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History and Now

From: Oleh Sniezko
Category: Reviews of worldwidereview
Date: 07 March 2003


Hello Jasper. First I will nitpick a bit if you will pardon me and then I will present my own opinion of the situation.

If it is a bromide that we should learn from history, it is so because in general the proposition is true. And while the situation in Iraq is not comparable on many levels with the situation faced by the allies in World War II I believe certain elements can be isolated as worthwhile lessons.

1. It is possible to build a democracy through force. Germany and even more so Japan had hoisted upon them political structures that were alien in their history. The Japanese especially had a constitution forced upon them, a bureaucracy transformed by American occupation. With a proper investement nations can be changed at their roots after total defeat. North Vietnam, the Soviets and the British in India have shown this to be possible. Afghanistan I believe is the situation that does not fit the bill here... it was not totally defeated nor is the investment in rebuilding it in "our image" large enough. Finally, unlike Iraq, there is little understanding in Afghanistan on what a nationwide democracy is.

2. America has often had it thrown in its face that it joined World War II only after it was smashed at Pearl Harbour. Fine, I'll take that criticism but I think I can one up you. The US is a democracy and was so in the 30s. Our people did not believe in war in Europe. It was only by exercising his authority, mandated by the people in the remotest of senses, that Roosevelt was able to involve the US economically in WWII prior to Pearl Harbour. The dangers of relying on public opinion in a democracy, when it comes to war are at least equivalent to the dangers of ignoring it utterly. Point is that people in democracies will generally oppose war in large numbers prior to intiation and a leader who instead of representing his constitutency's best interests focuses on their "views of the moment" runs the danger of waiting too long. I believe this is another lesson that can be isolated out of the WWII experience

So the question becomes is the war in America's best interest, and really the world's. Here I depart from the standard propaganda that the Bush administration presents to the world. Which is not to say I do not believe the propaganda to be true, and I certainly believe that the administration to a large extent believes it to be true.

However the truth is that in the long term this war IS about oil. The fear and possibility is that if Saddam is not defeated now, sanctions will fail under French and Russian pressure. At this point the Saddamite regime will be able to, if it wills, arm itself with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. It is not controversial I believe, to argue that this willingness and desire to arm is intrisinc to the Saddamite regime. Neither is it controversial to argue that Saddam has shown a propensity to invade neighbours in battles for regional hegemony in the Middle East. It attacked its main opponent and other candidate for regional hegemony Iran for that reason, at which point due to the vagaries of theCold War the conflict to the global stage with every side in the cold war arming each of the two nations in an attempt to prevent defeat by one or the other. It attacked Kuwait on trumped up charges of slant drilling and supposed land claims in another attempt.

Both times Saddam failed because ultimately he had no proper deterrence and too many nations of greater stature were interested in maintaining the current balance in the Middle East. His acquisition of nukes would prevent renewed intervention. While the US maintains a doctrine of proportional response in regard to nuclear weapons use, and thus in theory has set up systems for fighting a limited nuclear war it is doubtful that if faced with a nuclear armed Iraq any nation not fighting for its life would intervene in Saddam's quest for hegemony. I thinkt he current situation in the Koreas demonstrates what a small nation can wreak with even the threat of nukes. And oy vey if Israel decided to interfere.

So why is Saddamite regional hegemony bad for us. This world runs on oil. It amazes me how underestimated is the role of oil in the world economy. For small samples see what happened in Latin America after Opec decided to use its oil as clout in the 70's. One could argue that the majority of the coups and perhaps the current economic woes arose out of the resultant rise in oil prices. People say "No blood for oil" and I say in a sense greater than many comprehend oil is our blood. We could discuss this at length if you wish for now however permit me these assertions: it is no one's fault that oil is so integral, and oil is necessary if we are to make further steps in energy development.

A hegemonic Iraq in the Middle East could play havoc if it wished with control, or even the threat of being able to gain control of oil supplies. Protracted oil shocks could result in world wide depression that would make the 30's look like a cake walk.

This, in my view is enough reason to prevent the possibility. The long run view demands that Iraq be neutralized even at the risk of short term destabilization in the Middle East. While democracies generally have problems with taking the long term view in this case I am proud to say that Britain has gone back to its roots and has begun looking again at future history in goal to preserve itself, and I am happy to see the US doing what it has done since the beginning of the Cold War, but has omitted to do in the 90's. That is an attempt to predict and prevent calamity.

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