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March 22, 2011

David Brooks: "Multilateral Efforts Are Retarded"

I couldn't agree more.

He actually does say that but of course he means slowed.

I'm not linking this for that weak joke, but for a decent column about the problems of Obama's liberal defer-to-the-French-because-they're-better multilateralism.

I can't help but recall Bush's impressively-pithy statement about all this: The mission should define the coalition; the coalition shouldn't define the mission.

But Obama, of course, disagrees. For him, it's all about process and paperwork:

First, multilateral efforts are marked by opaque decision-making and strategic vagueness. It is hard to get leaders from different nations with different values to agree on a common course of action. When diplomats do achieve this, it is usually because they have arrived at artful fudges that allow leaders from different countries to read the same words in a U.N. resolution and understand them in different ways. The negotiation process to arrive at these fudges involves a long chain of secret discussions and it necessarily involves eliding issues that might blow everything up.

...

The members of the coalition could not agree on answers to any of these questions [about the actual goals of the mission], so the purpose of the enterprise was left vague.

Second, leaders in multilateral efforts often obsess about the diplomatic process and ignore the realities on the ground. The reports describing how the Libyan intervention came about are filled with palace intrigue. They describe the different factions within the Obama administration, the jostling by France and Britain, the efforts to win over the Arab League. Itís not clear who was thinking about the realities in Libya.

...

In this, as in so many previous multilateral efforts, the process blots out the substance. Diplomats become more interested in serving the global architecture than in engaging the actual facts on the ground.

Third, multilateral efforts are retarded and often immobilized by dispersed authority and a complicated decision-making process. They are slow to get off the ground because they have to get their most reluctant members on board. Once under way, they are slow to adapt to changing circumstances.

Sure enough, the world fiddled for weeks while Qaddafi mounted his successful counterinsurgency campaign. The coalition attacks are only days old, but already fissures are appearing....

My main problem with "multilateral efforts" is that what these are always all about is France. What's the major difference between Bush's Coalition and Obama's? France. France was the big hold-out in the War in Iraq. They're on board with this one.

So while the liberal media dances in joy over this terrific new coalition, they're really just dancing that France is on board.

Further, they get the active agent and passive object reversed -- Obama did not persuade France to join the coalition. France persuaded Obama.

I have a whole post brewing about that but for now let me just say I do not think that a geopolitical strategy of "multilateralism" that chiefly consists of attempting to get a single, second-tier power on board is a terribly good one.


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posted by Ace at 03:42 PM

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