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Demanding and imposing democracy
By Alan Caruba
People seem ambivalent about a "pre-emptive" war, one undertaken to avoid a worse outcome later. History is filled with such events, but they were mostly undertaken by aggressive nations seeking to expand their power and territory. Who can argue, for example, that Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait does not fit this description?
America's military power is such that no nation would challenge it. This did not occur by accident. It is a policy that reflects both the Cold War and the Vietnam experience.
The Iraq war was not about expanding territory. It was about expanding democracy. The fundamental theory for the war was predicated on the belief that the Middle East would remain an endless cesspool of terrorism and strife. Unless something was done to introduce some movement toward democracy, freedom, and human rights, the US could count on more 9-11 attacks. (It is useful to note there have been no such attacks since.)
Having destroyed al-Qaida's base of operations in Afghanistan, it was fairly obvious to people like myself that President George W. Bush would find a reason to invade Iraq. You didn't have to be a genius to figure this out. You only needed to look at a map of the Middle East. Iraq, centrally located, would allow pre-positioned troops to bring pressure on Iran, Syria, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. They could also provide protection for Jordan and, of course, Israel. The other Persian Gulf nations that had thrown in their lot with us would also be afforded protection.
A good deal for everyone, just so long as they understand that (1) the days of the ayatollahs are numbered, along with Syria's dictator, and (2) the day for constitutional monarchies was just around the corner. In short, democratize or face the wrath of the US. Why? Because democracies are far more stable nations than others. They have far less incentive to go to war.
Yes, we need and want the oil that comes out of the region, but what we mostly want is to reduce the capability of these people to threaten our economy by withholding it or jacking up the price too much. The good news is that there are other sources for oil in a world that seems to be finding it everywhere these days.
In 2001, nearly 50 per cent of the oil we imported came from Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela. Another 18 per cent came from Angola, Britain, Nigeria and Norway. If they can just get their act together, the Russian Federation can increase its position as a major producer and exporter of oil. And, if we can just begin to drill for oil in Alaska and offshore areas of America, we could manage nicely, possibly even replacing the 18 per cent of oil we imported from Saudi Arabia and the 8 per cent from Iraq. That said, I think Iraq is going to be very happy to sell us as much crude oil as we want for a long time to come.
These days, the Democrats are screaming that the Bush administration "lied" and "misled" the nation into the Iraq war. Former Vice President Gore, getting loonier by the day, said Bush "betrayed" the nation. Others in the party structure have claimed the President was AWOL from his National Guard service. Yawn.
When it comes to weapons of mass destruction, I suspect that no one was more surprised than the Bush war cabinet to discover there were no great stores of WMDs in Iraq. The only person saying this was Scott Ridder, the former US Marine and UN weapons inspector and all he got for his trouble was derision and worse. The combined intelligence services of many nations all believed Saddam was sitting on a pile of WMDs and would not hesitate to use them.
Even Saddam thought this was true. Even his generals assumed that the next division or battalion over the hill had them. It was the immaculate deception!
All this brings me to the recommendation that you read James Mann's new book, Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet ($25.95, Viking). This is a brilliant look at the personalities who were selected by George W. Bush to be his advisors and his cabinet. They include Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Armitage. They dubbed themselves the "Vulcans."
Most of us just don't have a lot of time to look into the history of their government service and their rise to positions of power, but Mann has done this in a way that provides the "ah-hah" experience. As you read about each one and the relationships between them, you constantly find yourself realizing that, sooner or later, Bush was going to find a way to shake up the Middle East and, in the process, realign our nation's relations with the United Nations, our allies, and our enemies.
We shall never know whether their combined post-Cold War attitudes about building the strongest military in the world would have led inexorably to war with Iraq, but September 11, 2001 made it inevitable. First there was their remarkably swift response to the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan and then there was the build-up toward the invasion of Iraq. The Bush administration dropped multilateralism and literally ignored France, Germany, and Russia.
A very different America emerged for the world to contemplate. It was an America confident in its ability to change the course of history, not willing to accept the threat of terrorism, and well aware there was nothing to be gained in getting the blessings of nations to proceed.
Despite seeking cover from a United Nations resolution, Bush was in no mood for more diplomatic chatter when, on March 19, 2003, he gave the green light to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Three weeks later, the US military was in downtown Baghdad. The one thing the "Vulcans" had not anticipated was that Iraq's governmental infrastructure, based entirely on fear, hardly existed in any real sense. Minus the Baathist Party gangsters and, of course, Saddam and his evil sons, Iraq, it turned out, needed everything from a decent supply of electricity to the provision of clean water. And just about everything else that constitutes a modern nation!
So, life is full of surprises, but let us not be sidetracked from the obvious. Iraq no longer poses a threat to any of its neighbors and you can bet they are very grateful to the United States. Libya has decided to give up its nuclear and other WMD programs. Iran and Syria are yielding to the pressures the new dynamic in the Middle East has demonstrated. These are all positive changes resulting from the Iraq war. Then, too, there was no massive uprising or response from the so-called "Arab street." Remember all those experts who said how angry they would be? About the best response they could manage was to run about saying that Iraq should be turned over to the United Nations. This is the same UN whose headquarters in Baghdad was blown apart by Islamic terrorists and which has a record of failure dealing with any crisis.
What Operation Iraqi Freedom told everyone was that the United States of America is now in charge of events and intends to stay that way for a long time to come. Take note Red China. Be nice Russian Federation. Watch your step European Union. Get out of the way France and Germany. Clean up your act Mexico and South America. Make peace India and Pakistan. Be very careful North Korea.
Now ask yourself one more thing. Do you want to elect a President who thinks terrorism is "a law enforcement" problem? Or who voted against the funding to finish the job we started in Iraq?
Alan Caruba writes a weekly commentary, "Warning Signs", posted on the website of The National Anxiety Center, www.anxietycenter.com. © Alan Caruba 2004
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