Friday, March 11

Pundita plays Alice to Condoleezza Rice's Red Queen

"The Europeans have a strategy which is to show the Iranians that if they are prepared to live up to their international obligations there is an alternative path to confrontation and there is a path to a better future. We are supporting that diplomacy but this is most assuredly giving the Europeans a stronger hand, not rewarding the Iranians." --US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
But the Europeans are rewarding Iran by offering them concessions. Wait, let's speak with more precision--granted, the enemy of diplomacy, but in the interests of defending the logic of the English language and indeed the logic of all language, let's name something for what it is: the Europeans are rewarding Iran by offering them bribes.

So if the United States supports the European offer of bribes....isn't that rewarding the Iranians? Asks Alice of the Red Queen.

Can we wring logic from Rice's first major executive decision as secretary of state? Within the concept of a chess game, yes. Brussels looks at John Bolton in the way they look at Genghis Khan. So the exchange of chess pieces is that the US sacrifices support of democratic principles in exchange for muted resistance from Brussels to the Bush nomination of Bolton as the US ambassador to the UN.

If you tell me that's not logical, given that sending Bolton to the UN is meant to bolster Bush's democracy doctrine--it's Red Queen logic. You get to make your own laws of logic when you're the world's most powerful nation. However, it occurred to Bush that there's something screwy about sacrificing two knights, a bishop and rook in exchange for a pawn. Thus, the White House directed everyone to notice that today's announcement came from the State Department, not the White House.

In this way, the White House hopes to divert attention from the fact that State's announcement studiously omitted the Bush administration's red-line position on Iran. Up until today, the White House demanded the complete and permanent end to Iran's nuclear fuel cycle activities. The demand was not specified in the State Department's official announcement today.

Thus, Iran and Brussels won a huge tactical victory. The bone to Washington is a leaked EU classified document that says the EU will back US calls to refer Iran to the UN Security Council if Iran does not scrap programs linked to nuclear arms. But this position is not official--again, it's stated in a leaked internal document. And neither the document nor any statement by Brussels puts a time limit on when Brussels will decide that Iran has refused to scrap their nuclear weapons program--a program that Iran refuses to acknowledge.

Is there any other logic to Rice's decision to capitulate to Brussels? Logic no, hope yes. The hope is that by backing the EU approach to negotiations with Tehran, this will tamp down calls building in Germany to leave the NATO alliance.

Thus, the true face of the US Department of State is clearly revealed. The State Department is NATO spelled backward. So there's no mystery to Secretary Rice's approach to Brussels--or Moscow, for that matter. It is a Cold War approach, which is at the heart of NATO.

For all the talk of Rice being a new direction for State, she is simply a different label on the same system. On paper, there are good reasons for the US continuing the NATO alliance. The reasons ignore the actual situation, which is that the most powerful European members are not allied with the US. In 2002, Germany and France clearly demonstrated that they were allied with Saddam Hussein's regime. Along with the United Kingdom, they now show that they're allied with the regime in Iran.

The catch is that one can't be allied with the Tehran regime and the US. Indeed, one can't be allied with both the European Union and the United States--a fact that Tony Blair had to acknowledge by backing the Franco-German approach to Tehran's clandestine nuclear weapons program.

Let's be clear about what the European Union is. It's the third-largest governing institution in the world. It's the world's largest economy, even though its land mass is half the size of the continental United States. The EU is also the world's leading exporter and largest internal trading market.

In short, the EU a trading bloc which is now in the process of ratifying a constitution that will bring all its members under one military and one foreign policy run from Brussels. It's a union of countries founded on trade principles.

The union represented by the United States is founded on democratic principles. So there is an inherent conflict between the two unions. The Brussels approach to Tehran's nuclear weapons program is a perfect example of the conflict. When push comes to shove, Brussels will side with whatever position supports their trade.

That's consistent with the European Union's founding principles. But if the United States allies itself with those principles, we sacrifice our founding principles. To avoid confronting this reality Washington clings to NATO, which is founded on more transcendent ideals than the EU. And thus, Secretary Rice's attack on logic today. That the attack came on the anniversary of the Madrid train bombings is not a good day for those who took Bush's Inaugural promises seriously.


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