Bush Has Already Lost the Proposed Peace
Adrian Hamilton, The Independent
The propaganda war has now spread from the war to the diplomacy of postwar. To listen to British briefers you would think that prime Minister Tony Blair had been leading a fully mechanized brigade over to the US to force Washington to admit the United Nations to the task of reconstructing Iraq, and to reverse its pro-Israeli stance.
It's largely flim-flam, of course. Just as the Pentagon had prepared its war plans for nearly a year before this invasion, so it has prepared its peace plans for almost as long. In the same way that US president George Bush was prepared to go to the UN in the run-up to war so long as it backed his plans, so he is prepared to see the UN participate in relief and fundraising for reconstruction so long as it in no way dilutes US control. "He who holds the stick, owns the buffalo," as the old Indian saying has it.
If Bush has been prepared to be rather more positive (although still not committed to a date) about publishing the "road-map" to Middle East peace, it is not so much because of Blair but more in answer to the demands of the Arab states providing facilities in this war that the US do something to appear more even-handed (if only to help them to pacify their populations). Whether Bush is actually prepared to face down Ariel Sharon depends partly on the course of war. If it ends in dramatic victory, the administration may be emboldened to push for real progress; if it doesn't go so well, Bush won't risk antagonizing the domestic Jewish vote.
Yet in a real sense it no longer matters just what Washington thinks or plans for postwar Iraq. Just as it struggles to win the war, and still seems certain to do so, so it is losing the peace, and is probably too late to save it. America, and with it Britain, may try to project the war as one of "liberation" for the Iraqis, but the rest of the world has largely made up its mind to the contrary. This, in their eyes, is an American invasion fought for American reasons.
In the allies' Central Command HQ in Doha, they produce images to show the precision of Western bombing and the rapidity of the US push on Iraq. Walk down the road and the studios of Al-Jazeera are pumping out images of a Third World country trying vainly to fight back against a hyperpower of infinite technological superiority. There is no doubt which version most of the world believes. Even in India, where anti-Muslim feelings lie close to the surface, you don't meet a single person who thinks this is anything other than an American enterprise fought for selfish reasons. "Why," they ask you in genuinely concerned terms, "is Blair going along with it?"
It's difficult to know what would shift this view. An early victory would only confirm the image of humiliating Western technological superiority. Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons might raise a counterreaction, although even here many in the Third World would regard this as understandable given the technical disparity. But an outpouring of Iraqi delight at being freed from Saddam won't change opinion, as it would be taken as a byproduct of American actions, not its main intention.
Donald Rumsfeld's suggestion that victory will bring a thousand friends misses the point. Of course small countries, and even quite large ones, must accommodate America's position as the world's only superpower. But to boast, as President Bush did in Thursday's press conference, that this "is a larger coalition than in the last Gulf War" is self-deluding nonsense. The 1991 war was fought with the active participation of half-a-dozen Arab armies (including Syria) and the support of almost every country in the UN aside from Russia and China (who both accepted it at the end). This war is being fought by the Americans and British, with a few thousand Australians and a couple of special forces companies from Poland - an entirely Western enterprise.
Other countries have acceded to American requests for facilities, but if they have wanted to keep their help discreet, it is for good reason. Public opinion is clear and unambiguous and the war is only making the streets angrier at their governments' sell-out. It is not for nothing that the ruler of Qatar acts as host to the allied headquarters and Al-Jazeera at the same time, or that Turkey finally failed to give the US more than rights of overflight. Democracy in the Middle East should not be understood to presuppose pro-Americanism. Just the opposite.
If that is what Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney believe then they are fooling themselves, never mind anyone else. When this war is over, Washington will be faced by a single demand throughout the Middle East, including many in Iraq itself, at least among the Shiites. And that is to get out of the region as quickly as possible. And they mean weeks, not months never mind the years that the Pentagon is talking about. Whatever it may seem to Iraqis, a continuing military presence by the Americans will be seen by its neighbors as a US occupation, with all the instability and invitation to terrorism that it this will invite. Yet a prolonged occupation is seen as necessary by Washington as the only means of ensuring order in Iraq and keeping it as a unitary state.
