Three Arguments Against a War – By U. Raja
Note: This article dates back to 2003 and produced as reference only.
As America prepares for war, I want to present three arguments for peace:
My first argument supports those who oppose offensive wars, and are thus skeptical and critical of United States of America`s intentions in the fast-approaching Iraq conflict. The second argument is directed towards those who support offensive wars, and have thus put their faith in America`s current battle plans. To present the point of view of the first group, I will highlight the double standards being followed by the USA in the Middle East. To convince the second group, I will attempt to prove, that even with noble intentions, this war is incapable of solving the problems of Iraq. In the third argument, I will present a series of steps that can be taken, to non-violently democratize the Middle East, assuming the true intention of the United States is the welfare and liberation of the people of that area.
However, before I start, I feel it necessary to highlight my personal position on Iraq, the USA, and the imminent conflict. I have been supporting the removal of Saddam Hussein, starting from the days when the USA was supplying an allied Saddam Hussein with satellite photos of Irani troops. I have written in favor of an independent Kurdistan, as the world, including the USA, stood by and watched Saddam Hussein gas innocent Kurds. I also understand, within the context of South Asia, Iraq has not supported the Kashmiri struggle of self-determination. As a Pakistani, I fully realize, on domestic issues, Arabs treat Pakistanis much worse than Americans treat Pakistanis. At the same time, I have also written against American foreign policy escapades. Balancing out the above and given a choice, I would prefer to live in the USA over most Arab countries.
However, I wholeheartedly oppose this brewing war. I feel the USA will unnecessarily invade a country. It will kill innocent people and create chaos in the region, not to help the local people, but for its own interests. I oppose this war, to the extent of considering it a crime against humanity a self-serving attack by an aggressive nation against an innocent nation which has never attacked it. To me, this war will be no different than Osama Bin Laden`s terrorist attacks. Killing innocent human beings ruthlessly or subtly is one and the same thing.
- THE FIRST ARGUMENT
In a realpolitik sense, the USA is going to war to serve its own interests. Plain and simple. I have studied military history extensively, but have yet to read about any attack initiated by a country to solve the problems of the country being attacked. Offensive wars are still a Clausewitzian, œextension of politics, and (unfortunately) not a Gandhian extension of human rights. Rest assured, if Saddam was still pro-USA or was still needed by the American government, the US would not be attacking Iraq democratic or otherwise.
Luckily, in terms of offensive wars, the world has now reached a level of civility, where citizens need to be convinced, or at least be put in some kind of confusion, when their governments plan to kill others for their own Machiavellian interests. Due to this, when superpowers exercise their offensive ambitions, they need, at the very least, an argument or a controversy which can put the world populace in two minds. This is what the USA has been trying to do vis-Ã -vis Iraq for the past few months. However, if one asks any two Americans why their country wants to attack Iraq, they may not be able to give a common answer. First, it was an Iraqi linkage with Al-Qaeda. But that could not be proved. Then, the issue of Weapons of Mass Destruction was brought up. That could not be proved either. After that, it was the welfare of Kurds. However, the USA has stopped short of supporting an independent Kurdistan, because its ally Turkey will not agree to Kurdish self-determination. With none of the casus-belli sticking, a new media offensive has been launched – the œliberation of the Iraqi people through a regime change, after which the complete Middle East will somehow be democratized.
None of these reasons have been accepted by anyone other than individuals who want Iraq attacked, with or without reason. Everyone from Pope John Paul to Nelson Mandela, from Chirac to Schroeder, from Qazi Hussein to Vladimir Putin, from the shawarma cook in Cairo to the pastry chef in Montreal, has rejected the American stance. Closer to home, this is one of the only international issues that perpetually conflicting neighbors – Pakistan and India – both agree on. Even the Kurds of Northern Iraq, the only group that will legitimately benefit from this war, while supporting regime change, do not want it done it through an attack by the USA. Even they want the Iraqi regime to be changed through actions of the United Nations.
