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To recap

The theme of US policy over the last few days, despite Bush’s tough talk in the State of the Union, has in fact been multilateralism. (Which is driving some people nuts.) I think the most important speech delivered in the last week was by Colin Powell at Davos. That’s the administration speaking for an international audience, not for a US audience, and that’s where we need to look for the administration’s real position.

Powell’s speech directly addressed the concerns that (as I’ve said here) are the real reason we haven’t seen an international coalition forming to dethrone Saddam. “Afghanistan’s leaders and Afghanistan’s people know that they can trust America to do just this, to do the right thing. The people of Bosnia, the people of Kosovo, of Macedonia — they too know that they can trust us to do our jobs and then leave.” I.e., we’re not going into Iraq in order to set up a satrapy.

Good. Those are the words the world needs to hear. I don’t know if I’ve been wrong and that’s been the policy all along, or if Bush has decided it’s not worth pushing too hard, or if this is just a smokescreen. I think the latter is least likely. I hope the first is true. Either way, I’m very pleased to see us addressing the real concerns. Let’s stop pretending that opposition to the specifics of the war is equivalent to support for Saddam. Those two stances are sometimes linked, but they are not always linked.

Powell also said what needed to be said about Euro-American relations. “Differences are inevitable, but differences should not be equated with American unilateralism or American arrogance. Sometimes differences are just that — differences. On occasion, our experiences, our interests, will lead us to see things in a different way. For our part, we will not join a consensus if we believe it compromises our core principles. Nor would we expect any other nation to join in a consensus that would compromise its core principles.” You can have differences with America without being an enemy. No more of this “You’re with us or against us” crap. Thank you.

This also leaves open the possibility that the US may disagree with core principles. He didn’t say “we’re your friends no matter what.” That, to me, is the right stance. It’s not unconditional alliance, but it’s not alliance based on obedience no matter what.

He said a lot of other good, intelligent things too, but I’ll leave those for another day, or go read it yourself. It was an excellent speech. It’s kind of sad how much time we all spent poring over the State of the Union, considering that Powell’s speech was almost as important, and it’s been all but ignored. I’m especially pleased that he didn’t forget about Indian and Pakistan, and I call your particular attention to his acknowledgement that NGOs are conducting their own foreign policy.

Onward. The big news this morning was the open letter signed by eight European nations. I find this heartening. It would not have happened unless the US had been engaging in serious diplomacy behind the scenes, and it represents a move towards accord. Again: it would not be happening if Bush didn’t want, for whatever reason, to gain multilateral consensus on this war.

And, finally, Powell is going to drop by the Security Council on the 5th to present evidence — as I, and others, have been saying needs to happen. These aren’t the actions of a country that doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. These are the words and actions of a country that understands the necessity for trust and multilateral action vis a vis Iraq. It’s about time, and it is not too late.

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