That is America's dilemma. Tony Blair's is that he knows it and there is nothing he can do except make the right noises of passionate concern.
America's power will bring its own counter-revolution
The Iraqi crisis has posed, with terrible clarity, the problem of power in the world
07 March 2003
However the frantic last rounds of diplomacy work out - a second resolution or an American invasion of Iraq without it - there are going to be a terrible lot of pieces of international relations to pick up.
The UN itself is the most obvious victim, and the clearest target of Washington's rage should it fail to support US actions. But then take a look at Nato, completely marginalised in this conflict, or the European Union and the Arab League, which have revealed themselves to be not just irrelevant but entirely incapable of taking unified positions.
You can go too far in dismissing these international organisations. In some ways what has been most remarkable about the prelude to this war has not been the weakness of the rest of the world compared to the United States, but the fact that so many have stood up to it. Turkey is the most obvious example of a country that, contrary to all initial predictions, has eschewed the blandishments and threats of the Bush administration. But then so have Mexico and Syria, never mind France and Germany.
That is not to say that they won't fall into line eventually. There comes a point when fear of America's wrath must tip the balance even if bribes do not. You have to be pretty tough as a government, not to say suicidal, to mark yourself as America's enemy in these times. But the point that Washington has been so slow to grasp (if, indeed, it has grasped it) is how deeply unpopular this war is with the public, not just in Europe and the Middle East but through most of Asia and Latin America.
Foreign governments such as Mexico and Germany are talking more than national self-interest. They are reflecting the views of their own electorates. You can assume what you will from the support given to the US by Spain, Italy and Bulgaria, but if you take the indicators that matter in democratic societies, the opinion polls, there is a consistent majority of two-thirds and more throughout Europe and most of the rest of the world against this war.
In so far as that majority is expressing a resistance to the unilateral exercise of American power, this must have its effect on the way that multilateral organisations, especially the regional associations such as the Arab League and the European Union, develop over the coming years.
In the short term, of course, it bodes no good at all for international institutions such as the UN. The Bush administration has said - and it means it - that failure to support America will result in the marginalisation of the United Nations in US eyes. But then it has to be asked whether the Security Council structure, with its inner council of nuclear-power permanent members and rotating countries without the power of veto, makes much sense in the post-Cold War world. If it doesn't support America, it is castigated as irrelevant. If it does, then it is treated by Washington as little more than a rubber stamp for its policies.
The UN will survive because there is no global alternative for a mass of specific problems from refugees to policies on water sharing, and because it is useful as a means of legitimising actions and picking up the pieces after the event. Post-war reconstruction is still more easily effected through the UN than aside from it. But for the time being there is neither the consensus nor the will of Kofi Annan or its own officials to make it a means of imposing world order.
Even that cannot be said for Nato. Turkey's objections to the Iraq invasion are a terrible blow to the Washington-Ankara alliance that has always lain at its centre. And if that doesn't kill it off, then Donald Rumsfeld's distinction of "old Europe" and "new Europe" will certainly do so. As a military alliance, Nato lost its raison d'Ítre once the Berlin Wall fell. Yet as a political union to lock in the newly liberated countries of the former Soviet Union, it cannot work if the new are set against the old.
Not that the EU or any other organisation is in a position to replace it. How do you get Britain back together with France now that Blair has set himself so firmly on the Americans' side and France has so energetically sought to set itself up as leader of Europe in conjunction with Germany and alliance with Moscow? Europe's voters may be of one accord on Iraq, but their leaders are irreparably split over it. There is no common European defence force; still less is there a common European foreign policy, nor is there likely to be one in the foreseeable future.
But then you can say of Europe, as you can of the Arab League or the African Union or Asean, where else can it go unless it is eventually forward? America is the only hyperpower, but it is not a power, still less under President Bush, that wishes to run the world so much as to bestride it. An awful lot of high-flown academic theory has been woven round the differences between Europe and America. The rather more obvious point has been missed. Europe takes a different view of this crisis from Washington because most of Europe lives next to the Islamic world, just as most African and Asian nations do. The US does not.
The Iraqi crisis has posed, with a terrible clarity, the problem of power in the world. But in putting the United States so obviously at odds with most of the rest of the globe, it may yet bring its own counter-revolution.