Tuesday, October 15, 2002

It would appear that France may not be so ready to deal after all.

Really, it comes down to a conflict of economics (or political economy) and of national pride and the concept of multilateralism. Most of the arguments I've heard about France, Russia, and China bending are really economic. France and Russia just want their oil money, and China doesn't want trade with the U.S. to be hurt, so they'll deal. That's legitimate, but I've never been one to believe or argue that economics is the root of all human activity, just one of the aspects and manifestations of it. People and governments don't just think like "homo economicus"... they value other things as well, and are willing to sacrifice financial strength for those other valued things. In France's case, it'd probably be multilateralism, because the French government probably believes that France's strategic situation is far better off in a multilateral world of collective security than in a unipolar American world.

In Russia, on the other hand, the situation is a little more complex. There's a great desire in Russia to be a "player"; one of the most important issues to Russians right now is the incredible loss of power and prestige that came with the end of the Cold War, and the fall from superpower to mere regional power. While this means that the Russian government tends towards cooperation with the U.S. in order to enjoy alliance with the sole remaining superpower, there is still a fundamental conflict between a Russia that wants to be a player and a United States that wants to make sure that there are absolutely no threats to its military and strategic predominance. The question is where Iraq fits in there; as Iraq is the first manifestation of the Bush Doctrine it's possible that the Russians will say no so as to check that declaration of U.S. supremacy, but they might see that "the fix is in" and go with it.

Some argue that they might agree after some horsetrading over Georgia, but that might be counterproductive for the Russians. Not only do they have a border with Georgia and probably a much better case for "imminent threat" than Bush does, but Iraq has become a symbol of something much bigger than either Saddam or Dubya, and the Russians know that. To trade away that larger symbolic loss for the small gain of a conflict that they could probably engage in anyway would be extraordinarily foolish.

Vladamir Putin is not foolish.

There is more to the behavior of countries and peoples than money, and I'm not convinced that outside of the money question the interests of the U.S. and the other emmbers of the security council coincide. And let's not forget... according to the schedule, the preliminary inspectors go in tomorrow. For all the blather, invading while inspectors are on the ground would look really bad. Iraq knows that, France knows that, Russia knows that, and the U.S. government probably knows that. It's just a question of what they do about that.

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