Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Bitch...Well, Two Actually

We watched a Frontline video today in my Comparative Politics class that discussed the run-up to the Iraq War. It was actually a bit more complicated than that, as the reason we watched it was to gain insights into modern British foreign policy. Of course, the biggest event in recent U.K. foreign policy has been the decision to go to war in Iraq alongside the U.S. Indeed, the repercussions of this event are still being felt today, primarily because of the fight for the soul of Britain's foreign policy: will it stand with the United States and the rest of the Anglosphere and our allies, or will it join in the Euro-centric French-German alliance? It is certainly an important question, one that will affect the course of international affairs for several decades.

You're probably wondering what all that has to the title of the post. A few things, in fact. First, there's nothing more that pisses me off than the acusation that the U.S. is engaging in a "unilateral" foreign policy simply because we did not directly involve the U.N. The video opened by appearing to be framing the debate as that the U.S. wanted to go into Iraq right after 9/11 (referencing "neo-conservative Paul Wolfowitz") and that the U.S. entered into Afghanistan unilaterally, setting the stage for an extremely aggressive foreign policy. Right, because, you know, I don't think the British, Canadians, Australians, Germans, French, Dutch, or Italians would have anything to say about that. And by no means is that even close to the complete initial coalition, much less the other countries who have since joined on to ISAF. I mentioned a while ago that I went to a talk on campus by a Col. Otero who was involved at CENTCOM with coalition building right after 9/11 in preparation for Afghanistan, and he mentioned that the constant accusation of "unilateral action" and the lack of credit given our coalition partners really pissed him off. Understandably so. (As an aside, I'll be posting a summary of that talk...sometime. Really.) The problem seems to be that our partners have let their military capability lapse so much that all some can contribute is a few transports and companies of troops...which we'll gladly take, of course, but that the media denigrates as "inconsequential." So what if all Canada could afford to give at the time was JTF-2? They certainly acquitted themselves well (breaking and re-breaking the kill distance for a long range sniper) and the Canadians have certainly stepped up to the plate as of late.

I really shouldn't have expected better of a PBS production, but as I'm about to expand upon, this was otherwise a well put together video. The beginning was just very weak, falling into the common media trap of "unilateral action" simply because the U.N. was not involved.

As the title indicates, there are two bitches to be had. The second is much more important to me in that it kind of hit close to an idea I've been kicking around in my head the past couple of weeks (more on that in a few days.) A couple of people I'm friends with are also in the class with me; both of them are staunch Republicans. They both felt the video was extremely biased. Since this is a bitch, I obviously disagree. I think the problem was in the perception of the video. The video was intended to show the world as seen through European eyes and why the perceived "unilateral" U.S. foreign policy is so terrifying to the Euro-centric among the Europeans and how this fits in to the battle I referenced above that is currently being fought for Britain's foreign policy direction. The video was not intended to portray things in a balanced point of view or to show the U.S. point of view. This is where the disconnect happened. I think that they were viewing this as a balanced video, missing the Euro-centric nature, and as such were understandably upset when most of the interviews were geared towards espousing a "French"/internationalist point of view. They certainly weren't the only ones, either. There was quite a bit of muttered comments during and after the video that certainly weren't congratulatory.

And that's where I have a problem. The people that had a problem with the video seemed to be of the mindset that any attack against the war was an attack against their politics, and by extension, their political party. Just because one is pro-victory does not mean that one is allowed to play politics with the war, just the same as being anti-war. If we really want to achieve victory in the long war, we HAVE to divorce politics from the conduct of the war. It has to be what's best for the country, not what's best for the party. More often than not, these paths diverge, and if you really care about your country you have to be willing to call your party on it. Too many people today, on both sides of the aisle, are not.