French Prime Minister Villepin now warns against a hasty US withdrawal from Iraq after fighting tooth and nail against the war:
Asked whether Washington should set a timetable for bringing home troops, Villepin said any withdrawal "should be coordinated with the local situation in Iraq and the regional situation."
"I think that the timetable should be a global timetable," he said. "The real timetable is the Iraqi situation."
Villepin identified two main risks in Iraq: "the division of Iraq, which is of course a nightmare for the region, and ... a growing role of terrorism."
Perhaps he sees what the American anti—war left fails to see, and what Chris Hitchens has so well described:
the real question is this: Would a coalition withdrawal cause the other side to stop its sabotage of Iraq's chief source of income? This is not a small issue, and it does not just involve the rights and salaries of Iraqis. Saddam's partial destruction of the Kuwaiti fields in 1991, for example, was an ecological and economic disaster for the whole region, as well as for the world economy. Only very swift action by special forces in 2003 prevented him from blowing the wells again, this time in his "own" country. We are in Iraq partly for Iraqis' sake and partly for ours: There is an Iraqi interest in federal democracy and renewed membership of the post—sanctions economy (that would also benefit the Sunnis) and an international interest in an Iraq that is disarmed, that does not sponsor terrorists, and that does not menace neighboring states.
The perfect solution was hinted at by President Jalal Talabani on his last trip to Washington, several weeks before Rep. Murtha spoke up. He said he looked forward to the day when American troops could be withdrawn, and he said so plainly enough for the White House to issue a slightly nervous clarification about "deadlines." Iraq is not "occupied" by men like Talabani: He is a true son of the country and used to be a genuine insurgent at the head of an authentic peoples' army. It would be wonderful if an elected Iraqi government and parliament—which is thinkable after this December—took the decision to thank the coalition and to invite it to fold its tent and depart. But anyone who thinks that this would stop the madness of jihad need only look at Afghanistan, where a completely discredited and isolated minority continues to use suicide—murder as a tactic and a strategy. How strange that the anti—war left should have forgotten all of its Marxism and superciliously ignored the fact that oil is blood: lifeblood for Iraqis and others. Under Saddam it was wholly privatized; now it can become more like a common resource. But it will need to be protected against those who would shed it and spill it without compunction, and we might as well become used to the fact. With or without a direct Anglo—American garrison, there is an overwhelming humanitarian and international and civilizational interest in defeating the Arab Khmer Rouge that threatens Mesopotamia, and if we could achieve agreement on that single point, the other disagreements would soon disclose themselves as being of a much lesser order.
Or perhaps it is that Chirac is now so discredited in his own country, that Villepin calculates that a little honesty, however, tardy, couldn't hurt.
Clarice Feldman 11 29 05