What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The German view of Iraq

Any Iraq/Afghanistan trade-off is not so heatedly debated at the moment. This comes as a result of:
- things calming down significantly in the former theatre (on relative terms, of course);
- Afghanistan now being more lethal than Iraq on absolute terms (the Afghan theatre used to be as dangerous for foreign soldiers as the Iraqi "only" when those killed in action were counted in proportion to all the troops present on the ground in the respective theatres);
- and with a new war getting in the way of a more promising Afghan campaign: the "Georgian-Ossetian-Russian-Georgian war" which has transformed into a "Georgian-Ossetian-Russian-Georgian/American + European conflict."
Now there's an interesting study published by the German Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, by Christopher Chivvis, with the title What role for Germany in Iraq? I'd include here excerpts from it, but the pdf they are using doesn't allow that (which is not a very smart thing!). The gist of it is that political consolidation in Iraq cannot be taken for granted yet, and European interests may be harmed more by instability there than American interests could be. So Chivvis is arguing for increased German activity in several areas, past concerns about the Iraq war's legality notwithstanding. Interestingly, he notes the potentially beneficial effect of Iraqi consolidation on oil prices as one of the key European stakes.
I don't find his argumentation flawed, so what I'll add should in no way be interpreted as though I'd be mocking this paper. But it's funny how now, that Iraq is not so dangerous any more, and the "dirty" - i.e. non-UN-backed - intervention has been carried out by the U.S., some even in one of the chief opposition countries, in Germany, are thinking that "you know what, actually it doesn't matter so much that the war was illegal according to some international lawyers, and, yeah, well, oil is of course bloody important for us, too... As to that weapons of mass destruction thingee, well, we, Germans, did, of course, supply intelligence to the Americans ourselves that appeared to back up their pre-war claims (e.g. stuff coming from Agent Curveball about mobile biological weapons laboratories), but, hey, they can't complain - they were way too overeager to use what they were fed." Don't get me wrong, Chivvis' paper comes reflecting already circulating views, so this doesn't originate from him specifically.
Historical irony aside, my only concern about this newfound enthusiasm for "doing more for Iraq," with at times "energy security partnership" mentioned as a buzzword, is that this may again be something for which "the cost could be Afghan." It's a vicious circle indeed. Many European countries that are looking for the chance to do something important and yet not casualty-risky for the U.S., like running PRTs and militarised development in areas of Afghanistan only mildly affected by insurgency, might find Iraq another place where now symbolically important substitute commitments can be made. Commitments that may also help them to economic advantages which have become more vital with the recent deterioration of relations with Russia.
Of course Germany is one of the prime candidates for this, and they are exactly one of those who are not so keen on taking a hard stance against Russia. For them the substitute commitment side to this is the more dominant one.

7 comments:

b said...

Christopher Chivvis, educated in France and the U.S, is certainly not "The German View". One could call it the U.S. view published in Germany. But that's it.

It would be political suicide for a German politician to seriously do something about/on Iraq.

The author even acknowledges and his recommendations are "play soft". That will happen, years from now.

BTW: While the German's passed the Curveball stuff, they also passed a warning and they thought the source was unreliable.

Péter MARTON said...

"Christopher Chivvis, educated in France and the U.S, is certainly not "The German View". One could call it the U.S. view published in Germany. But that's it."

Indeed,this is why I linked to this article below:
http://www.atlantic-community.org/index/Open_Think_Tank_Article/On_Iraq%2C_it%27s_Time_to_Call_Europe

The link, unfortunately, was broken - I realised that only now when at first I didn't understand your reaction immediately. You'll see there is actually some movement in surprising directions. If you look at Chivvis' recommendations, they are not exactly "political suicide" for German politicians. Anyway, the link above was originally broken, and it's not the first time Blogger does this - my apologies for it.

Your other remark:
"While the German's passed the Curveball stuff, they also passed a warning and they thought the source was unreliable."
I didn't say it led the US automatically into war with Iraq. Of course it was more like an excuse. Which I'm referring to above, pointing out how overeager the US administration was to believe everything - they didn't bother to talk to Curveball in person after all.

b said...

Still don't get what you want to say. The new link is to the view of two U.S. experts.

What does that say about the "The German View"? Nothing.

Péter MARTON said...

Help on the way, in the form of an excerpt:

"European diplomats have privately admitted for some time that they could not ignore Iraq forever. But in recent weeks, private talk has given way to public statements. A visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to Brussels in April proved a catalyst: the European Commission trumpeted its desire for "an energy security partnership" with Baghdad.

Even in those countries that most virulently opposed the war, the mood is changing. Bernard Kouchner has long stated his desire to do more in Iraq, while German foreign policy intellectuals have become particularly vocal in calling for a new direction."

Oh, by the way, b, you're normally much-much better with open sources than this - from you this is sloppy: Korski was born in Copenhagen and studied at Cambridge and LSE.

As far as my view of his writings is concerned, he is very pro-Atlantic (that's a stupid expression, but let's use it for now). His assessment may not be fully accurate - he is perhaps oversensitive to certain signals he would have wanted to pick up anyway. Yet those signals are there, even if, for now, this is not the "German view of Iraq" as such. The latter is something besides which I meant to put a question mark, not something I want to equate with the currently increasing interest in opportunities in Iraq. I'm trying to look ahead, and my judgement is that it's not such an improbable direction where things might be headed.

One or two years from now, feel free to point out what will have happened by then.

fnord said...

One may also add that the first big foreign oilcontract was given out by Maliki a few days ago: it went to the China National Petroleum Corporation. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/29/world/middleeast/29iraq.html?scp=1&sq=oil%20iraq%20china&st=cse)

So there is the added incentive of getting contracts that will propably be a big enabler for the euros (like Statoil from up here) to go in carefully carefully. Also, my guess is that a lot of realists are counting hard on the cost/benefit ratio of remaining in force in AFghanistan.

b said...

I still don't get why this is supposed to be the "German View" (I am German - as you might have guessed)

The only line is "Bernard Kouchner has long stated his desire to do more in Iraq, while German foreign policy intellectuals have become particularly vocal in calling for a new direction."

A new direction, for the U.S. to take that is. Not on European involvement. It would be political suicide for any political party here to do different.

The foundation of the whole post is, sorry, weak. The conclusion, I believe, simply wrong.

The German view vs. Iraq hasn't changed.

Péter MARTON said...

b, you really don't get the point, but it's really not my fault.

Of course the conclusion may be wrong. Of course there's not much to refer to as a basis.

I'm making guesses about things that are not fully visible.

Are my guesses, be they counterintuitive or not, entirely improbable? I don't think so. One doesn't have to recognise the legitimacy of the Iraq invasion to wish in on a couple of oil sector contracts... that is not so bad, really... and I can't expect German demonstrators go out on the street with banners reading "No American and Iraqi blood for German oil!" Getting in on some oil contracts is not the end of the world. Sending civilian police is not political suicide, either.

So, this was a speculative post. That you're here, commenting on it for the third time, shows that it did bother you. Even if my expectations turn out to be entirely baseless, a speculative piece like this makes sense. People just don't enter all windows of opportunity just because they are there.

You know, if the Obama-Biden duo comes in first, there will be an even bigger window then. So we'll see.