COLUMN: War should be last option

Posted 7:50 p.m. Feb. 25

by Melissa Kronfeld
U-WIRE Washington Bureau

On an America Online-sponsored international survey, users around the world could vote whether or not they think America is acting as an aggressor in announcing their intentions to go to war with Iraq.
The top three nations that believe America is an aggressor and should not go to war were the United Kingdom (59 percent), Germany (69 percent), and France (78 percent).

These numbers are extremely high, and two of the nations indeed have veto power on the United Nations Security Council – the final word of international interest. But are European protests enough to stop the United States? Probably not. That’s why I believe we should not go to war.

There is no denying that Saddam Hussein may be maliciously inclined, but does the problem lie totally in the man and not the country? It is crucial to understand and distinguish those elements in Iraqi and Arab culture that have shaped Saddam to act in the ways he has.

Judith S. Yaphe, a specialist on Iraq and Persian Gulf security issues at the Institute for National Strategic Studies in Washington, said: “Iraq had a violent political culture before Saddam, and a stability bolstered by repression, fear, and wealth under Saddam.”

Will history repeat itself in Iraq? Will Iraq produce another leader like Saddam because of the environment and circumstance that have pushed him into power to begin with? And what kind of historical factors have shaped Saddam’s thinking and what will shape his successors?

I question the actions of a regime change, although I don’t entirely oppose it. Has our history been for naught? Interference in the sovereignty of political entities, whether evil or not, has never been a successful game strategy for the United States. In Iran in 1953, the United States established a puppet government under a corrupt Shah. And, eventually Iran turned to a theocratic revolution in 1979. In 1954, the United States invaded Guatemala, instilling a repressive military junta where a new democratic government existed.

In 1973, the U.S. overthrew the leftist Allende, despite his preservation of democratic procedure, and installed one of the most disastrous military regimes of all time under the direction of Augusto Pinochet. And aggressive military intervention in the Ronald Reagan administration prolonged bitter civil strife in Nicaragua and El Salvador. They could still hold elections, but the United States made no effort to maintain and instill an open participatory democratic atmosphere.

And what of Cuba? Fidel Castro approached the United States in hopes of aiding his revolution in 1959, and in our rejection of him and invasion of his small island nation, we pushed him into the open arms of the Cold War enemy – the Soviet Union. If America invades Iraq, can we not fear of pushing Saddam into the arms of Osama bin Laden in light of our aggression?

Much like Reagan’s administration, it seems that President Bush and his advisors seek an all-out military strategy before engaging in continually constructive dialogue. Such a dialogue can’t hurt.
On Feb. 17, Saddam’s made his first concession by announcing his country’s intention to allow American surveillance planes to follow over Iraqi airspace.

But Americans are not the only ones who must be responsible for restraint. If the United Nations does not intend to assert itself more in times of crisis, then do we have another example of our failure to understand history? If the United Nations does not rally together to enforce more weapons inspections and to continue the process of open debate, then it will be rendered obsolete. It’s a situation much like what happened to the League of Nations when it allowed Italy to attack Ethiopia in 1935, Japan to attack China in 1937, and Germany to attack Czechoslovakia in 1939.

And if America goes to war and topples Saddam, what would happen to post-Saddam Iraq? President Bush tells reporters that he wishes to “promote democracy in the Middle East.” But up until now, America has never been concerned with democracy in the Middle East – just stability. And America has never pressed for reform despite their understanding of the repressive nature of the regimes in Middle East. So if we are going to start now, how does Bush propose we do it? Well actually, he hasn’t. Maybe war should wait until we understand better how the aftermath will be.

The Iraqi state is made up of many different factions. The two largest opposition forces are the Kurds and Shia who indeed have conflicting aspirations for this newly envisioned state. In fact, both groups are calling for increased protection by the United States if they are to grant American support. The Kurds are calling for extra security in the north, while the Shia are calling for a line of demarcation in the south. These circumstances seem to be those that breed postwar rivalry. One can only imagine how these two long-term repressed peoples will vie for power and control with Saddam out of the way. And one can only imagine the conflicting relationship it would breed.

I cannot say that war will not occur; unfortunately, it seems inevitable given the massive buildup of American troops in the Persian Gulf and the pressure upon the Security Council to pass yet another resolution. But I do believe that war, at least for now, it not the answer.

It is estimated that there would be at least a half million casualties and more then five million displaced persons. Millions of people receive their total food intake directly from the government in Iraq and war would certainly inhibit food distribution. And a country that has endured two previously devastating wars and trade embargos would only become a cesspool of terrorist activity, as yet another generation of Iraqi children are raised on blood and guns.

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