America goes courting Guinea, Cameroon and Angola in search of the nine Security Council votes necessary to pass our new resolution on Iraq.
The absurdity of the exercise mirrors the absurdity of the United Nations itself. Guinea is a perfectly nice place and Guineans perfectly nice people. But from the dawn of history to the invention of the United Nations, it made not an ounce of difference what a small, powerless, peripheral country thought about a conflict thousands of miles away. It still doesn't, except at the Alice-in-Wonderland United Nations, where Guinea and Cameroon and Angola count.
For a day. As soon as their votes are cast, they will sink again into obscurity. In the meantime, however, we'll have to pay them off. Their price will be lower than Turkey's, but, then again, Turkey is offering something tangible -- territory from which to launch a second front. Guinea will be offering a raised hand at a table in New York.
The entire exercise is ridiculous, but for unfathomable reasons it matters to many, both at home and around the world, that the United States should have the permission of Guinea to risk the lives of American soldiers to rid the world -- and the long-suffering Iraqi people -- of a particularly vicious and dangerous tyrant.
It is only slightly less absurd that we should require the assent of France. France pretends to great-power status but hasn't had it in 50 years. It was given its permanent seat on the Security Council to preserve the fiction that heroic France was part of the great anti-Nazi alliance rather than a country that surrendered and collaborated.
A half-century later, that charade has proved costly. In order to appease the French, we negotiated Security Council Resolution 1441, which France has thoroughly trashed and yet which has delayed American action for months.
Months for the opposition to mobilize itself, particularly in Britain, where Tony Blair is now hanging by a thread. Months for Hussein to augment his defenses and plan the sabotage and other surprises he has in store when the war starts. Months, most importantly, that threaten to push the fighting into a season of heat and sandstorms that may cost the lives of brave Americans. We will have France to thank for that.
France is not doing this to contain Iraq -- France spent the entire 1990s weakening sanctions and eviscerating the inspections regime as a way to end the containment of Iraq. France is doing this to contain the United States. As I wrote last week, France sees the opportunity to position itself as the leader of a bloc of former great powers challenging American supremacy.
That is a serious challenge. It requires a serious response. We need to demonstrate that there is a price to be paid for undermining the United States on a matter of supreme national interest.
First, as soon as the dust settles in Iraq, we should push for an expansion of the Security Council -- with India and Japan as new permanent members -- to dilute France's disproportionate and anachronistic influence.
Second, there should be no role for France in Iraq, either during the war, should France change its mind, or after it. No peacekeeping. No oil contracts. And France should be last in line for loan repayment, after Russia. Russia, after all, simply has opposed our policy. It did not try to mobilize the world against us.
Third, we should begin laying the foundation for a new alliance to replace the now obsolete Cold War alliances. Its nucleus should be the "coalition of the willing" now forming around us. No need to abolish NATO. The grotesque performance of France, Germany and Belgium in blocking aid to Turkey marks the end of NATO's useful life. Like the United Nations, it will simply wither of its own irrelevance.
We should be thinking now about building the new alliance structure around the United States, Britain, Australia, Turkey, such willing and supportive Old Europe countries as Spain and Italy, and the New Europe of deeply pro-American ex-communist states. Add perhaps India and Japan and you have the makings of a new post-9/11 structure involving like-minded states that see the world of the 21st century as we do: threatened above all by the conjunction of terrorism, rogue states and weapons of mass destruction. As part of that rethinking, we should redeploy our bases in Germany to Eastern Europe, which is not just friendlier but closer to the theaters of the new war.
This is all for tomorrow. The imperative today is to win the war in Iraq. However, winning the peace will mean not just the reconstruction of Iraq. It will mean replacing an alliance system that died some years ago, but whose obituary was written only this year. In French, with German footnotes.