|Man Without Qualities|
Thursday, September 05, 2002
Not every European media outlet opposes war against Iraq - although one may be foregiven for having that impression. Back on August 1, the Economist presented its case for such a war. The argument is interesting, since it is both highly reasonable and crafted from a European (although not a Continental) perspective. The Economist article is not all that easy to locate, so I reproduce it below:
Aug 1st 2002
From The Economist print edition
The Case for War
If you will the end, it is only honest to will the means
ITS founders called on America to show a decent respect for the opinions of mankind. And so, by and large, it does. But in the case of the looming American war against Iraq, another wise saw needs to be borne in mind. This one can be found pinned in many a corner shop. It advises customers against asking for credit, because “a refusal often offends”.
In much of the world, and even among some Americans, indignation is growing at George Bush's slow but remorseless preparations to remove Saddam Hussein, Iraq's president, by military force (see article). No step, the complainers say, could be better calculated to offend a billion Muslims and confirm fears that, after September 11th, the over-mighty superpower feels entitled to trample wantonly on any enemy, imagined or real. At the least, it is argued, America should abide by the rules. If Mr Bush is planning military action against Iraq, he should first ask the UN Security Council for permission. At talks in Germany this week, the French president and the German chancellor said once again that there could be no new military action against Iraq without fresh UN approval.
Will Mr Bush seek a new resolution before removing Mr Hussein? It is unlikely. If he asks, he may be refused, and a refusal often offends. Having refused, the other members of the Security Council will be offended in turn if—make that when—America, with Britain probably alongside, strikes Iraq regardless. Lawyers for America and Britain will claim that Mr Hussein's wholesale violation of the UN disarmament agreements he signed after being driven out of Kuwait in 1991 is all the justification they need. But with all due respect to the Security Council, the legal arguments its members deploy to justify their prior political choices are not especially gripping. The issue here is not Jarndyce v Jarndyce, a quarrel about small print. It is the danger Mr Hussein poses to the world, and whether that danger is big enough to justify the risks of a war.
How bad does he have to be?
The danger Mr Hussein poses cannot be overstated. He is no tinpot despot, singled out for arbitrary American punishment. Nor is Iraq a banana republic. With the possible exception of North Korea, but perhaps not even then, Mr Hussein is the world's most monstrous dictator, who by the promiscuous use of violence has seized unfettered control of a technologically advanced country with vast oil reserves. He has murdered all his political opponents, sometimes squeezing the trigger in person. He has subdued his Kurdish minority by razing their villages and spraying them with poison gas. In 1979 he invaded Iran, thus setting off an eight-year war that squandered more than 1m lives. In 1990 he invaded and annexed Kuwait, pronouncing it his “19th province”. When an American-led coalition started to push him out, and though knowing Israel to be a nuclear power, he fired ballistic missiles into Tel Aviv, in the hope of provoking a general Arab-Israeli conflagration. Next time you hear someone ask why, in a world full of bad men, it is Mr Hussein who is being picked on, please bear all of the above in mind. He may very well be the worst.
And yet it is not simply in his record of aggression, cruelty and recklessness that the peril to the wider world resides. If that were all the story, the danger might be easily contained. The unique danger in Iraq is that this country's advanced technology and potential oil wealth could very soon give this aggressive, cruel and reckless man an atomic bomb.
How dangerous would that be? To judge by the reaction of Mr Bush's foreign critics, the magnitude of the threat is in the eye of the beholder. But it is not difficult to see why, after September 11th, Americans in particular find it hard to be sanguine about the prospect of a sworn enemy equipping himself with weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In the worst case, these might one day be used against the United States, either directly by Iraq itself or by some non-state group to whom Mr Hussein had transferred his lethal technology. At a minimum, a nuclear-armed Mr Hussein could be counted on to revive his earlier ambitions to intimidate his neighbours and dominate the Gulf. Prophesying is difficult, especially about the past. But if Mr Hussein had already had nuclear weapons when he invaded Kuwait 11 years ago, he might still be there.
Presidents and precedents
Many people who acknowledge that Mr Hussein is a danger nonetheless oppose Mr Bush's plan to depose him, on the ground that this would in itself set a dangerous precedent. How safe would the world really be if the United States, armed now with Mr Bush's new doctrine of pre-emption, swanned about it shooting up any country that possessed or sought to acquire weapons of mass destruction, deposing any president whose face it did not like? That is a good question. It is not, however, the question that arises in Iraq.
When he invaded Kuwait, Mr Hussein forfeited some of Iraq's normal sovereign rights. After his defeat, it became apparent that Iraq had been secretly developing chemical, nuclear and biological weapons, in contravention of its treaty obligations, such as those under the nuclear non-proliferation pact. Given this, and his recent aggression, the United Nations put Iraq under a uniquely intrusive system of surveillance, designed to ensure that his WMD efforts would come to an end. Crippling economic sanctions were to be lifted only when the UN's arms inspectors could be sure he had complied. Eleven years on, Iraq is still crippled, the inspectors have been forced out, and nobody believes that Mr Hussein has given up seeking a bomb or scrapped all the chemical and biological weapons he already has. He has literally preferred to starve Iraq than to give up his appetite for them.
None of this is to argue that a war to remove Mr Hussein should be undertaken lightly. Though the Iraqi army is even less of a match for America's than it was a decade ago, that was a different sort of war. With his own head and not just his most recent conquest at stake, and especially when he calculates that he has nothing to lose, Mr Hussein might very well use the unconventional weapons he has collected. The casualties this time—especially the civilian casualties—could be much larger than they were before.
It is little wonder, given this, that people of goodwill are groping for a safer alternative. But wishful thinking in the face of mortal danger is bad policy. Perhaps the best hope is that, as the noose tightens, Mr Hussein will save himself by letting the inspectors return. If they did so on a credible go-anywhere, check-anything basis, such an opportunity would be worth grabbing, at least to see if it worked.
Failing this, however, the outlook is grim. Some argue that a better alternative to war is to keep Mr Hussein in his box, persevering with the strategy of containment. But after 11 years, it is time to acknowledge that the box is full of holes and that containment has failed. By keeping Iraq poor, the sanctions have inflicted suffering on Iraq's people and so brought America and its allies into disrepute in much of the Arab world. But the sanctions have not dulled the Iraqi leader's appetite for the most lethal of weapons, and have slowed rather than stopped his ability eventually to procure them. The honest choices now are to give up and give in, or to remove Mr Hussein before he gets his bomb. Painful as it is, our vote is for war.
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