US foreign policy
on Iraq, part 2
Article added on March 26, 2003
As for the 2003 intervention in Iraq, if it is a first step in the democratic
reshaping of the Middle East, as President Bush claims, it is more than welcome, it
is overdue. And even if it will begin and end with Iraq, it is a positive sign.
One dictator less is always a step in the right direction.
The absence of an intervention in Iraq would have sent a terrible sign
to the rest of the world's dictators: If you are ruthless enough, you can do
whatever you like, regardless of what the UN thinks about your actions.
However, a lot depends on how the war will be conducted. Saddam Hussein's
strategy seems to be to concentrate on the defense of Baghdad with the help of
his Republican Guards as well as with parts of his army that will be loyal
to the bitter end. The result could be heavy civilian casualties in Iraq's capital. This
could undermine the positive radiation of a peaceful, democratic and
prosperous post-Saddam Iraq on the Arab world. Unlike the early 1990s, this
war is likely to be fought in the cities and not in the desert. In a worst
case scenario, huge civilian and military casualties could even force the US-
and UK-led forces to renounce the conquest of Baghdad, leaving Saddam
Hussein in power.
In order to change the Middle East durably, it will also be necessary to put pressure on Saudi Arabia, Jordan and
Egypt to become democratic states,
install the rule of law and liberalize their economies. Israel should be
pushed to stop treating its non-Jewish inhabitants as second-grade citizens and,
above all, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon should be "firmly encouraged"
to play a constructive role in the construction of a democratic Palestinian
state. Bush has already announced that after the installment of a Palestinian
prime minister with "real authority", he will publish a "road
map" to a Middle East peace settlement. Bush also called for an end to
settlement activity in the "occupied territories".
Not only in the context of the war against Iraq, Bush's constant references to
God and the Bible as well as
the traditional last word's of his speeches, "God save
America", are inappropriate. God has nothing to do with America, the
American people or George W. Bush, his government and his government's action.
The US are a secular democracy. God and earthly matters must be separated. There are (Christian) fundamentalists in the US too. So do not feed
As for as US American foreign policy on Afghanistan is concerned, the war against
the Taliban regime was more than overdue. As the regime mistreated its women and
began to destroy ancient monuments, where were all these millions of
demonstrators who stand up today against the war against Saddam Hussein?
By the way, what about the Russian war in Chechnya with its constant war
crimes? And there are far more than a dozen bloody wars and conflicts going on
any time. The peace movement has quite a selective perception.
Regarding Afghanistan, the
US administration does not look good either since intervention came only
after 9/11. Only after US interests were at stake, US security was endangered,
the Bush administration took action. Europeans are always good for "good advice", but
when it come to taking action, they get scarce.
A look back on US American foreign policy shows, as the Financial Times
recently remembered, that as late as October 1941, only 17%
of US voters favored declaring war in Germany in the Second World War. It took Pearl
Harbor and Hitler's declaration of war for America to enter the war against Japan and Germany.
One could also add that the Western
Allies did not fight Hitler in order to save Europe from oppression or Jews
and others from persecution and later extermination. The US entered the war in
order to defend American interests, ultimately to assure their own survival as
Our contemporary attitude towards the Taliban regime in Afghanistan shows that we do not seem to have
learned anything since then.
A look at the big picture shows that American foreign policy has saved
the world more than once from tyranny and oppression. For example, the power of the
United States was decisive for the outcome of the First World War, the Second
World War and the Cold War. Otherwise, most of Europe and probably most of the
entire world would be under Communist, Fascist or National-Socialist rule. In
particular, the durable military presence and the economic aid in rebuilding
Germany and Japan helped today's third and second largest economies to
flourish again and become members of the democratic world.
However, the blunders and miscalculations of US foreign policy are impressive
too. After the First World War, President Wilson could not implement his
vision for a durable and peaceful future because he was ill and the US
Congress refused to support and implement his plan. Consequently, the French took a lead role in establishing extremely severe peace
conditions for Germany and other states. This was one of several factors
which led to the Second World
War, in which US and especially British aircrafts bombed many German towns to
the ground, without any military necessity. Furthermore, the US dropped two nuclear bombs, one on Hiroshima and one on Nagasaki. Again, the civilian population
suffered terribly. These are clearly inexcusable war crimes.
To help one dictator in order to get rid of another is not very wise. The
strategic alliance of the Western Allies with the Soviet Union in WWII left
not only Stalin in place but led
to the Communist domination of Eastern Europe for half a century. Quite a
prize to pay. This was a pact with the devil - Stalin is, together with
Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot and maybe a few others, the worst criminal of the 20th
The list of US war crimes also includes the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam. There
have been suspicious actions undertaken by the CIA and other US
agencies. Furthermore, for "strategic reasons", the United States
has often supported disgusting dictators and corrupt regimes militarily,
diplomatically and economically. Democracy, the rule of law, human rights and
economic liberalism have not always been top priorities of US foreign policy.
For instance, the US secret services such as the NSA and the CIA had in total
some $50 billion at their disposal in 2001. The results they delivered seem meager
in comparison with the engaged financial resources. Since the US secret
services employ tens of thousands people, there are undemocratic,
unscrupulous, dangerous and criminal elements among them. There is too much
money around for people who partly work out of any (democratic) control.
The 2003 military budget of the US sets a record of $377 billion, not
included the $75 billion
in extra funding Bush asked Congress for so far for the Iraq campaign and the reconstruction effort
for the fiscal year 2003.
If "only" $50 billion of this money was spent on alternative
energies, within two decades, oil could become a minor problem. Anyway, we
need to look for alternative energy resources now, with or without Saddam.
Considering the huge military budget, one also wonders how it was possible
that the Pentagon could not defend itself on 9/11. After the twin towers had
already been hit, the Pentagon surely was on high alert.
Economically, there could also be a degree of military overstretch. Both the US citizens and
the US federal government live on credit. With the Iraq campaign
included, the 2003 budget deficit is expected to reach 3.8% of US GDP. In March 2003, consumer
confidence (as measured by the leading index established by the University of
Michigan) fell to its lowest level since October 1992. Just as a reminder, the
US economy is driven by US private consumption. Bush's unconvincing domestic
agenda includes huge spending programs and enormous tax cuts (slashed in half
by the Republican dominated Congress on March 25, but still substantial). If
consumer spending shrinks, the recession is prolonged and Bush junior maybe
soon out of office.
All this criticism is not Anti-Americanism, but it should
remind us that US American foreign policy is not a bright story, just because
it was central to the defeat of Communism, Fascism, Nazism and Taliban-like
regimes. It should remind us not to repeat the crimes of our enemies in order
to install democracy and the rule of law.
In other words, the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq are, as far we can
see so far, no new "Vietnams", but overdue actions in which the entire
"civilized" world should have
participated. In the case of Iraq, US American foreign policy has not worked
effectively to build up a broad coalition against a bloody dictator. The
American selfish, interest-centered attitude and the idea of "if you are not with us you are
against us" by George W. Bush and his government, especially by "the
living diplomatic nightmare" called Defense Minister Donald Rumsfeld, have
not been very helpful; his British counterpart, Geoffrey William Hoon, is not
better: he did not exclude the use of nuclear arms by the UK until Blair
brought him back to reason. American coalition building may have been a disaster,
but is nothing in comparison with what German
Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and French President Jacques Chirac have done. Click
here for part 1: US American foreign policy on Iraq.
the article on European foreign policy on Iraq for complementary information.