Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Diplomacy, Continued: With apologies to Steven Den Beste, captain of the good ship Clueless, who has put some smart game theory on France, I've been tossing about my own. France's best option has been a flat-out lifting of sanctions against Iraq, and until fairly recently this was the official French position. Such a solution allows France to exercise its oil contracts in Iraq and ramp up exports to an important client. The second-best option is the so-called containment strategy, whereby we continue to play the games Saddam has dominated for 12 years. That is, we use inspectors to again force the weapons production into hibernation, or at least more thoroughly underground. This helps Saddam, who has historically been a patient player of this game, and paves the way for an inspections success, like the "success" that in the late 90s led France to advocate an end to sanctions. This renews the possibility of France's best-case scenario, above. The worst scenario for France is the liberation of Iraq. The security council resolution was meaningless, since any invasion is a de facto American invasion. In any event, the U.S. would probably insist on invalidating any economic agreements made under Saddam's regime (this helps explain Russia's debt-focused opposition, too). Because such an outcome, in an invasion scenario, is almost inevitable, France was in such a position that brinksmanship was the only possibility, since it was the only way to create a fighting chance for its best or second-best outcomes.

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