Man Without Qualities

Monday, August 19, 2002

Kissinger and Iraq

KausFiles says this excerpt from Henry Kissinger's recent op-ed article on invading Iraq indicates that Kissinger is in favor of delaying invasion:

It is necessary to propose a stringent inspection system that achieves substantial transparency of Iraqi institutions. Since the consequences of simply letting the diplomacy run into the ground are so serious, a time limit should be set. The case for military intervention will then have been made in the context of seeking a common approach.

KausFiles admits nobody else seems to be taking serious note of this Kissinger reservation.

I don't agree with KausFiles' take, mostly on the basis of Mr. Kissinger's caveat that "a time limit should be set." No serious person (including Mr. Kissinger) believes that Iraq will agree to anything similar to what Mr. Kissinger's proposes because Saddam Hussein has already rejected such proposals repeatedly. Mr. Kissinger most likely intends his proposal as a last-line-in-the-sand, a rhetorical device. I believe it is larely to make this point that Mr. Kissinger says quite definitely: "The case for military intervention will then have been made..." There is no effort to explore what might happen if Iraq accepts the demand in Mr. Kissinger's article - and none is needed. It will take the United States a while to gear up for an invasion. Setting a time limit well within the time needed to gear up guts this proposal as a serious potential delaying tactic.

On the other hand, Kissinger's sentences such as "Regime change as a goal for military intervention challenges the international system established by the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which, after the carnage of the religious wars, established the principle of nonintervention in the domestic affairs of other states" simply suggest that Kissinger is getting too old for this game. Even for Kissinger that's esoteric silliness. Regardless of whether one agrees with intervention in Iraq, or on any particular set of criteria justifying intervention, asserting that there exists any "international system established by the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia" just stretches to the point of absurdity the concept of an "established system." Such a "system" can be established only in outdated, rarified and theoretical international law. Did Teddy Roosevelt re-read the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia when he took Panama? It seems as though he did intend to affect a regime change by creating a new country. What about all the US incursions in Latin America just in the 20th century? What about the eighteenth century vivisection of Poland? Napoleon's conquest of Europe? The Greek civil war? Did all of that eighteenth and nineteenth century colonialism - including the European conquest of most of Africa, and Britain's complete absorption of what are now the nations of India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zeeland and much else - stem from some mass European librarians' error resulting in all those governments losing access to their copies of the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia? Are we suppose to pretend that these conquests were not interventions in the domestic affairs of the states conquered and turned into colonies? Did France forget to re-read THE TREATY just before French troops took the Ruhr Valley? Wasn't France attempting to change the way things were being done in Germany at the time? Or was a national insolvency resulting in the mere inability of Germany to make payments to France enough to satisfy whatever conditions of the 1648 Treaty system allowed intervention, which Iraq's efforts to acquire nuclear bombs and chemical and biological weapons for use against other nations does not? What about recent actions in Yugoslavia? Would Mr. Kissinger see invasion of Iraq as less of a disturbance of his "established system" if the goal was totally to conquer, absorb, split and exploit Iraq - running it indefinitely from Washington after the invasion - rather than just to change the regime and a few key policies?

In short, what the heck is Mr. Kissinger talking about here, anyway?

Comments: Post a Comment