American goals, Israeli illusions By Meron Benvenisti
[Ha'aretz - 24 Oct]
The tiresome negotiations between the U.S. and the UN Security Council over the language of the decision on Iraq is as annoying to some Israelis as it is to the Americans: Why continue with all the diplomatic mumbo-jumbo when it's self-evident that President Bush intends to go to war, with or without the UN's approval?
The preparations are in full swing, the targets have been chosen, the political goals defined, and even the public is emotionally prepared, so yalla, forward into battle. Just don't let the Americans panic in the face of those critics who say no state has the right to go to war without a UN mandate, unless it's a matter of immediate self-defense.
President Bush has defined Saddam Hussein and his regime as a direct threat to vital American interests and the world's only superpower regards itself as having the license to act according to its interests, alone if need be. Israel, clinging to the back of the superpower, is galloping along with it toward the bright future of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, democratic and stable, where magically, the Palestinian problem will also be solved overnight.
Meanwhile, a certain price must be paid: restraint in the face of murderous attacks, at least the appearance of easing living conditions for the Palestinian population, avoiding belligerent rhetoric about the appropriate response to an Iraqi missile strike, and preparing the home front. That's nothing, compared to the American public's readiness after 9/11 to suffer 30,000 dead soldiers in a war against the Iraqi dictator.
Indeed, the attack on the Twin Towers is motivating American strategy, but not because there's a direct connection between it and Saddam Hussein, or between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, but because of a dramatic change in the American public's refusal to sustain tens of thousands of war casualties, which has tied America's hands since the Vietnam War. Now, the strategic hawks who influence President Bush can fulfill their ambitions of American global hegemony and shape a new world order based on a monopoly of power held by the Americans, preventing, even by force, the rise of other world and regional superpowers.
The Americans are marketing several "war goals": the campaign against Islamic terror, the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, a campaign for freedom and democracy, respect for international decisions, prevention of instability in the region. It's easy to find inconsistencies between these goals and Iraq. The multiplicity of excuses is an indication that all are about serving an imperial supra-doctrine, meant to undermine the existing order that has crystallized in recent years - no more intervention in a state's sovereignty only if and when the Security Council decides that internal instability endangers world peace, but unilateral action by the superpower in another country's sovereignty, and even initiated action to replace regimes, if it is meant to prevent a potential threat to American interests.
Many countries, including regional powers, do not, of course, appreciate this imperial approach. But the U.S. is apparently counting on the fact that through its decisive action and with the wise use of its power, it will form a coalition of supporters, whether before or after the fact. There's no way of knowing if this doctrine will ultimately be used in Iraq, but there's no doubt that a change in the Baghdad regime will have implications for the entire Middle East. The American strategists do not regard that as an unexpected result; on the contrary, some regard a war on Iraq and its result as "a situation similar to the one in Europe between 1945-1947" and an opportunity to build "a democratic zone of peace" in which liberal-democratic and moderate Arab regimes will be established.
A war in Iraq will no doubt cause radical change in the Middle East, but not necessarily those hoped for by the Americans. The results will be a Middle East similar to an anthill that has been struck with a large stick. Many Israelis regard undermining of the status quo as a golden opportunity to solve Israel's external problems. But will such a "new Middle East" really solve problems, or will it cause instability that will make things more difficult for Israel? Saddam Hussein may be a ruthless dictator, who has sworn to eradicate Israel, but in the current circumstances he is helpless to do evil, and if he does dare, he'll be struck hard.
Does anyone think that a future regime in Iraq will immediately sign a peace agreement with Israel? Won't such a new regime actually use its position to pressure Israel? Does Israel have an interest in the collapse of the Hashemite Kingdom, which no doubt will be the first victim of the war? And what good news will there be for Israel if the dictatorships are removed? Do the masses that win democracy long for peace with Israel? Even the dreams of transferring the Palestinians to Jordan during the war are nothing more than fantasies. So, let's allow the Americans to play with their supra-doctrine, while we deal with our own worries instead of riding on their backs. That would appear to be more convenient for them, as well.