Axis of Weasels Get First Payback Installment
Vol: 18 Issue: 31 Monday, March 31, 2003
The diplomatic wrangling in the days leading up to the war in Iraq is expected to speed up an ambitious Pentagon plan for realigning U.S. bases and forces around the world. Quietly, and without too much fanfare, the United States plans to redeploy our huge military presence in Europe.
Germany currently hosts the bulk of America’s European forces. Those troops and their families represent a signficant part of Germany’s economy, which is already reeling.
The Germans are not complaining too much at the top levels, having already built their reputations on alienating the US, and the German economists raising the alarms are being drowned out by the roar of anti-Americanism.
Defense officials said the new strategy is based on a concept known as “lily pad” basing — putting smaller groups of forces in more places. The bases will make it easier for military forces to leapfrog more quickly to world hotspots.
The plans call for sharply reducing the 100,000 troops in Europe, most of them, as I point out with some satisfaction, are stationed in Germany. Instead, brigade-sized combined arms units of between 3,000 to 5,000 troops will be relocated. Two planned redeployments involve placing these combat brigades in Hungary and Poland.
Both Hungary and Poland backed the US in the recent diplomatic food-fight, with Poland even contributing combat forces they could scarcely afford.
Other realignments are being discussed for South Korea, whose increasingly vocal anti-American sentiments, particularly over the US handling of North Korea, has evidently pushed Washington a bridge too far.
The Pentagon plans to move Army units now stationed close to the demilitarized zone further south and out of range of North Korean artillery and missiles massed along the border.
To Seoul, the prospect of nothing standing between it and the DMZ with North Korea was like being dashed with a bucket of water. It’s said that nothing so wonderfully focuses the mind than the specter of certain annihilation and Seoul has become very focused on US – South Korean relations indeed.
The South Koreans have grown increasingly apologetic and supportive, but Washington’s impatience with fair-weather friendships is evidently being translated into action.
The French are attempting to portray their obstructionist policy as an inconsequential difference of opinion. The Pentagon redeployments don’t impact the French, but Paris knows that there will be a price to pay and Chirac is already looking for ways to minimize the damage.
Chirac and his team are already struggling, without much success so far, to figure out how to neutralize the fallout. Dominique de Villepin floated a trial balloon in London this week, saying, “Because they share common values, the United States and France will re-establish close cooperation in complete solidarity.”
The French confidence in continued common values was not shared with American officials who noted de Villepin’s ambigous answer to a reporter’s question about whether he hoped the coalition would win the war.
Last week Le Canard Ench in , the satirical weekly, portrayed Chirac as a gloating general telling his advisers: “They thought it would be a walk in the park, that they would be received as liberators and that the regime would fall like a castle made of cards. They would have been better off had they listened to us. We know, better than they do, the Arab psychology.”
That’s the thing about satirical cartoons — they aren’t funny if they aren’t true.
Incredibly, the French, who built Baghdad’s sewer and phone systems and sold military equipment to Iraq right up to the opening shots of this war, still expects to cash in after the war.
The Finance Ministry and the country’s largest business federation have joined forces to determine how French companies can win contracts to rebuild Iraq.
Just in case, a delegation of French senators is making a trip next week to Iraq’s fellow Axis of Evil member Iran. French companies have huge oil investments there already, as do the Russians, with whom Chirac hopes to form a political alliance to counter-balance US world interests.
What is of particular interest when you start connecting the dots is the way it all eventually points back to Jerusalem. To defend their position regarding Iraq, they immediately play the Jewish card.
Chirac and de Villepin have long defined the Israeli-Palestinian war, rather than Iraq or terrorism, as the most serious of all global crises a stance that plays well in the Arab world and among several million Arab Muslims in France.
“Because it is the mother of all crises, because it is fed by a profound feeling of injustice, we will only be able to build a durable peace that is built on justice,” de Villepin said in London last week.
Recent demonstrations in France have been as much about promoting the Palestinian cause and condemning Israel as they have been about protesting the Iraq war.
It is impossible to miss the anti-Semitic tone of the protests, which have included chants of “Vive Chirac! Stop the Jews!”
Chirac telephoned the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, last week to tell him it was imperative that efforts toward peace in the Middle East begin again. Chirac is reportedly eyeing a shot at getting his own Nobel Peace Prize.
When Chirac visited Algeria early this month (the first state visit by a French president since Algeria fought a war for independence from France four decades ago) Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that his guest deserved the prize for opposing war with Iraq.
Leaks from the French press suggest the idea was not distasteful to the man who would be king.