Thursday, March 13, 2003

I probably shouldn't post this, but...

Normally, I'd just point a link to Maureen Dowd's column from yesterday's NY Times. But they expire the link after a few weeks, and a blog is forever. So I've posted the column here, and I'm also posting a link to it as well: use the link until it goes away. Please. tml

I Vant to Be Alone


It will go down as a great mystery of history how Mr. Popularity at Yale metamorphosed into President Persona Non Grata of the world.

The genial cheerleader and stickball commissioner with the gregarious parents, the frat president who had little nicknames and jokes for everyone, fell in with a rough crowd.

Just when you thought it couldn't get more Strangelovian, it does. The Bush bullies, having driven off all the other kids in the international schoolyard, are now resorting to imaginary friends.

Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, spoke to the Veterans of Foreign Wars here yesterday and reassured the group that America would have "a formidable coalition" to attack Iraq. "The number of countries involved will be in the substantial double digits," he boasted. Unfortunately, he could not actually name one of the supposed allies. "Some of them would prefer not to be named now," he said coyly, "but they will be known with pride in due time."

Perhaps the hawks' fixation on being the messiahs of the Middle East has unhinged them. I could just picture Wolfy sauntering down the road to Baghdad with our new ally Harvey, his very own pooka, a six-foot-tall invisible rabbit that the U.S. wants to put on the U.N. Security Council.

Ari Fleischer upped the ante, conjuring up an entire international forum filled with imaginary allies.

He suggested that if the U.N. remained recalcitrant, we would replace it with "another international body" to disarm Saddam Hussein. It wasn't clear what he was talking about. What other international body? Salma Hayek? The World Bank? The Hollywood Foreign Press Association?

The not-so-splendid isolation of the White House got worse this afternoon when Donald Rumsfeld suggested the unthinkable at his Pentagon briefing: we might have to go to war without Britain.

Even though Tony Blair said he was working "night and day" to get us international support (and beating back a revolt in his own party), Mr. Rumsfeld dismissively remarked that it was "unclear" just what the British role would be in a war.

Asked whether the U.S. would go to war without "our closest ally," he replied, "That is an issue that the president will be addressing in the days ahead, one would assume."

The Brits covered up their fury with typical understatement, calling Rummy's comment "curious." But behind the scene, Downing Street went nuts and began ringing Pennsylvania Avenue, demanding an explanation. How could Rummy be so callous about "the special relationship" after Mr. Blair had stuck his neck out for President Bush and courageously put his career on the line, and after he had sent one-quarter of the British military to the Persian Gulf?

Even though Mr. Rumsfeld scrambled later to mollify the British, one BBC commentator drily said that perhaps he was trying to be sensitive, but "as we all know, Donald Rumsfeld doesn't do sensitive very well."

Now we've managed to alienate our last best friend. We are making the rest of the world recoil. But that may be part of the Bush hawks' master plan. Maybe they have really always wanted to go it alone.

Maybe it has been their strategy all along to sideline the U.N., deflate Colin Powell and cut the restraining cords of traditional coalitions. Their decision last summer to get rid of Saddam was driven by their desire to display raw, naked American power. This time, they don't want Colin Powell or pesky allies counseling restraint in Baghdad.

Rummy was unfazed by Turkey's decision not to let our troops in, and he seemed just as unruffled about the prospect of the Brits' falling out of the war effort. And in a well-timed display of American military might, the Air Force tested a huge new bomb called MOAB in Florida. Tremors traveled through the ground, and the scary dust cloud could be seen for miles.

"These guys at the Pentagon -- Wolfowitz, Perle, Doug Feith -- when they lie in bed at night, they imagine a new book written by one of them or about them called, `Present at the Recreation,' " an American diplomat said. "They want to banish the wimpy Europeanist traditional balance of power, and use the Iraq seedbed of democracy to impose America's will on the world."

The more America goes it alone, the more "robust," as the Pentagon likes to say, the win will be.

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