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America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

European hero

For a while there, seemed like "Europe" was a three-man league. But while Britain, France and Germany have been busy playing nuclear ping pong with Iran, a fourth European power is stepping it up.

Say hello to the new Italy. After growing up quickly in Battlefield Iraq, the Italians are taking the reins of the new UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon—offering 2,000 troops (the most of any country by far) and a leadership role.

And they've signed up in the nick of time, as each of the Big Three found a reason not to get involved in Hezbollahland. Britain is already overstretched in Iraq, and their presence is unpopular both throughout the Middle East and at home. Germany has ruled itself out, having claimed that they cannot put themselves in a situation where German troops may have to fire upon Israelis. And after scoring a diplomatic coup in getting a ceasefire started, France took themselves out of the game on the grounds of ambiguity.

So how are the Italians playing their hand so well? For starters, they've established a (relatively recent) reputation for being strong and fair—both Israel and Lebanon welcome their involvement, and neither the United States nor the Arab world have any gripes. They're also battle-ready from their excursion in Iraq, with soldiers in sharp condition and civilians back home prepared for the ups and downs of war updates.

Not least of all, Italy is showing that a moderate, mid-range power can make a big splash in this world of polarized politics, nuclear standoffs and all-or-nothing rhetoric.

It's comforting to think that a few thousand inspired troops—in the right place and the right time—just might make a difference in today's political arena. Now let's see if it actually works.

Buck adds:

Those French are wiley bastards. Here's Billmon, quoting Matt Ygelsias, on the French bait-and-switch:
"In essence, through two consecutive bait-and-switches — first over the wording of a UN resolution, and second over the deployment of French troops to Lebanon — France managed to get both parties to agree to a return to the status quo ante, which is better for both sides (that's why the tricks worked), but that neither side could admit to wanting. That's a pretty good result, especially considering that Chirac spent essentially none of France's resources achieving it."

Considering that the French basically invented modern diplomacy, and were pitted against the tag team of John Bolton, Madame Supertanker and the moron, we certainly shouldn't be surprised by the result.

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Jeff Goldstein is a wanker.