The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Steven Den Beste is a smart guy, but sometimes he is shockingly naive. Consider this post from Sunday, in which Den Beste speculates that evidence may come to light that French and German corporations have been covertly aiding Saddam:

Suppose we (the UK and US) ... do actually attack Iraq ...

And suppose, once we've done so, and have occupied Iraq and have full (really full, not UN full) access to Iraq's records and can truly find what they have, that we find that everything we've been saying about their WMDs is really true; that they have chem and bio weapons and banned delivery systems, and are near to developing nukes, which I also think is extremely likely.

One more and the most important: suppose that the records also show that during the 1990's companies in France or Germany (or both) actively and deliberately broke the sanctions and sold equipment and supplies to Iraq which helped it to create these things, and that the governments of Germany and France knew and approved of this and actively helped.

All this is reasonable enough. But now we don our special glasses, strap on our safety belts, and enter Den Beste fantasyland:

I think at that point that anything resembling formal alliance would have to end. The degree of fury this would cause in the American people should not be underestimated, and it would become politically impossible for the US government to continue to treat either nation in a friendly manner. Our relations with them would come to resemble those we have with China if not being worse.

Either the US would formally pull out of NATO or else issue an "either they go or we do" ultimatum to get Germany and France ejected. And all American forces in Germany would leave as soon as they possibly could. (Such forces as we kept in Europe would probably move to either Poland or the Czech Republic, both of which have expressed interest in hosting them.)

But wait -- there's more! (You can't expect Den Beste to be done in only two paragraphs.)

It seems unlikely that this would lead to an immediate and direct war with the US, though formal diplomatic relations would obviously go into the toilet as a result. And even without any formal government action, I think that the European companies involved would find it difficult thereafter to make any business deals in America, and this would cause quite substantial economic havoc, here certainly, but particularly in Europe. In fact, there would be a de facto economic boycott here of the majority of German and French products (and to a lesser extent of other European producers as well, as a practical matter) as the direct result of millions of citizens making their own choices, whether the US government declared formal trade sanctions or not. (Which means that the big winner would be Japan, whose trade with the US would rise. This might well be enough lift them out of their economic malaise and give them the slack to work on the underlying structural problems in their economy.)

This would also really hurt the tourist industries in both nations. That happened to some extent after 9/11 because people feared to fly, but this would be worse and very long lasting, and that too would contribute to a general downturn in their economies. You can basically forget about any significant number of Americans traveling to either nation and spending their dollars there. What you're looking at is the distinct possibility of Europe's economy imploding as a result of cascading failures.

It gets even better:

The biggest question, and the one I'm least able to analyze, would be how German and French voters would react to this. If the voters of both nations immediately repudiated the governments involved, and if new elections in both nations resulted in something other than "meet the new boss, same as the old boss", and if there were immediate criminal investigations against the executives at the corporations in question, then it might be possible to salvage something from the diplomatic wreckage.

But if the voters of either or both nations actually ended up demonstrating approval, or even just apathy, via their voting patterns then you face the possibility that this actually could lead, eventually, to another war in Europe, between nuclear armed powers.

An occupational danger of being an ideologue is that you might believe that everyone shares your views, and with the same fervor. So there are right-wingers who think that everyone despises Clinton, and left-wingers who think that everyone regards Bush the Younger as an idiot and a stooge, and libertarians who think that everyone objects to the drug war. Den Beste's brand of Kool-Aid is his loyalty to America. I don't have any problem with being a patriot, but I do think that Den Beste's beliefs are affecting the flow of oxygen to his brain.

To test the veracity of Den Beste's predictions, let us examine real events that actually occurred in the real world: Namely, the attitude of Americans towards Saudi Arabia. The majority of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi citizens, and it's clear that Saudi Arabia has been sending money to Al Qaeda. We're not talking about evading a blockade; these are people who flew jetliners into buildings and murdered thousands of people.

There are a lot of Americans pissed off at Saudi Arabia. But there has been no mass outcry for a declaration of war, Americans are still buying Saudi oil, and Bush is able to suck up to the Saudis while maintaining high approval ratings. Given this, how can anyone believe that if it were revealed that some French and Germans sneaked Saddam some equipment a few years ago, there would be an end to the tens of billions of dollars in trade with those nations?

My former employer, i2 Technologies, does business in France and Germany. i2 has fallen on very hard times and desperately needs any business they can find. Can anyone really say, with a straight face, that i2 CEO Sanjiv Sidhu would nix a multi-million dollar deal with, say, Alcatel? "We know that this deal was going to make or break the quarter, but some companies in the same nation as Alcatel sold Saddam equipment, and the French government didn't do anything about it, so as a loyal American citizen, I will have to cancel the agreement and lay off another 100 of our employees."

By the way, I noticed when revisiting USS Clueless today that Den Beste had responded to some critics:

Update: At least three people have written to say they thought I was exaggerating the degree to which Americans would be infuriated by this, and wondering if I was deliberately exaggerating for effect. No, I was completely serious, but I guess it wasn't obvious so I'll explain it.

Den Beste then goes on to punish his detractors in the most vicious manner possible: With a four-gigabyte essay on "Jacksonians." (My take on Jacksonians, after much reading and subsequent application of moisturizer to my glazed eyeballs, is this: Jacksonians are people who don't like to be attacked, don't like to be betrayed, and don't like to be insulted. Kind of like ... 90% of all human beings?) Den Beste claims that evidence that some French and German companies sneaked Saddam ball bearings and rocket gyroscopes -- at a time when Saddam was not at war with the US -- would produce the same effect as the Zimmerman Telegram, in which Germany offered Mexico American territory if they would join Germany in an attack against America. Even Michael Jackson isn't crazy enough to believe that.



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