Bush alone on Iraq
Despite Colin Powell’s substantial acts of statesmanship and tremendous diplomatic skills, George W. Bush has allowed the hawks in his administration to isolate the USA from the rest of the world with an alarming alacrity and stubborn consistency.
The wide united front present during the Gulf War twelve years ago, when there was a semblance of normality in international politics after the so-perceived “Soviet threat” ceased to exist in the minds of the fearful (it never existed de facto), has long since gone. A decade of bullying has taken its toll but more than that, it is the hypocrisy behind US foreign policy which grinds down any would-be admirer.
A symptom of this is the fact that Saudi Arabia has declared that this time, its bases will not be available for a strike on Iraq. King Abdullah has made it quite clear that Jordan is totally against any such venture. The same goes for President Assad of Syria. This time, even Kuwait has denied access to US troops to its soil in the event of an attack on Iraq, despite the invasion by the latter of Kuwait, which led to the Gulf War, an invasion during which Kuwait city was occupied by unruly Iraqi troops and the country’s oil wells were torched. (It has since transpired that the reason why Iraq invaded in the first place was because Kuwait was using cross-drilling practices to steal Iraqi oil from across the frontier).
The Arab alliance having not only drifted away but fallen apart completely, the prospect of a USA/EU strike force would have been daunting. With the American, British and French armed forces, backed up by Germany, Italy, possibly Japan and Canada, most of the countries which fought the Second World War (Great Patriotic War), except Russia, would be present in a united armed group.
The European Union is extremely sceptical about an attack on Iraq, not through fear of Saddam Hussein’s army (which according to military experts would fall apart just as quickly as it melted away into the desert last time, smiling and waving at the American and British soldiers), but through the total lack of any legitimate basis for a campaign. Silence from the European Union does not indicate support and Washington’s diplomatic machine seems to be misreading the signs.
Surely George Bush’s great buddy Tony Blair would bail him out this time? None of it. King Abdullah of Jordan has declared that during his visit to London this week, Tony Blair declared that he had “tremendous concerns” about an attack on Iraq and that he thought it was basically a “bad idea”.
Yet George Bush pushes brashly and blindly ahead with statements like: “The policy of this Administration is regime change (in Iraq), for a reason: Saddam Hussein is a man who poisons his own people, who threatens his neighbours and who deploys weapons of mass destruction”. Then less convincingly and with a pained expression on his face, “We’re looking at all the options, the use of all tools”.
Such sabre-rattling without having the faintest idea where the international community really lies on the issue (how many eyebrows in the Pentagon and White House will be raised by Blair’s comments?) Washington walked straight into the trap which Baghdad lays down today: the invitation of officials to Baghdad to discuss the re-opening of the UN arms inspections. The idea begins to dawn that if the White House and the Pentagon allowed the State Department to do its job (and full credit must be given to Colin Powell for his humility, his resilience, his pragmatism, his tact and his acumen) the climate of fear and hostility currently reigning in international politics would long since have dissipated.
This situation is a great pity for Colin Powell, the soldier turned elder statesman, the rush of youth having mellowed, but also hardened, into a depth of wisdom rarely found even in career diplomats. Yet, when hawks are flying, doves must choose to lie low. And wait. The lifespan of a hawk is some eight years.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru
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