Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Forgive me if this is a bit rough. I will try to smooth it out tomorrow. I just blasted it out start to finish, right off the top of my head.

The Europeans and other allies that are having complaining about attacking Iraq are partly doing so because of a desire to not see the American 'hegemon' (in actuality that is just a code word for peace. I mean, we fought and freed Germany, Japan, Kuwait and South Korea among othes and how many of them are our 'client states'? With all our wealth how many now stand unquestioning with us now in our war on terror?) but, underlying this is, I think, a fear of the unknown. For years now Europe has been consumed with creating the billions of regulations necessary to control the EU (you know, curvature of bananas and cucumbers, consitency of sauce, what can legally be called 'parmesian' cheese, recycling rules to be put in place before the means to recycle, deciding drivers of cars are always responsible for accidents with motorcycles) and has been looking forward to a quiet retirement with US power keeping things calm for them. Sept 11th caused them to look up from their plans but now they want us to just be good kids and go back to the way things were.

For all of the talk about 'we have considered, carefully, what a war on Iraq will entail', have we really? Saying that the overthrow of Iraq will cause turmoil in the Middle East is probably an understatement. Iraq is not Afghanistan (yes we all know that but, I mean it in a different way). Afganistan was only recognized by three nations, Iraq is a force in the region, it does not exist in total isolation. A major change of government here would have greater impact for its neigbors than the fall of the Taliban.

Iran, if not already in the midst of a revolution (which may be happening right now, if the media chose to report what is really happening and not what the religious hardliners and 'reformers' are feeding them), will certainly be in some amount of upset. Surrounded by a pro-to-neutral Afghanistan and Iraq. And dealing with a youthful population that wants a better life.

Saudi Arabia's oil will no longer be as important (while the small Emirates that are mostly quiet will probably not be too adversely affected by the shift) which will in turn reduce their standing within the Arab and Muslim world. As it stands every country that has rapidly expanding population if converts to Islam is influenced most strongly by the money flowing from Saudi oilfields. Without this massive carrot their influence in these countries will ebb. And within the Arab world the rich and industrialized (well they have industrial stuff but they import people to be industrious) they would face the possibility of of no longer competing for the coveted role of the leader of the Arab world (vied for by the Saudis, Egyptians and Jordanians). Plus a large part of the population that enjoys the fruits of oil wealth but do not actually posess that wealth may rise up. This could result in a fundamentalist shif resembling the Taliban and would force some tough decisions on the US, especially if this happened while operations were still ongoing in Iraq. The reduction of oil-money to terrorists in Kashmir may have an impact on that regoin also. Creating more tension as they were more desperate for cash? or allowing Musharref to prove he wants change by stamping out the weakened groups?

Syria would no longer have the backing of an Iran in turmoil and with an unshackled Iraq between them, things could be sketchy. Assad would be faced with a cutoff from Iranian weapons to supply a demanding Hizbollah who may soon be clamoring for more direct Syrian support and hardware. Since the young Assad has come to power Syria's army is having difficulties keeping their tank, planes and heavy gear up to date. They are not the military presence they were in the Gulf War. And Assad could soon find himself facing the choice Musharref has had to make. Hizbollah could be more of a threat to him than Musharref's militants have proven to him.

With Syria facing a internal problems and having its own inner turmoil the nationalists in Lebanon may take their chance to gain their independence. This could be a really bad scene as witnessed by the last civil war. This may actually be one of the few places that will require intervention. Watch for Hizbollah to take advantage to create havoc for Israel alon the border.

King Abdullah of Jordan, may sit on the sidelines depending on the final pretext for the war against Saddam. Either way I think that when Saddam falls Abdullah is strong enough and has a good enough intelligence ageny to shut down any attempts to overthrow him. I also think he is smart and...shal we say...modern enough to realize that a more represntative and open constitutional monarchy is the way to go. He knows that right now he rules what is probably the most trustworthy Arab government in the Middle East. He could easily parlay this advantage into a major leadership following the fall of Saddam.

The Palestinian Authority and Yasser will be in difficult straits (which is why they want a settlement now, before Saddam goes and they are bargaining with stste-sponsored terrorism on their side). The money flowing from Saudi Arabia and Iraq could be disrupted and the money from the EU and the US is not sufficient to keep the Palestinians at subsistance level and fully fund a terror war that may have to get weaponse from further afield. Arms supplies may be upset if there is turmoil in Syria. The Palestinians may well be forced to the table with their hands out. Unfortunately this could come from desperation more than a feeling that it is time to make peace for real (always keeping in mind the trojan horse idea). Hopefully with the lack of support from present sources this would come over time.

Egypt is a wild card. I think Hosni Mubarek is...not necessarily intelligent (I used to speak arabic fairly well and have a number of Egyptian friends. The people of Egypt don't consider Mubarek to be a scholar)...cunning, a survivor. I think he, himself, is not anti-American. But there are many within Egypt a powerful segment that poses a threat to Mubarek (allowing them to get away with what goes on in state run media) so he cannot appear to go to far. He would, surely, never publicly back the ouster of Saddam. Effectively, I think Egypt is a stalemate. The best we can hope for is silence from Mubarek (with some behind the scenes help; information, detention of anyone caught there and stuff like that) and the usual vitrol from their media. After Saddam's fall, I don;t know what will happen in Egypt. Is mubarek ready toallow a more representational government? Are the people ready to have a government that is not a threat to Israel?

