Skip to comments.Only war will bring Mideast stability
Posted on 08/09/2002 7:47:10 PM PDT by knighthawk
Louder and louder, growing more confident hourly, gradually recovering its nerve following the fiasco of the predicted "quagmire" in Afghanistan, the international peace party is massing to prevent a U.S. attack on Iraq.
From the usual suspects -- The New York Times editorial page, the moderate Arab despotisms, Europe's leftish politicians like German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder -- to relatively new recruits such as former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft and anonymous Pentagon generals, the same message is heard: Any American attempt to overthrow Saddam Hussein would threaten the stability of Saudi Arabia, cause a "conflagration" in the Middle East, alienate European allies, and undermine U.S. power and influence throughout the world.
And if it were to be attempted despite these horrendous drawbacks, the very least the United States should do beforehand to avert Arab anger is to force the Israelis to the conference table and subsequently to a just and lasting settlement.
So goes the familiar refrain. So familiar, in fact, that I am sometimes tempted to put it to music and sing along while watching the television talk shows. It is, of course, occasionally amended at the margins to deal with uncomfortable realities that don't quite fit the theory.
For a while it was an article of this particular faith that "the Europeans" were strongly opposed to U.S. action. And to be sure, some Europeans like Chancellor Schroeder were -- and are -- so opposed.
Now that the British, French and perhaps the Italians are making military preparations to join the U.S. expedition -- the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal left for the Mediterranean Monday -- this line has had to be changed: the Europeans, we are now informed, are privately opposed but will go along so as not to be "left out." Exactly why they would not want to be "left out" of a "conflagration" or even a "quagmire" is never explained. We simply have to assume that those peace-loving post-national Euro-weenies just can't resist a good brawl.
The real explanation is very different and quite significant: namely, that the Europeans realize that the U.S. will win such a war and they want a share in drawing up the peace. So much for the theory that a war would weaken the U.S. worldwide. Its mere prospect is already strengthening America's leadership of the Atlantic coalition.
Not all of the peace party's arguments are quite so absurd, admittedly. They are merely the exact opposite of the truth -- which is that unless the U.S. overthrows Saddam Hussein, there will be a conflagration in the Middle East, a serious threat to the Saudi regime and an Israeli-Palestinian dispute without end.
Let me now justify these perhaps seemingly extravagant claims.
Take the Saudi regime first. Today, without any U.S. action, the House of Saud is facing a massive threat to its rule of the Arabian peninsula and indeed to its very existence. Its policy of buying off the Wahhabi mullahs with vast subsidies for the international spread of Islamic fundamentalism is finally running into the desert sands. The mullahs despise the Saudi princes for their non-Islamic private lives and believe -- probably rightly -- that a revolutionary regime would be even more willing to subsidize war on the infidels.
Unlike my distinguished columnar colleague, Mark Steyn, I think that even an occasionally duplicitous ally is preferable to a thoroughgoing and resourceful enemy -- especially when events are finally forcing the ally to choose.
The United States is in a position to offer an attractive deal to Riyadh: We will protect you against any domestic insurrection provided that you break with the mullahs, end subsidizing terrorism and fundamentalism abroad, bring in liberal reforms of the polity and the economy today -- free speech, freedom of the press, rule of law -- and begin the gradual transformation of the country into a constitutional democratic monarchy over the next few decades.
But such an offer is not attractive, indeed it is worthless, as long as Saddam Hussein remains in power. His existence next door aggravates the internal threat posed to the Saudis by the mullahs. His survival would suggest that American promises are as little to be relied on as American threats. Just as his departure would advance both the survival of the Saudi regime -- and its transition into something better rather than something worse.
Ditto the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Almost all the scenarios for a just and lasting settlement include some such list of ingredients as: an independent Palestinian state; the withdrawal of Israeli settlements from the West Bank; the diplomatic recognition of Israel by the entire Arab and Muslim worlds; generous European Union subsidies to both Israel and Palestine for economic reconstruction; and the presence of U.S. troops to guarantee the peace and Israel's security.