Hence, there is no ethical reason for the United States of America to go to war. Despite its massive media offensives, the USA has not even been able to come up with the traditional, œsmokescreen (which it normally excels at in similar situations), to create moral and ethical confusion. The only mechanism left to the USA now is to force other nations to support its stance, either by providing a big carrot or by using a big stick. This will be successful to some extent and even some Islamic governments are now openly or covertly starting to work with the USA. Soon, due to American pressure, or due to an American offer of access to the post-war Iraqi oil-fields, I believe Germany and France will also tone down their opposition to this war. Or will keep verbally opposing it, without taking any concrete action much like Pakistan.
However, to the peace-loving citizens of the world, regardless of the stances taken by their governments, the arguments presented by the USA continue to fail on multiple grounds. This has resulted in record-breaking anti-war rallies from Kuala Lampur to Melbourne to Rome and London. Opinion polls in Europe are showing George Bush to be a bigger threat to world peace than Saddam Hussein.
The historical track record of the USA in the Middle East has been full of double standards – never based on ethical principles. The criterion of forming alliances has never been the welfare of the local populations. In fact, statistically, the USA has favored dictatorships over democracies in the Middle East. Thus, there looms a large cynical question mark over America`s sudden desire to, œliberate the Iraqis, after starving hundreds of thousands of them to death through sanctions over the past ten years. If the actual intention is (was) to bring, “democracy to the Middle East, then let™s look at a few scenarios where democracy could have been started, but was actually suppressed by the USA:
- a) After the Gulf War of 1991, the USA exercised great influence over Iraq and Kuwait. Both countries were devastated and completely dependent on the rest of the world for their survival. The whole world was supporting the USA when it liberated Kuwait. At that point, if the USA really desired the spread of democracy in the Middle East, it could have easily initiated the process through an elected government in Kuwait. The USA did exactly the opposite. It brought back the al-Sabah monarchy of Kuwait, which had been forced to flee during the war.
- b) The USA, after the Gulf War, could have initiated democracy in Iraq also. Saddam was as good as gone. The Iraqi opposition movements were dying for America help to topple him. Saddam would have fallen easily, with United Nations approval, through uprisings in Iraq, supported by American air cover and ground supplies – much like the USA support to Northern Alliance in their battle against the Taliban. Through these indigenous Iraqi opposition groups, a fledgling democracy could have been established in Iraq similar to the one established in Iraqi Kurdistan. However, the USA left the Iraqi opposition hanging out to dry. And Saddam was left in power, while he and USA continued to punish the Iraqi people, through Saddam`s policies and through American sanctions. Why didn`t the USA support democracy then?
- c) Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and Egypt are America allies. The first eight on this list are hereditary dictatorships, while Egypt has an, œelected dictatorship. Egypt receives the second highest amount of aid from the USA, after Israel. Jordan has a free trade agreement with the USA. The Saudi economy is joined at the hip with the USA. The Saudi monarchy is actually protected by American troops. The other countries, in the above-mentioned list, are similarly dependent on the USA for their economic survival, with the smaller ones completely dependent on the USA for defense purposes also. If the real aim is to liberate and democratize the Middle East, then shouldn`t the USA start from its allies in the region? The USA, if it desires, can starve the above-mentioned dictatorships through trade sanctions. It can bring them to their knees through the IMF and World Bank, not to mention through Israel. Yet the USA has always supported these pro-USA dictatorships. This highlights the many ethical and moral contradictions of the upcoming conflict. For example, American troops are stationed in Saudi Arabia to protect a dictatorship, while the same troops are planning to remove one in its neighboring Iraq.
- d) If the intention is to help the Kurds, the correct way is through pressure on Turkey. Turkey, in the past ten years, has committed more human rights violations against the Kurds than has Iraq. In fact, Turkey has stated that if Iraqi Kurds declare independence, it will invade northern Iraq, since it fears an independent Iraqi Kurdistan will encourage Turkish Kurds towards self-determination.
