Monday, March 10, 2003

The UN dance continues...and continues...and continues....

Slate, among others, seem to be covering this from the wrong angle. Forget about the lofty issues that these commentators are focusing on. The decision on whether or not to support the US will come down to a simple question: who's got the better offer on the table?

It's now a given that the US will attack Iraq, with or without a new UN resolution. For the members of the Security Council, the question is whether they feel their interests lie with supporting the US action and/or supporting the US (not necessarily the same thing as supporting US action), or whether they feel their interests are better served by supporting those who would deny the US the benefit of UN authorization.

Looking at some of the reasons for taking one side or another.

Support the US (positives)
Relief from threat of terrorist activity: not likely, only because Guinea, for example, isn't high on the list of potential targets to begin with.
Gratitude from the US: Priceless. America, unlike some other countries being discussed on the news pages, seems to remember its obligations, its need to repay support back at a later date.

Support the US (negatives):
Fear of terrorist reprisal: Unlikely, as I can't see Al Queda diverting a team to, again for example, Cameroon in order to show the world what happens to little countries who support the US. Terrorist groups are going to keep their efforts focused on harming the Great Satan and not look to extend the fight to the Lesser Satans.
Enmity of non-US supporting countries: a possibility, as this would be a great way for France, who really can't take the US on in a trade war, could instead strike out against Mexico.

Support the French (positives)
Gratitude of non-US supporting countries: Sure, France will be grateful. But, what do they have to offer?
Increased feelings of independence: From the US, perhaps, and that assumes this is a good thing. But, wouldn't this just be trading fear of being trampled on by the US for feelings of being under the thumb of France? Perhaps, since there is far more anti-US feelings in the world than there are anti-France feelings, this might be a nice play to placate domestic opinion. But this will work only for those who can afford to suffer the consequences of supporting the French (see below).

Support the French (negatives)
Having the US mad: Not a good thing, can't see any benefit from this. A country would be betting on the benefits that would accrue from supporting the French would offset having the US upset. And, given how little France really has to offer, I don't this being viewed as a positive. Maybe this would be of appeal to those countries who get very little from the US and aren't hoping to get more later....and those countries would be????
Being ignored by the US: For those countries for whom the US can't even bother getting upset over, this would mean a lack of concern in Congress, the IMF, World Bank, etc.

I would venture that for those countries that will end up siding with the US that they announce their support as soon as possible. There's much to be gained from signing on early. Admittedly, there's also much to be gained from being the clincher, but countries wanting to play this angle run the risk of not getting there in time and have some other country grab that spot. Of course, they then run the risk of being belittled by Kerry. Of course, maybe that's not such a bad thing. Countries aligning with Bush are going to be betting on Bush being around for another term, so having Kerry demean you falls into the 'who cares?' category.....