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Playing from the Spite Deck

Back in the days I was playing a certain collectible card game, my good friend Mark had what he called a "spite deck." He pulled it out whenever events in the previous game had frustrated him utterly, and the rest of the players knew that although Mark was unlikely to win from playing the Spite Deck, he would be taking the majority them down with him.

Geopolitically speaking, there's been a lot of playing the spite deck lately, the most recent example being the Pentagon's decision to only award post-war reconstruction contracts in Iraq to coalition members. This is a large, neon middle finger thrust before France, Germany, Russia and Canada, among others. To my own surprise, given my lack of support of the Bush administration, I really don't mind that they're playing from the spite deck this time.

For one thing, despite the Bush administration's diplomatic blunders and arrogance, the failure of the U.N. to enforce its own resolutions can be traced primarily to France and Germany who, it seems, were playing from the spite deck themselves when they decided that the final resolution on Iraq (PDF) for which they had voted didn't mean what it said. Whether you were in favor of the war or not, when you consider that the only thing that might have prevented war was U.N. unanimity in enforcing Resolution 1441, France's intransigence at the Security Council seems at least as spiteful as principled. So there's something satisfying about playing from the spite deck in retaliation -- I don't feel a particular need to welcome French companies to the bidding process and I suspect the Iraqi Governing Council would agree. (That said, I admit that this isn't a great way to thank Canada for at least putting some money up toward reconstruction, nor does it help encourage Russia to forgive Iraq's debts.)

Second, this isn't just about the middle finger. Britain, Spain, Australia and the others put boots on the ground. Reserving the bidding to them may be a small gesture -- a few extra jobs in Birmingham won't help Tony Blair with his backbenchers -- but it's a start.

And finally, there's a smaller but still substantial pot of money out there from the U.N. for reconstruction contracts as well, so the other countries aren't being completely frozen out.

Now, I reserve the right to retract every one of these statements if Halliburton wins all these bids, too.


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