December 12, 2003


Max Boot on arrogant unilateralism:

Russia signalled last week that it might not ratify the Kyoto accord on global warming. The week before, France and Germany abrogated the Stability and Growth Pact, which requires all euro-zone members to keep their budget deficits under 3 per cent of gross domestic product. And French troops in the Ivory Coast are still struggling to impose some stability in that country, where they arrived in September 2002 without benefit of a UN resolution. Last week riots broke out around France's main military base in the port city of Abidjan.

As these events transpired, I couldn't help remembering how many times I - as an American commentator - have been lectured by self-righteous Europeans in the past year.

Europe, they claim, is governed by the rule of law, whereas the United States lives by the law of the jungle. Europe is multilateral, the US unilateral. Europe good, United States bad.

A nice conceit, that. Too bad European governments are so keen to disprove it.

Old Europe can console itself by multilaterally missing out on post-war contracts in Iraq. I like Alexander Downer’s line:

On the one hand you've got the American taxpayer paying the money for the reconstruction, and on the other hand, at the moment you have a situation where those countries that have refused to pay any money to help with the support of reconstruction are demanding access to the contracts ...

I mean, here are we, Australia, a country of 20 million people, bearing the burden, along with some others, of helping with the reconstruction of Iraq, the rehabilitation of a country which has been under Saddam Hussein's oppression for 35 years and the French and the Germans, they say that they won't put any money into this process.

Posted by Tim Blair at December 12, 2003 11:57 AM

Hasn't Downer improved immensely since the "things that batter" days.

I used to think he was a typical South Australian goofball but I can't think of him putting a foot wrong in years.

He gets the policy right and delivers it beautifully.

Posted by: Michael Gill at December 12, 2003 at 12:01 PM

I said the same thing in a conversation with Laurie Brereton a year or so ago, Michael. He wasn't convinced.

Posted by: tim at December 12, 2003 at 12:15 PM

It's only right that Australia pick up this burden. It became ours when we enlisted for Bush's war. Downer of Baghdad's argument is a complete furphy as it has sweet FA to do with the awarding of reconstruction contracts.

After all, this government has elevated non-sequitur reasoning to a fine art form. And why wouldn't they with credulous ninnies like you lapping them up so happily?

As to those contracts, they should obviously go to those companies who can put in the best bids, regardless of where they come from. That at least is my understanding of free trade, free market, capitalist behaviour. Which I thought you endorsed.

Mind you, I agree with you when you say Downer is improving. Particularly at the fine art of pooper-scooping after little Johnny as our illustrious PM drops those little piles of shit wherever he goes.

Downer for PM! Anyone But Howard!

Posted by: Nemesis at December 12, 2003 at 12:45 PM

Free market means that the people with the money get to choose where they spend it.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at December 12, 2003 at 12:57 PM

'As to those contracts, they should obviously go to those companies who can put in the best bids, regardless of where they come from. That at least is my understanding of free trade, free market, capitalist behaviour. Which I thought you endorsed.'

Half right, Nemesis. The other half is that all other things being equal, the contract goes to trusted associates with a track record, good business practices and no evidence of treachery or dishonesty.

Above all, capitalist behaviour involves judgment.

Posted by: ilibcc at December 12, 2003 at 01:04 PM

Capitalism only works when applied with a sense of values and morals. Despite Nem's posturing to the contrary, it would seem incredibly wrong-headed to allow these countries in, at least initially. More interestingly, would it not be highly hypocritical for these countries to want to profit from a "war for oil?" I thought we were talking about principles here? Fact is, they made their decision. While I certainly believe that they are entitled to it, I do not believe that they can have it both ways. Either this effort was appropriate or not, and if you think not, then please don't in any way attempt to rationalize profitting from it...


Posted by: Jerry at December 12, 2003 at 01:23 PM

Companies from the weasel countries have a clear conflict of interest that should automatically disqualify them from the bidding process. Efficient and successful reconstruction will invalidate their countries' positions on the war against Saddam. They have perverse incentives to fudge the job and deny Bush any measure of vindication that might come from improving conditions in Iraq and ensuring that Iraq is better off than before the War. (Actually, Iraq is objectively better off without Saddam in almost any scenario/circumstance but if visible benchmarks like the economy, crime rates, and infrastructure improve, then even the most partisan anti-Bush people will have a hard time inveting their denials).

Posted by: John, Tokyo at December 12, 2003 at 01:30 PM

Here is another axiom of the free market:

You get what you pay for.

Posted by: papertiger at December 12, 2003 at 01:40 PM

The countries that put in the blood, sweat, and tears (literally) into freeing Iraq should get their just reward. The Coalition of the Willing has more than enough industrial cappacity to provide for fair bidding on any contract.

The Axis if Weasels also contributed, to the wrong side. They too will reap their reward -- no sweet Iraqi contracts, and (I hope) the new Iraqi Gov't reputiating the loans they gave Saddam to build more illegal weapons and palaces.

Posted by: Aaron at December 12, 2003 at 01:47 PM

If those countries want contracts for their companies all they have to do is donate the money to pay for it themselves.

How we (USA) decide to *GIVE* our money is our own damn business and no one elses.

Posted by: CujoQuarrel at December 12, 2003 at 03:35 PM

Simple solution - let those countries who opposed the coalition of the willing and now think their companies deserve contracts donate the aid money to fund the projects that their companies can bid for.

Problem solved.


Posted by: Razor at December 12, 2003 at 04:08 PM

I must confess, Nemesis new-found enthusiasm for free and open markets is refreshing. Too bad its only a convenient stick to beat the Bush with.

Posted by: R. C. Dean at December 13, 2003 at 01:34 AM

If rebuilding Iraq required the construction of gas chambers and guilotines then banning the French and Germans would be counterproductive. But since it doesn't - we don't need them.

Posted by: Sean O'Callaghan at December 16, 2003 at 01:04 PM