have informally blocked such plans for days and were said to be planning to formally block them tomorrow. “Inexcusable,” said Rumsfeld. “A terrible injury” to NATO, agreed Republican Sen. John McCain, also a speaker here yesterday. Clinton administration officials in the audience were equally scandalized.
The Turkey fight is a proxy for the larger disagreement over Iraq, which in turn fits into the larger clash of whether the world is in fact as dangerous as Rumsfeld argued. And on that subject, the defense secretary yesterday made as powerful a case as had his Cabinet colleague Colin Powell in the United Nations last week — overpowering the opposition not with evidence this time but with logic. He was polite (no lumping of Germany with Cuba and Libya) but relentless.
“Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but they’re not entitled to their own facts,” Rumsfeld said. And given the facts Powell had laid out, Rumsfeld argued that inaction is unacceptably perilous. A dozen years of U.N. resolutions, inspections and sanctions have not worked, he said; deterrence cannot work against “a terrorist state that can conceal its responsibility for an attack,” as the sponsor of the 1996 attack against U.S. forces in the Khobar Towers remains concealed.
….In the face of this assault, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer’s response was emotional and indignant but not persuasive. He accepted that 9/11 had changed everything, that Saddam Hussein is a terrible man; but the timing is wrong, he said, and other problems too great. Breaking from German to English, he addressed Rumsfeld directly: “Excuse me, I am not convinced.” Later, back in German, he admitted plaintively to one possible reason: “It would be easier, of course, if all of this fit into public opinion,” he said. [Washington Post]
The official block on Turkey came today:
- France, Germany and Belgium blocked NATO efforts Monday to begin planning for possible Iraqi attacks against Turkey, deepening divisions in the alliance over the U.S.-led push to oust Saddam Hussein.
….Early Monday, France, Germany and Belgium blocked the automatic start of NATO procedures for the military planning to protect Turkey, arguing it would force the crisis into a “logic of war” when diplomatic alternatives still stood a chance of success.
“It would signify that we have already entered into the logic of war, that … any chance, any initiative to still resolve the conflict in a peaceful way was gone,” Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel said. [AP]
It is gone, you toady lickspittle.
- Over the weekend, at an international defense conference in Munich, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld warned continued delays in responding to Turkey’s request were “inexcusable” and risked undermining the credibility of the alliance.
He intensified his criticism in an interview published Sunday in Italy’s La Republica newspaper. “Shameful, for me it’s truly shameful,” Rumsfeld was quoted as saying. “Turkey is an ally. An ally that is risking everything … How can you refuse it help?”
In France, officials stood by their position but said they would help the Turks if they judged it necessary.
“If Turkey was really under threat, France would be one of the first at its side,” French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told reporters in Munich. “Today, we don’t feel that threat is there.”
So it’s just more symbolic political grandstanding for folks back home – “shameful” is the right word. Ostriches can be very stubborn.