It is obvious the actual intention of the American government is neither the democratization of the Middle East, nor liberation of the Iraqi people. If Saddam Hussein were (and as long as he was) pro-USA, the American State Department would not be bothered about the Iraqi people. If it helps the USA to topple Saddam, it will do so. When it helped the USA to assist him in power, it obliged. The Iraqi people have never been part of this equation.
So, all of us must ask the questions, œWhy Iraq first? And why through a war?
- THE SECOND ARGUMENT
The British redrew the map of the Ottoman domain and created what are now known as the Middle East states. Since that redrawing, the Middle East has been in a constant state of conflict. And now, the USA may attempt to redraw the map again. Just like external forces were unable to, œcreate a stable Middle East in the early twentieth century, similarly they will not be able to do so now, even if we assume they are well-intentioned.
The USA is offering too many carrots to certain countries in the region, and too many sticks to others, to ensure a stable Middle East. There is no way for all involved parties to be satisfied, once the coming war is finished. In many cases, the policies of the involved governments go against the views of their own populations. Leaderships, acting against the will of their populations, can never enforce stability in the region. There is not a single nation in the Middle East, other than Israel, whose citizens support an American attack on Iraq. This includes Iranis, Kuwaitis and Saudis three groups which were threatened and/or attacked by Iraq. In fact, Middle Easterners, other than Israelis, dislike the USA as a country. Why will they ever support American-imported leaderships?
The Kurds have the carrot of a free Kurdistan. However, to Turkey, this is a stick. Shias in Iraq have the carrot of ruling their country as a majority. However, this could align a Shia Iraq with a Shia Iran. Hence, it is a stick for the strictly Sunni Saudi Arabia. Jordan has the carrot of having an opportunity to rule over southern portions of Iraq. However a stronger Jordan is a stick for Israel. Turkey has the carrot of occupying the oil-rich northern part of Iraq. However, that is a stick for the Iraqi Kurds. Removal of Saddam Hussein is a carrot for his arch enemy Iran. But occupation of Iraq by American troops is a stick for Iran, as Iran will then be surround on three sides Afghanistan, Iraq and Central Asia – by American military forces.
If a liberal pluralist progressive democracy is somehow established in a unified Iraq – a carrot for the Iraqi people – it will be a stick for the surrounding hereditary kings of the Middle East. A spreading of democracy amongst Arabs will obviously mean the beginning of the end of the personal sheikhdoms. A democratic Middle East is a carrot for the Middle Eastern citizens. But it is a stick for Israel, because Israel would then be forced to deal with much more stable and stronger enemy nations, each following the will of their people, not the whims of vulnerable kings. Not to mention, a democratic Middle East will be a stick for the country which is allegedly trying to democratize it, i.e. the USA. Since the popular public sentiment in the Middle East is anti-USA, hence most, if not all, of the democratically elected regimes in the region will be anti-USA. With the demise of allied dictators, the USA may no longer have easy access to the oil resources of the Middle East.
How exactly will a war, even a well-intentioned one, resolve the above-mentioned contradictions?
- THE THIRD ARGUMENT
Let`s continue with the assumption that America`s intentions are noble, and it is just having a difficult time figuring out how to democratize and liberate the subjugated Middle Easterners. In my humble opinion, it should follow the following steps:
- a) According to Samuel Huntington`s brilliantly original work, œThe Clash of Civilizations, the two potential Middle Eastern œcore states of the Muslim civilization are Saudi Arabia and Egypt – not Iraq. Saudi Arabia is the financial and religious capital of the Middle East, while Egypt is the intellectual capital of the area. Both these countries have a very pro-USA ruler ship, with a very anti-USA population. The later is indicated by the fact that fourteen out of the nineteen World Trade Center terrorists were Saudi citizens. And that Osama Bin Laden is a Saudi, while his chief lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahri, is an Egyptian.
