Kermit Snelson on Mon, 19 Aug 2002 03:01:37 +0200 (CEST)


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RE: <nettime> europa, usa, nettime (kagan)


Not to belabor a point, but today's newspapers have brought fresh evidence
of the rather amazing timeliness of this nettime thread.

In the last paragraph of the following article from this morning's
_Washington Post_, Robert Kagan is described as a "hard-liner" who is
"disturbed" by Bush's failure to sell Europe on the doctrine of unilateral
US military interventionism.

Given what the rest of the article says, however, Kagan should probably
worry more at this point about selling it to Republican leaders in the US
Congress...

As to Geert's question to nettime concerning a possibly widening gulf
between Americans and Europeans, I think the following paragraph from the
article below is especially relevant:

"Though the administration faces two distinct audiences -- European allies
and the American public -- they are closely linked. As the Post poll
indicated, Americans, still afflicted by Vietnam War insecurities, grow
increasingly skittish about American military operations if they are not
supported by allies. 'I haven't seen any polls showing a readiness to
engage in large-scale action without multilateral support,' said Steven
Kull, a public opinion specialist with the University of Maryland."

Kermit
======

White House Push for Iraqi Strike Is on Hold
Waiting to Make Case for Action Allows Invasion Opponents to Dominate Debate

By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 18, 2002; Page A18
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A31067-2002Aug17.html

As the debate intensifies about the merits of American military action to
topple Iraq's Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration is purposely
refraining from making a detailed case for such a campaign until war is
imminent.

President Bush and his aides mention almost daily that Hussein is a menace
who must go, and few observers doubt Bush's determination to use American
forces to oust him. But administration officials said that because they
have not formally elected military action against the Iraqi dictator, it
would be premature and politically dangerous to lay out a lengthy
justification for an American military strike -- particularly without a
war plan in place to back up the talk.

"Timing is everything when you do this," said Richard Perle, a former
Reagan defense official who is close to key figures in the Bush
administration. "If you launched [a public campaign] too far in advance
and nothing followed, that would raise questions and fuel a debate that
would not be helpful to the administration. . . . If you join the debate
now, but don't act for months, you pay a worse price."

The hesitancy of the administration to argue aggressively for the American
military option has had the effect of ceding the public debate to
opponents of an attack on Iraq. Foreign policy strategists -- even those
who favor an attack -- say the Bush administration's reluctance to make a
forceful and specific argument for an American strike is undermining
support for such an action.

In the United States, a few influential conservatives such as Sen. Chuck
Hagel (R-Neb.), House Majority Leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) and Brent
Scowcroft, national security adviser to the first President Bush, have
begun to raise doubts about an attack on Iraq.

The latest caution came Friday from retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who wrote
in the new issue of the Washington Monthly that it is a "fundamental
misjudgment" to pursue the counterterrorism war, including efforts against
Hussein, without NATO.

Sentiment in Europe against military action has hardened, and would-be
supporters of the Bush administration such as British Prime Minister Tony
Blair are finding growing opposition in their governments from officials
who say the United States has not made a sufficient case for action. A
poll last week in London's Daily Telegraph found that only 28 percent of
the British thought the Americans would be justified in attacking Iraq,
and 58 percent said an attack was unjustified.

American public opinion, though still strongly in favor of action against
Hussein, is showing some fractures. In a Washington Post/ABC News poll
last week, 69 percent supported military action against Iraq to oust the
dictator, down from 78 percent in November but consistent with levels from
earlier this year. But if the allies opposed the American action against
Iraq, only 54 percent said they would still approve of the action. And if
the action involved ground troops and resulted in significant American
casualties, a majority of 51 percent would oppose the action.

In another indication that the administration has not made its case
firmly, a full 79 percent said that Iraq is a threat to the United States,
but only 45 percent thought Bush has a "clear policy" on Iraq.

In an interview with BBC radio Thursday, national security adviser
Condoleezza Rice argued that "we certainly do not have the option of doing
nothing" against Hussein, and listed his endeavors in chemical and nuclear
terrorism and his defiance of the United Nations. Yet Rice began her
remarks by noting that "the president hasn't decided how he wants to do it
or how he intends to make the case for particular methods."

Bush aides say that is preferable to the alternative: preparing the public
for an attack that is not imminent. But that strategy has the side effect
of leaving foes unchallenged, potentially undermining support for an
American strike.

"The lesson we learned in Vietnam and other places is you need to start
making the case why we are doing this and why it is important, and none of
this has been done," said Ivo Daalder, a former Clinton administration
national security official now with the Brookings Institution. "They're
ceding the ground to the people who are against it, particularly in
Europe."

Even some of those sympathetic to the administration's view say more must
be done. "They need to be more active in persuading European public
opinion and they haven't done much of that," said Helle Dale, a foreign
policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation. She recommended
highly visible trips by American officials to argue the case in Europe.
"That concerted effort has not been made," she said.

Though the administration faces two distinct audiences -- European allies
and the American public -- they are closely linked. As the Post poll
indicated, Americans, still afflicted by Vietnam War insecurities, grow
increasingly skittish about American military operations if they are not
supported by allies. "I haven't seen any polls showing a readiness to
engage in large-scale action without multilateral support," said Steven
Kull, a public opinion specialist with the University of Maryland.

Advocates of quick action against Hussein say Bush will get automatic
support and opponents will retreat when he moves against Iraq. "It'll be a
piece of cake to get public support," said Ken Adelman, a former Reagan
official with close ties to senior Bush aides. "The American people will
be 90 percent for it. Almost nobody in Congress will object, and the
allies will pipe down."

Administration officials say their hands are tied for now because Bush has
not committed, at least publicly, to an attack. "The president has not
taken any step with regard to military action, so it's premature to talk
about the so-called public case against Iraq," a senior Bush aide said.

Officials say there is no formal planning for such a public campaign. But
the administration is assembling the infrastructure for such an effort.
The White House plans to create a permanent unit devoted to delivering the
American point of view abroad as it did during the military action in
Afghanistan. In addition, the Pentagon last week held a meeting with
communications consultants to solicit guidance on shaping public opinion
toward Iraq. An official described the meeting as one of a series of such
conferences on a variety of subjects and said there was no "major push" to
make a public-relations effort regarding Iraq.

Meanwhile, though, opponents are making such a push. In a televised
interview earlier this month, Scowcroft said American action against Iraq
without resolving tensions between Israel and the Palestinians "could turn
the whole region into a caldron, and thus destroy the war on terrorism."
Hagel, speaking on the same show, said such an action could "further
destabilize the Middle East," and cautioned that there is no credible
opposition to Hussein in Iraq.

A few days later, Armey raised questions about Bush's doctrine of
"preemption" -- striking at potential threats before there is actual
aggression. Armey told reporters that an "unprovoked attack" on Iraq was
not justifiable. "It would not be consistent with what we have been as a
nation or what we should be as a nation," he said.

The relative quiet of the Bush administration, while delighting opponents
of military action, disturbs some hard-liners who favor action against
Iraq. "There's been no serious effort to build the case in Europe," said
Robert Kagan, a Brussels-based analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace. "The truth is, if they made a serious effort here,
they could have some success."

Assistant polling director Claudia Deane contributed to this report.

 2002 The Washington Post Company




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