I'm posting this as a response to Kevin Drum's post over here
. It's on the subject of why all those countries who opposed the Iraq war didn't jump on the bandwagon as soon as
the war ended
"major combat operations" ended. It's unfinished, but I thought it was worth keeping around.
In the simplest of models, there are three questions: Is a failed Iraqi state a significant threat to other countries (in which case they have an interest in propping it up)? Assuming the answer is yes, can the US credibly threaten to fail at doing the job itself? Assuming the answer is yes again, can any other states hope that success is possible if they cooperate with the US?
These questions are all focussed on the 'sticks', but what about the carrots? Thus, another question is: Would our potential partners benefit more by cooperating to secure Iraq, or by not cooperating and thus letting the US flush its super-powers down the toilet of Iraq? The idea here is that in a world of relative power maximizers, the US's loss is everyone else's gain. The US can try to compensate for that by offering to give its partners rewards for helping it win. One reward is a stable Iraq; a second reward might be reconstruction contracts. Obviously, the possibilities are endless - right up to trading away California. Or Texas. Not that anyone would want it.
A key point, I think, is that Bush's world is a world of relative power maximizers and, secondly, he hasn't been very good about the carrots. Remember when the British and Australians were pissed off because it seemed like all the reconstruction contracts were going to American firms? (There was that ridiculous cell-phone debacle
- which, to be fair, turned out okay in the end.) That behaviour made it a lot less tempting for other countries to get involved. But more importantly (in my view), Bush has consistently said and behaved as though the world consists of sovereign states who inherently threaten one another and therefore seek security by maximizing their own power. This view has manifested in two ways: 1. unilateralism; 2. the focus on 'state sponsors of terrorism' rather than on transnational terrorist networks.
American unilateralism stems largely from the view that allies and international institutions are unimportant because the US's power is so overwhelming and it only intends to get bigger. The focus on states rather than terrorist groups stems from the view that states are the only insitutions which can plausibly have enough power to seriously hurt the US.
There are, I think, some other important elements to the neoconservative view that deserve consideration, but it's too late and I'm too tired. So I'll wrap this up quickly by saying this. I think the pessimistic views that underly neoconservativism are self-fulfilling prophecies. When the neocons say the US has to rely on itself and doesn't need allies and all that jazz - they alienate their allies. Their allies, in turn, start to worry about the US's attitude and start to think about their own interests as diverging from the US's. Then, a US loss starts to look like their gain. Finally, having the US bogged down in Iraq starts to look like a good thing: they won't have to worry about it causing trouble someplace else. It can waste its money and energy, while they develop their economies, etc. This is why I think a Kerry presidency would have at least a better chance of getting help. Mind you, I still don't think he'd have a very good chance: Bush has already done a lot of damage to the international system.