Thus, if the US really wants democracy in the Middle East, it needs to first target Saudi Arabia. The financial and philosophical support for Islamic extremism (including that in Pakistan) comes from a strictly Wahabi Saudi Arabia not from a secular Iraq. As long as Saudi Arabia is a dictatorship, there will be little democracy anywhere in the Middle East. The USA should sanction Saudi Arabia, and withdraw all trade agreements. It should support the opposition movements against King Fahd and Prince Abdullah. This will force the House of Saud into democracy.
- b) Egypt is the second country that should be targeted. It needs to be forced into stopping the disruption of elections in which Islamic parties routinely win. It should not be allowed to ban any democratic force, be it religious or secular. Egypt is an country similar to Pakistan, in many respects, and immense pressure can be applied on it through the International Financial Institutions and through a US embargo on defense equipment. The USA should accept, and be ready to live with, the fact that free and fair elections in Egypt have a high probability of resulting in an Islamic government in that country.
- c) The US can democratize tiny Jordan, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman through one phone call. These countries literally rely on the USA for their security and economics not to mention their complete survival.
- d) After democratizing its traditional allies in the region, the USA should fly its forces into Iraqi Kurdistan and setup protection parameters along its borders with Iraq and Turkey. Neither Turkey, nor Iraq, will have the courage to invade Iraqi Kurdistan, with American troops guarding its borders. It should then openly announce an independent state of Kurdistan in Iraq and give it full membership into the United Nations.
The USA and the European Union should then pressurize Turkey into stopping all human rights violations against Turkish Kurds and allow self-determination for them. This can be done by an outright refusal of a membership of the European Union, until Turkey cleans up its human rights act. Turkey`s membership could be suspended from NATO, as well. Turkey`s military is one of the most American-dependent in the world. Sanctions in that area would have a great effect also. Most of all, Turkey`s economy is currently in shambles. According to well-known Pakistani-American economist and Rhodes Scholar Shahid Javed Burki, the current Turkish economy is in the same condition as the Pakistan economy was in 1999. A threat of even a small nudge by the American Secretary of Treasury will send it into chaos.
The thirty-five million Kurds – divided amongst Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria – are the largest ethnic group in the world without a nation. Kurds share a proud heritage with one of my personal heroes the self-made warrior-statesman Usuf Salahuddin Al-Ayyubi. More than half of Iraq`s oil is produced from its Kurdish areas. The Kurds definitely deserve their independent Kurdistan. But they deserve it for the right reasons as the result of a genuine human rights struggle. Not for the wrong reasons as a by-product of America`s political ambitions.
The United States can implement the above scenario, without firing a single shot, and thus with no need to approach the United Nations for approval. It can monitor, reward, and punish the elected leaders of the resulting democracies through access to the US economy, thereby forcing them to honestly look after the benefits of their own citizens. Eventually, Sadddam Hussein will be surrounded on all borders, except on Iraq`s western border with Syria, by democracies democratic Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman towards the southeast, a democratic Saudi Arabia towards the south, a democratic Jordan towards the southwest, a democratic Kurdistan towards the north, and a semi-democratic Iran to the east. With the intellectual, philosophical and financial Islamic capitals from Cairo to Mecca bubbling with democracy, Saddam`s regime will fall, through internal revolts and through external pressures of fellow newly-democratized Arabs, like a ripe fruit, without any need for massive aerial bombings.
Keeping the above in mind, if George Bush really means what he stated in the recent State of the Union, œAs our nation moves troops and builds alliances to make our world safer, we must also remember our calling, as a blessed country, is to make the world better, then he must follow a path based on human rights and not on American-centric political interests. As someone who claims to respect the religion of Islam, he must remember its Prophet`s advice, œThe reward of deeds depends upon intentions. And as a practicing Christian, he needs to look no further than Luke 6:31, œDo unto others as you would have them do unto you.
As for the peace-loving citizens of the world, we must repeatedly challenge the supporters of this unjust war by continuously asking them, œWhy Iraq first? And why through a war?
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