The only possible way to coerce Saddam into compliance ”without a war” is
for the whole world to line up shoulder-to-shoulder against his misbehavior,
without any gaps. But France, as they say in kindergarten, does not play well
with others. If you line up against Saddam you're just one of the gang. If
you hold out against America, you're unique. "France, it seems, would rather
be more important in a world of chaos than less important in a world of
order," says the foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum, author of "The
Ideas That Conquered the World."
The New York Times
Week in Review
Sunday, February 9, 2003
Vote France Off the Island
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Sometimes I wish that the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council
could be chosen like the starting five for the N.B.A. All-Star team with a
vote by the fans. If so, I would certainly vote France off the Council and
replace it with India. Then the perm-five would be Russia, China, India,
Britain and the United States. That's more like it.
Why replace France with India? Because India is the world's biggest
democracy, the world's largest Hindu nation and the world's second-largest
Muslim nation, and, quite frankly, India is just so much more serious than
France these days. France is so caught up with its need to differentiate
itself from America to feel important, it's become silly. India has grown out
of that game. India may be ambivalent about war in Iraq, but it comes to its
ambivalence honestly. Also, France can't see how the world has changed since
the end of the cold war. India can.
Throughout the cold war, France sought to differentiate itself by playing
between the Soviet and American blocs. France could get away with this
entertaining little game for two reasons: first, it knew that Uncle Sam, in
the end, would always protect it from the Soviet bear. So France could tweak
America's beak, do business with Iraq and enjoy America's military
protection. And second, the cold war world was, we now realize, a much more
stable place. Although it was divided between two nuclear superpowers, both
were status quo powers in their own way. They represented different orders,
but they both represented order.
That is now gone. Today's world is also divided, but it is increasingly
divided between the "World of Order" â€” anchored by America, the E.U., Russia,
India, China and Japan, and joined by scores of smaller nations â€” and the
"World of Disorder." The World of Disorder is dominated by rogue regimes like
Iraq's and North Korea's and the various global terrorist networks that feed
off the troubled string of states stretching from the Middle East to
How the World of Order deals with the World of Disorder is the key question
of the day. There is room for disagreement. There is no room for a lack of
seriousness. And the whole French game on Iraq, spearheaded by its
diplomacy-lite foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, lacks seriousness.
Most of France's energy is devoted to holding America back from acting alone,
not holding Saddam Hussein's feet to the fire to comply with the U.N.
The French position is utterly incoherent. The inspections have not worked
yet, says Mr. de Villepin, because Saddam has not fully cooperated, and,
therefore, we should triple the number of inspectors. But the inspections
have failed not because of a shortage of inspectors. They have failed because
of a shortage of compliance on Saddam's part, as the French know. The way you
get that compliance out of a thug like Saddam is not by tripling the
inspectors, but by tripling the threat that if he does not comply he will be
faced with a U.N.-approved war.
Mr. de Villepin also suggested that Saddam's government pass "legislation to
prohibit the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction." (I am not making
this up.) That proposal alone is a reminder of why, if America didn't exist
and Europe had to rely on France, most Europeans today would be speaking
either German or Russian.
I also want to avoid a war â€” but not by letting Saddam off the hook, which
would undermine the U.N., set back the winds of change in the Arab world and
strengthen the World of Disorder. The only possible way to coerce Saddam into
compliance â€” without a war â€” is for the whole world to line up
shoulder-to-shoulder against his misbehavior, without any gaps. But France,
as they say in kindergarten, does not play well with others. If you line up
against Saddam you're just one of the gang. If you hold out against America,
you're unique. "France, it seems, would rather be more important in a world
of chaos than less important in a world of order," says the foreign policy
expert Michael Mandelbaum, author of "The Ideas That Conquered the World."
If France were serious about its own position, it would join the U.S. in
setting a deadline for Iraq to comply, and backing it up with a second U.N.
resolution authorizing force if Iraq does not. And France would send its
prime minister to Iraq to tell that directly to Saddam. Oh, France's prime
minister was on the road last week. He was out drumming up business for
French companies in the world's biggest emerging computer society. He was in I