- The Washington Times - Friday, December 12, 2003

France, Germany and Russia have some nerve complaining that they will not be permitted to compete for primary contracts for Iraqi reconstruction to be paid for out of the $18.6 billion appropriated by Congress at the request of President Bush. They opposed the war, blocked its explicit endorsement by the United Nations, refused to contribute to the international rebuilding fund formed by scores of countries and insisted that they would not forgive any of the debts owed to them by the former Saddam regime. Those debts flow from overpriced contracts they extracted from Saddam Hussein when he was desperately searching for countries unscrupulous enough to sell to him while he slaughtered his own people and supported terrorism.

Even if Mr. Bush’s decision were contrary to our international interests, a powerful case could be made for it on the sheer ground of moral decency. But, in fact, the president’s decision shrewdly advances American interests on three fronts. First, and most practically, withholding such contracting rights converts them into potential carrots for James Baker to hold out to them as inducements to forgive some of the outstanding Iraqi debt. Second, it upholds the principle that allies of the United States in the war on terrorism may expect economic benefits from their sacrifice that will be denied those countries that refuse to join the great struggle for civilization’s survival. There will surely be other, similar chapters in the lamentable terrorism war we have just begun to fight. And three, it constitutes a needed countermove to the French-led effort to try to delegitimize sovereign American international action.

Even as France has acted independently in service of its national interests, it has been increasingly arguing that America is somehow acting illegally if we don’t first get international endorsement of our foreign policy. It is natural that at a time when the United States is the remaining superpower (or hyper-power in France’s lexicon), the weaker countries would try to restrain us by entangling us in faux-legalities.

For instance, we supposedly needed U.N. sanction before liberating Iraq, but France did not need such sanction before intervening in the Ivory Coast. Thus would the weak overpower the strong. It is in that context that France and her allies demand participation in the Iraq redevelopment project in order to, in France’s view, legitimize the activity. Whether France or any other country participates should be an American judgment, based on our national interest, the advice of our coalition partners and the dictates of moral decency.

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