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Like 9-Year Olds

Has global diplomacy spiraled into infantile squabbling?

February 21, 2003

Has global diplomacy spiraled into infantile squabbling?

In September of 2002, the then-Minister of Justice of Germany allegedly compared the policies of George W. Bush with those of Adolf Hitler. Not to be outdone, Secretary Rumsfeld recently dismissed opposition to the war against Iraq as irrelevant since it came from the "old" Europe (France and Germany).

That remark called French President Jacques Chirac into action. Afterall, he needed to vent his view that the "new" Europe — you know, those little eastern European countries that are the bellicose supporters of the Bush/Rumsfeld/Cheney axis — better watch their tongues.

Otherwise, there may be trouble ahead with their plans to become members of the European Union (which, of course, is dominated by the "old" Europe).

However, nothing quite compares to the whining of a senior official of the Bush Administration, who complained about the stalled negotiations with Turkey over territorial access to Iraq in the forthcoming attack on that country.

He described Turkish efforts to negotiate for a more generous package of financial aid as "extortion". In reading about his complaint, I was reminded of my nearly nine-year old son — and his frustration when losing a game of cards. Each loss is accompanied by his agitated declaration of "That's not fair."

The administration official, who claimed extortion, is obviously using the wrong dictionary — or legal counsel for that matter. Truth be told, the U.S. effort to obtain Turkey's support for its invasion of Iraq is more akin to bribery than extortion.

Extortion is a unilateral attempt "to secure money by intimidation, violence or misuse of influence or authority" from another party (using the Collins Dictionary).

Bribery, on the other hand, is a bilateral engagement, whereby money is offered to gain influence or procure services (again, quoting from the Collins Dictionary).

In extortion, only the extorting party is criminally liable. Bribery, on the other hand, is a morally reprehensible and criminal act as both parties are engaging in an illegal act.

The Bush Administration is offering $26 billion to Turkey to do something that the country's government otherwise would not be inclined to do — and that is opposed by 94% of the Turkish people.

Turkey wants $32 billion for the small favor of allowing 40,000 U.S. troops into the country, disrupting Turkey's economy once again — and risking serious unrest on Turkish streets. This is a classic case of bribery gone awry.

Lest we forget, this chain of events is not without precedent. The Bush Administration fought the war in Afghanistan by handing out some $70 million in order to co-opt the various tribes into removing the Taliban regime. Evidently, Afghanistan is a much cheaper place in terms of the budget for walking-around money.

Plus, this was money semi-well spent, although Secretary Rumsfeld and his team apparently did not put the bounty high enough for the heads of the leadership of al-Qaeda (including Osama Bin-Laden) — or the Taliban regime (including Mullah Omar).

There are many, who will argue that spending $26 billion or $32 billion to facilitate entry into Iraq via Turkey is money far less well spent. The most important reason for this kind of argument is because of an unconvincing justification for war itself.

However, as determined as the Bush/Rumsfeld/Cheney axis appears to be to go down this uncertain road of changing the political map of the Middle East, it seems unhelpful to offend members of an ever-shrinking alliance. In the end, it's just like I have told my son after many a card game: "Soon nobody wants to play with you anymore."

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