Berlusconi and Blair, of course, are Bush's primary international friends, now that Putin's soul has suddenly turned opaque. They deserve credit for hanging in as long as they have, against the wishes of their people. One can actually give them credit and not assume base motives, because it can't possibly have been worth it for them on any material level.
It's to be expected that the "coalition" talk keeps going (though US forces account for just under 87% of the troop presence), and always will, long after they've all come home and this is long forgotten generations down the road. The military, even more so than the rest of the government, is a blunt instrument, which makes it so much easier to just stay on message and pull the standard "la la la we can't heeeeaaar you" bit.
But whatever; bureaucrats do what bureaucrats do. From a practical standpoint, the most telling stat here is the one the article doesn't mention -- how many Iraqi troops have been trained thus far, what is the overall goal, and what's the timeline. This is not some sort of "if we say our timeline, the insurgents will just wait us out" situation; this is fundamental as to the nature and completion of the mission at hand.
We appreciate the sacrifice our allies are making for us in this cause, really. As pointed out earlier, there's really not much in it for, say, Albania -- they're never going to have a 9/11 of their own, and they certainly don't have a corporate industrial infrastructure to contract in Iraq and make a buck somewhere. Maybe we're doling out more aid, who knows. Regardless, sometimes it's the thought that counts.
Nonetheless, what with all this talk of democracy, here is a clear-cut situation where the populations of most of these nations opposed participation vociferously, yet were overruled by their leaders. I'm just saying.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch....
Surprisingly enough, they didn't reflexively accuse the general of bum-rushing the checkpoint at 100 mph. But that's what he gets for being out, uh, late. Can "Sgrena" be used as a verb yet? Do we need to print up another deck of cards with the good guys on them this time? We've had ongoing trouble getting, training, and retaining solid recruits for the Iraqi defense force; this is one of the main guys that was helping us do just that.
When this sort of stupid shit stops happening, then we can crow about demonstrations in Lebanon, or Hosni Mubarak saying "someday". Freedom is still crawling; he's not quite marching up and down the square. It could be generations before that happens, so let's dispense with the notion that Bush knew something the rest of the planet didn't, m'kay? Even if he had known, the notion that this was the best way to go about it is repellent.
Since Bono turned the job down, noted comb-licker Paul Wolfowitz has been tapped to replace James Wolfensohn as head of the World Bank. This seems to be the same cooperative dynamic that got John "Does the carpet match the drapes or the blinds?" Bolton nominated as ambassador to the UN. We trust that Wolfowitz will bring the same expertise and zeal to the World Bank, that he and Doug Feith and Steve Hadley and Steve Cambone brought to the intel-stovepiping division of the Pentagon. Look out, Botswana!
In other news, Ashlee Simpson will be the next head of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Finally, in Western Hemisphere oil-related news, Venezuela has lobbed what sounds like a threat.
Since the US accounts for half of Venezuela's oil exports, the only way they could pull this off and keep their own economy intact is if China has already expressed interest in stepping up its purchase rate, which it has. With oil prices back up to record highs, and Americans bracing themselves for $2.50 or even $3.00 per gallon this summer, Venezuela's newfound intestinal fortitude may be the hidden story with the most potential impact right now.
Back to your regularly scheduled coverage of Michael Jackson's sartorial habits.