Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Didn't back us? GET OUT.

No, really, this is an excellent idea.

The Pentagon has decided to bar nations that did not support the war in Iraq from bidding on $18.6 billion in contracts to rebuild the country, according to a directive released Tuesday.

The ruling, in a memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, excludes Russia, Germany, France and other non-members of the coalition from bidding on one of the most ambitious reconstruction projects since the end of World War II. It is the strongest U.S. retaliation yet against war opponents.

Only firms from Iraq, the United States and its coalition partners — 63 nations in all — will be allowed to compete for major contracts to rebuild the electrical and water systems and the housing, transportation and oil infrastructures. Britain, Spain, Italy and many Eastern European countries will be able to bid....

The administration said the ruling is not designed to punish and should not slow efforts to win broad support. A Pentagon official, who did not want to be identified, said banned nations can still send troops or money and become eligible: "We'd welcome their support."
At precisely the time when the United States most needs the real support of other countries and has had its international reputation so severely damaged... the time when it has become a near-laughingstock for having so miserably failed to justify its haste and fearmongering prior to the war... they're playing this silly game? Unbelievable. And it's not like that "invitation" will change a thing. Indeed, it's likelier to convince non-supporters to stay out than anything, because it's such a naked attempt to bribe people to get onside.

It's also going to have an impact on North American relations as well. Not so much in Mexico, as I doubt that Vincente Fox has his eye on too many Iraqi rebuilding contracts, but definitely in Canada.

The new Prime Minister of Canada, Paul Martin, had said in the past that he intended to build a better relationship with the United States, and has taken steps to show that he means it. He's up against the reality that most Canadians (and most Liberals) feel vindicated and prescient in their opposition to the war. Any attempt by the United States to tie together closer relations and foreign policy support will pit Martin against his own party and the vast majority of the country. Coupled with the renewed anger that the softwood lumber issue will create in the west (traditionally more pro-American than the rest of Canada) and you've got every indication that the relationship will grow chillier.

No doubt that this isn't good news for Canada from an economic point of view. The United States has precious few real allies right now, however, and the serious differences in North America over American foreign policy are a serious blow to whatever soft power the U.S. has remaining, and Iraq shows that hard power simply isn't enough.

(And this doesn't even address how Europe and Russia are going to react. Emperor Putin's been scorned, and I doubt he'll like that.)

It continually amazes me how a group of people can be so effective at gaining power, yet so inept at wielding it.

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