The endless delays erode fighting readiness and push the war back into the summer. More American soldiers may die because of France's dubious diplomacy. That diplomacy is geared to appeasement at home as well as abroad -- 5 million Muslim immigrants live in often crime-ridden neighborhoods that ring France's major cities. With few jobs and no national policy of assimilation, these neighborhoods are a growing threat, so appeasement seems logical.
The Bush administration has made mistakes, but it's an illusion to think that a different style, or a different president, would have averted the current U.N. disaster. Bush conducted no "rush to war." He was asked to go to Congress and to the United Nations, and he did. Getting the U.N. Security Council to pass Resolution 1441 last November was considered a political triumph. It called for Iraq to disarm immediately and completely.
But who knew that the word of France was good for less than four months? As Andrew Sullivan writes, "If the French refuse to enforce a resolution they signed, why is that a sign of incompetence on the part of the Bush administration?" When the Security Council reneges on a last-chance, disarm-or-else resolution shortly after the ink dries, it is staking a heavy claim to irrelevance.
It's striking that the fecklessness of the United Nations and the treachery of the French draw so many yawns from establishment commentators and politicians. They much prefer to complain about Bush. These voices are far more sophisticated than the crude Bush-equals-Hitler level of commentary established at anti-war rallies and marches. Lately they just insist that Bush talks too much about God, has a Manichaean sense of good vs. evil, and lacks a proper sense of ambivalence and complexity.