On ther fringe, the Gulf Emirates: Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Bahrain and Yemen would probably see which way the winds are blowing and quietly move to more representative non-terror supporting monarchies. Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar have started this process to a degree and if events move quickly folowing the fall of Saddam, things could move more quickly for these countries. Probably for the better. But they may also be drawn into the possible turmoil faced by the House of Saud.

Ghadaffi would probably find himself in a tough position without Saddam we would be looking more closely at him. With the British going to talk to him as we speak this may be something that is on the table. He has not yet created the African Union he is aiming for and could well find himself isolated and willing to make a move toward moderation. We would have to offer immunity, in return for admission of complicity in Pan-Am 103 (we did it for the Soviets, the Emperor of Japan, Civil War leaders) and compensation for the families. As removed as Libya is from Israel/Palestine andas secular as the nation is (often lacking the hate-filled rhetoric coming from many of our 'friends'). We do have to take into account that we do have limits. We will be stretched thin dealing with everything else that could be happening. There will not be any popular revolts in Libya and the most pragmatic approach would be a truce and openinng of relations. Even if we use Britain as proxy.

As for Iraq itself. There does need to be some sort of deal that assures both the Kurds and Turkey. It would be tough but is something that could be worked out on the table more likely than a battlefield. Especially with a big enough carrot dangled in front of them. The INC is more capable and informed than State and the Pentagon give them credit for. I think they could forge a solution that would result in fairly stable government in Iraq. The people are secular and not split into tribal warring factions like the Afghans, they are used to living under the rule of law (as oppressive as that rule is). A moderate and sensible police force would not find too much resistance. If we can carry out the war without too much damage to the infrastructure it is there and waiting. the oilfields are there and the pipelines flowing, if we captured them before Saddam can torch them the newly created government would have an ready source of income. As for American troops some may be necessary depending on how Saddam goes down but the number necessary would probably be fewer than the 7,000 presently cooling their heels in Saudi Arabia. (An interesting note on the discussion of Iraq. Yesterday Iran announced that they would not take in any refugees from Iraq if the Great Satan does invade. Just throwing that bit of info out there.)

So, where does all of this leave me on the debate on what to do about Iraq? I don't know, I understand that European reluctance. If what I have laid out comes to pass it would create turmoil that would take years to sort out. To be sure what emerges is better it would be a full time task for us, we would have to be sure that this would be very nearly the final blow against al-Qaeda and terror. If we put the resouurces ino assuring a stabel future for the region, it could well be the most profound shift in word politics since American independence. Representative governments and Constitutional Monarchies (on the British and European model) in the Near East may signal a future trend toward representative government. But it could also end up with revolutions and a fundamentalist shift in the major countres in the region that may sweep away the smaller Emirates in the process. Leaving us with a mess that could be worse than what we have now.

I think everyone; European, Commonwealth and American can agree that Saddam has to go someday. The problem being, the longer he is there the more likely he is to acquire nuke and expand his bio and chem arsenal. At this point does deterrence work for us or him? What will we be willing to do t othwart Saddam's plans a Middle East he will rule with the threat of his nuclear arms? Will we give him Kuwait? Allow him to crush the Kurds and Southern Iraqis? Ship as much oil as he likes? Extract tribute from every other country in the region to keep his reign of terror going?

To argue that domination of the Gulf is not his goal is to bury one's head in the sand. He loves war and death as much as any of the dictators of the past 100 years. A few million dead civilians mean nothing to him, if they stand in his way. He himself says the 'Mother of all Battles' is not over and will not be over until he crushes America. We know he aims for weapons of mass destruction and hehas used them and once he has nukes will not fear using chem and bio for his lesser goals.

'International Law'? He started two wars and used chemical weapons on his own people and has breached the treaty he signed at the end of the Gulf War. What control will stop him from using nukes when he gets them and things it will be advantageous to use them? The ICC? Who will go in and arrest him? It will require a war at a time of his choosing (i.e. when he makes his move) when he has an arsenal of nukes.

I think by allowing the situation in the Near East to continue on the course it is going will end with a conflagration. Radical Islam will continue to grow. Israelis and Palestinians will continue to die. Iran may have an aborted revolution that ends in a crushed population. The smaller emirates may succumb to widening Islamist influence. If we go to take out Saddam now we will be in the driver's seat and be able to maintain sme semblance of control over the turmoil in the region. The danger in waiting is more dangerous thanthe danger in acting now. Therefore I find myself in favor of action in the very near future. I just think we need to be sure we have situations outside the region under control first. Europe, Africa, South East Asia and South Asia don't have to be active in the war against Saddam but we need their assurances that they can and will take care of any al-Qaeda related issues that come up with a minimum of American help. Once we have that laid out...On to Baghdad.

< email | 8/07/2002 10:53:00 PM | link

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