What a difference a day makes. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press that she did not believe the coalition supplying the troops in Iraq would change. Monday, the newly elected government in Spain said it would pull out its 1,300 troops.
This shows once again that you should expect the unexpected in international politics and that it was a bad idea to go into Iraq without making sure a broad coalition backed up the plan. The often-touted “coalition of the willing” consists mainly of the United States (supplying 130,000 soldiers), Great Britain (9,000), Spain (1,300) and Poland (2,460) but also includes countries like Estonia (supplying 31 soldiers), Macedonia (37) and Kazakhstan (25) according to the Drudge Report. To say the coalition consists of 34 countries is not exactly representative of what is happening as some countries are supplying only a busload of soldiers.
As the change of government in Spain showed Sunday, Europeans are aware of what their governments are doing. And if the government goes against popular opinion, consequences will show in the next election. This hardly bodes well for Great Britain Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has been facing as much criticism as former Spain Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.
The attacks on commuter trains in Madrid, Spain, killing 200 and injuring around 1,500 people, were a clear reminder to many Europeans that if you side with the United States you may end up painting a bull’s eye on your country’s installations. While it is still unclear if al-Qaida is behind the attacks, a theory that seems more likely by the day, Europeans cannot exactly be blamed for not wanting to attract foreign terrorism to their own countries.
Now, as Howard Dean also pointed out on Meet the Press in an interview following Rice’s, U.S. troops either face being left in the rain as other countries stop fighting or the area is abandoned for political reasons.
The United Nations will have to play a role in Iraq, no matter if the Bush administration likes the idea or not. Simply pulling out of Iraq cannot be an option, as the area is not stable enough to be left without troops and would probably descend into either civil war or exactly the hard-line ruled state that the United States supposedly toppled. Naturally, it will be much harder now to bring other countries into the fold, but for this, the administration only has itself to blame.