Judgments regarding the wisdom of the war with Iraq are many and varied. I tend to take a long view. This war will set the tone for a new international order, not based on multilateralism, but based on unilateral tendencies of the Bush administration, led by intellectual and military agenda of an influential inner circle of the neoconservatives. This so-called war of liberation will in the long run turn into a long, messy, and expensive occupation with potentially destabilizing implications for the entire region. The United States’ next targets will be to get Syria out of Lebanon, to go after Iran and its nuclear program, to punish Hezbollah in Lebanon, and settle a new account with Saudi Arabia. Bypassing the UN and its big players (China, France, Germany, and Russia) bodes ill not only for the reconstruction period after removing Saddam Hussein but also for the UN credibility in dealing with similar crises in the future. The fissures within the transatlantic alliance have already done a great deal of damage to the perceived reputation and solidarity of the NATO, foreshadowing its irrelevance at the dawn of a new century.
Furthermore, the complications of bringing stability to an ethnically and religiously heterogeneous country such as Iraq are familiar as testified by the case of Yugoslavia. The Kurds in the northern Iraq will not be satisfied with anything less than gaining access to Kirkuk and Musal areas. Turkey is not hospital to such scenario as these parts of the Iraq are amongst the country’s oil-rich regions. Shi’ites majority in the south are less inclined to make compromises on their rights and aspirations in the post-war period. As the chief occupier, the United States cannot simply avoid the pull and push of getting caught in the middle of such old and “difficult-to-resolve” grievances. The talk of liberating Iraq in the name of promoting democracy is disingenuous given that U.S. long-term strategic objectives are vastly different from building democracy there in the first place. To assume that turning the problems of the post-war period to UN peacekeeping operations or peacemaking forces will do the job is yet another gross miscalculation that is worth pondering.
The US plan to maintain influence in Euroasia via its domination of the Middle East and North Africa is certain to trigger a new round of anti-American violence and most likely escalate resentment toward an imperial American that appears more and more bent on redrawing the region’s borders. This occupation will surely make it much easier for transnational terrorist networks, such as al-Qaeda, to recruit new members. Hence the anticipated upsurge in global terrorism. With the festering Palestinian-Israeli conflict and its uncertain status, one has the recipe for a political disaster of an unprecedented proportion and intensity in a region long plagued by conflict and turmoil. Whether the consequences of this occupation are not carefully thought through or the Bush administration’s hidden agenda demands such a risky enterprise remain legitimate concerns of us all. These issues make it difficult to defend this war and what it could lead to.
Dept. of Political Science