The recent deaths of American soliders and escalating violence in Iraq have resulted in U.S. allies’ pulling back support and set off a spirited Senate debate this week over whether Iraq will require more troops and become another Vietnam.
Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., took to the Senate floor Wednesday, insisting, “Surely I am not the only one who hears echoes of Vietnam in this development.”
However, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., quickly countered, “I happen to know something about Vietnam, and I know we don’t face another Vietnam.”
The turmoil is already costing the United States crucial foreign support as it tries to hand off power to Iraq by June 30.
Some allies are getting cold feet:
- Japanese troops suspended reconstruction work.
- Bulgaria asked the United States for more protection for its soldiers.
- Kazakhstan says it won’t renew its troop commitment.
And NATO has rebuffed U.S. pleas for help.
“I can only repeat what my government has said for the entire past year,” said Germany’s ambassador to the United States, Wolfgang Ischinger, “that’s really not something that we could realistically even begin to offer.”
It wouldn’t, adds Ischinger, have political support in Germany.
After the Madrid bombings, Europe is also nervous about getting too close to the U.S. occupation.
“A lot of Europeans took the message from Madrid,” explained Brookings Institution foreign policy expert Philip Gordon, “that the way to be safe is to distance yourself from the Americans in Iraq.”
Critics, like Foreign Relations Committee member Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., say the president should be asking foreign leaders for help.
“We should be sitting down with our European counterparts,” insists Biden, “at least on the telephone, and say, ‘Look, this is spiraling out of control. What do you need to get involved in this thing with us?’”
Biden and others complain the United States still has no plan for Iraq’s new government.
But John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, insists, “It’s not that we’re not working on that issue. That issue is being worked at the moment.”
The United States is counting on the United Nations to come up with a plan. However, Wednesday, one U.N. official told NBC News, “It’s hard to plan today for June 30, when we don’t even know what next week is going to bring.”