Money Makes the World Go Round

As Justin Logan notes, Kerry's comment that we really had a "coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought and the extorted" turned out to be spot-on, with the newly elected Bush administration no longer even bothering to hide the payoffs:

The $80 billion war-funding request that President Bush plans to send Congress next week will include $400 million to help nations that have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Poland, a staunch ally in Iraq, is earmarked to receive one-fourth of the money.


"These funds . . . reflect the principle that an investment in a partner in freedom today will help ensure that America will stand united with stronger partners in the future," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said in a statement. "This assistance will support nations that have deployed troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other partners promoting freedom around the world."

Poland has taken command of a multinational security force in central Iraq that is made up of about 6,000 troops -- among them more than 2,400 Polish soldiers. Polish officials say that a reduction this month will leave them with about 1,700 troops in Iraq.

"Poland has been a fantastic ally because the president and the people of Poland love freedom," Bush said in announcing that Poland is earmarked to receive $100 million.

It's hard not to love that last quote by Bush, but I'm going to try and resist the urge to mock and instead say I think this is fine. Not to be too real politk about the whole thing, but America is not a charity, and there is no reason we shouldn't use our budget to convince allies over to our side. Indeed, Congress does it constantly, appropriating for this or that member's pet projects in return for their support on entirely unrelated bills. Poland is not a rich country and their support was substantial, both militarily and diplomatically, paying them off doesn't bug me. In fact, I far prefer the bribes and arm-twisting to be out in the open, where we can see it, than in circuitous, closed-door negotiations.

Now, it's certainly true that bribing our allies to go along with misguided or immoral initiatives is wrong. But it's wrong because of the initiative's merits (or lack thereof), and it's up to us not to walk down those paths and up to other countries to refuse complicity. Openly rewarding countries for making significant sacrifices to support our priorities isn't wrong or, if it is, it isn't rare. Doing it this way just makes the transaction obvious and amplifies its effect by publicizing the quid pro quo.