Does anyone suppose that any of these aims can be achieved -- with the possible exception of EU subsidies -- while Saddam sits plotting and paying terror in Baghdad? Would Israel accept an independent Palestine in which terrorist groups financed by Saddam planned suicide bombings and turned the entire state into another anarchic Lebanon? Would all other Arab rulers recognize Israel if their populations were cheering the sole "rejectionist" in Baghdad? Would the political will in Israel to force an end to settlements survive the first bomb that had Saddam's fingerprints on it? And would the American people agree to police a settlement in which both sides -- under Saddam's influence -- were either still fighting or on the verge of doing so?
To ask these questions is to answer them. None of these aims, however worthy, can be achieved until Saddam has been ousted.
Which brings us to the well-advertised "conflagration" in the "Arab street." It is possible that an American invasion of Iraq and ousting of Saddam would stimulate a few short-term riots as Saddam's supporters elsewhere let off steam. Most would then accommodate themselves to the new realities of power. The only really dangerous riots are those against regimes weakened by defeat -- for they portend revolution.
It is against all the rules of Middle East politics -- where power is everything -- that Arab nations would seriously aggravate the superpower that had just imposed its will upon one of the most advanced Arab nations.
And there might be no riots at all. Why did the Arab street not riot at the fall of Kabul? It was because the Afghan people welcomed U.S. troops as liberators and accompanied the correspondent of al-Jazeera to the border with kicks and curses. If oppressed Iraqis welcome allied troops into Baghdad with flowers and kisses, any popular opposition to the United States over the war will be similarly undercut in other Arab capitals. And the establishment of a genuinely popular constitutional democratic regime in Baghdad would signal to ordinary Arabs and Muslims throughout the Middle East that their oppressors were not in Langley or Foggy Bottom but in the palaces of their domestic despots.
And that would perhaps finally set the Middle East on the road to democracy, prosperity and a soundly based stability.
That said, for these good things to happen, a war will have to be fought. And as Hitler said -- and we may concede that on war at least he counts as an authority -- he who starts a war enters a dark room.
Though we can count on ultimate victory, no one can guarantee that the war will be either short or bloodless. It may inflict heavy casualties on soldiers and civilians. It may indeed be waged with what few or primitive weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein has managed to stockpile.
Better, then, to wage it before he has assembled a full armoury of sophisticated ones.
This may very well be exactly what the Bush admin. is planning on doing. Bush intends to change the balance of power in the ME for the forseeable future.
I hope you're right. My fear is that he will be thwarted by the Nimrods who believe that Sharon fighting the terrorists is somehow morally equivalent to the terrorists bombing the Jews, thus we should oppose both. There are more than a few Freepers who take that stance, unfortunately.
In the pictures I've seen of the Iraqui people marching, none of them looked happy or like a people who wanted to fight. Saddam may try to tell them they won the last war, but most of them know full well that they did not.
It's only due to the UN that they're in the position that they're in today, otherwise they would have been free 10 years ago.
Pictures I've seen show a few old men in something like a Veteran's Day parade. If that's it, there won't be much of a war. Their plastique belts look dangerous, more to the wearer than anyone else. Looks like the end of the line for this group.
....really.........let them mass........oh, here's a scenario, incoming..........
US forces march on Saddam.........now here's the good thing..
.......why, what's this?.....why yes, it's the "Mother of all Defeats" Ah yes, Saddam's troops are defecting enmass; they're really, really tired of mass executions......
......moral damaging, you know.
"......and the leafets say, "If we stay cool, only Saddam and his pals get iced"
They look like a reunion of the 1962 Baltimore Orioles going up against the 2002 NY Yankees in an exhibition game. These former athletes haven't even played in a pick up softball game at the family picnic in 10 years.
Yeah, Raytheon and the others should get real busy. There's nothing like American vengeance riding on the tip of a missile manufactured in Detroit.
(laughing).........we'll see if the Iraqi 'team' ever saw a World Series concluding with surrender terms.