The Telegraph states of the car-bombings in Iraq:
[I]t can reasonably be argued that the attacks are the final convulsions of a Ba'athist remnant aided by foreign jihadis. The problem for the coalition is the negative impression which those convulsions give to foreigners who could help Iraq back on to its feet.
This, I'm afraid, is far too sanguine. As Andrew Sullivan notes, the Coalition’s enemies in Iraq don't need to win, they merely need to disrupt in order to hamper the emergence of a stable and successful Iraqi democracy.
If they can keep this up, the chances of a peaceful reconstruction in Iraq look more remote than they did last week. Why? Not because this was that sophisticated an attack, but because it was relatively unsophisticated. Not so much because the Baathists can win, but because they don't have to. All they have to do is prevent the coalition from winning, which keeps Iraq in limbo, and tilts American public opinion against the war.
Moreover, it is frivolous to suppose that what keeps the community of states from aiding Iraq is the incidence of terrorist attacks. The squabbling at the Madrid donors' conference was not primarily about Iraq: it was about Europe's relations with the United States. What motivates certain European governments is a plain wish for Anglo-American administration in Iraq to fail. Witness the fatuous observation made yesterday by the most venal of European agents:
France, a leading anti-war campaigner, also condemned the attacks but emphasised the importance of restoring sovereignty to Iraqis as a means of stopping the bloodshed.
The only sense I can make of this is that the French seriously believe the terrorists in Iraq are demanding popular sovereignty. They're not: popular sovereignty is what the terrorists oppose. Their aims are heterogeneous but allied: the restoration of brutal dictatorship, whether in the form of Baathist terror or a revived Caliphate. There is no political solution available to the liberal West in dealing with these forces; all that is open to us is to defeat them militarily. It is no exaggeration that the most important task for liberals in the world order today is to give unreserved support to British and American troops in that aim.
I have often wondered what motivates French diplomacy and whether such bad ideas are sincerely held. I'm increasingly of the view that they are merely a malevolent fiction manufactured to disguise an underlying insecurity. French foreign policy has been a consistent failure since at least the death of Talleyrand. This has far less to do with the rise of the United States as a world power than with monumental French incompetence.
Napoleon III was responsible for the disastrous outcome of the Franco-Prussian War. Alsace-Lorraine reverted to France after 1918, but only at enormous material cost and with a shattered military capability. Diplomacy between the wars combined appeasement (the Hoare-Laval Pact) and irrelevance (the Little Entente with the powers of Central Europe, whom France in any case betrayed at Munich). The story of Vichy is well-known everywhere except in the French education system. The collective amnesia within France resulted in the perverse outcome in the 1980s and early 1990s noted today by the Wall Street Journal (link requires subscription):
[President] Mitterrand's reluctance to come clean on his wartime past mirrors France's own struggle with the history of the Vichy regime. Starting in 1942, Mr. Mitterrand worked for Vichy, receiving the Francisque decoration from Marshal Petain, although he went on to fight with the resistance. Damaging revelations, including word that Mr. Mitterrand placed a wreath on Petain's tomb each year, emerged in the early 1990s. The French president could have asked France to acknowledge its own mixed wartime record. But instead he implausibly asserted that France "had nothing to do with the crimes of Vichy."
After the War, France managed only a single principal achievement in foreign affairs, and that was the negative one of extricating herself from Algeria. Elsewhere she exercised treacherous and sometimes brutal conduct in attempting to shore up colonialism in Indochina, and North and West Africa. Her malign and amoral international dealings were exemplified in assisting Iraq to build a nuclear reactor (which, fortunately for all of us, Israel destroyed before it could be used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons). Her declining fortunes were sealed by the reunification of Germany, which thereby prevented France's becoming the acknowledged diplomatic leader of continental Europe.
This is a story of fecklessness and almost unalloyed failure. France is a loser among nations. Her attempted counterpoint to the power of the United States is merely chauvinism with an inferiority complex. The war in Iraq might have been avoided if France had insisted on the integrity of international law and on upholding the requirement for Iraqi disarmament. President Chirac is a corrupt and unprincipled political leader whose cultivation of Saddam Hussein stands as one of the vilest alignments even in France’s inglorious diplomatic record in the past century. It is a terrible thing to say, but he is the President France deserves - and the national leader the rest of the democratic world should most scrupulously ignore.