Absurd indeed

Chirac signals flexibility on Iraq

Chirac may be softening a bit. Slightly. As long as he doesn’t appear to be softening, I guess he thinks a little softening is in order.

His demands for a quick hand-over of power to the provisional government in Iraq are a little more muted, and he hints that he may be flexible on the timing. However, he insists that the transfer happen before an elected government is in place.

The insistence on a transfer of sovereignty, he said, is based on the view that “the situation (in Iraq) is not good and is not improving and there is a real risk it will worsen so we have to try something different.” (Emphasis mine)

This is a pretty weak reason, if you ask me. Things haven’t gone well in the six months since the invasion, so better toss out the plan and try something, anything, different. Never mind that a lot of people thought that we would still be fighting in the outskirts of Baghdad in September. Never mind that things do actually seem to be improving daily. Never mind…oh, just never mind.

He also said

France sought to exert influence through the European Union. The idea that France could act as a counterweight to U.S. power, Chirac said, is “absurd.”

But did he mean that the idea that that was France’s goal was absurd, or that the idea itself was absurd? Clever way to put that.

I don’t understand what the rush to hand over power is all about. Would it really improve the situation there? I’ll agree that increased local control of towns and regions may help, but I’m not sure that just dropping the ball into the court of a US-appointed council, with fighting still going on and rival ethnic groups fighting to occupy as much of the power vaccuum as possible, is in anyone’s best interest.

If France thinks that we’re taking too long, they should ante up and help the process along. I’d be in favor of accelerating the plan, but by moving more quickly, not by skipping steps. I don’t really see them offering to help at all, and they haven’t given a solid reason why accelerating the plan would help, so I’m not sure what makes them think they have a voice in the matter.

And I must note that I find it amusing that Bush’s speech to the UN is being portrayed as such a flop. The observation seems to be that he hasn’t changed his tune despite all that’s happened. Beforehand he was portrayed as if he were going to the UN, hat in hand, to beg for help. When that didn’t happen, he was ridiculed. And now both France and Germany seem to be showing a little (if only a very little on France’s part) flexiblity. The rhetoric hasn’t changed much from anyone’s camp, but actions speak louder than words.

This isn’t to say that I expect big things from France or Germany in the next few weeks. Or months even. And I’m not taking this as some sort of victory for US diplomacy. I simply think that one ship is staying the course while others waffle and whine. I’m very curious to see what happens in the coming weeks with the Old European stance. Because ours hasn’t changed one tiny bit.