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Lots of reasons why removing Saddam is good for world peace and stability

By Mark S. Lawson - posted Tuesday, 11 March 2003

One of the more endearing foibles of political writers in Australia and the Western world in general is that they persist in thinking that that the United States has a deliberate, well-thought-out foreign policy shaped to meet some grand geopolitical end. It does not.

Since virtually the end of World War II American foreign policy has been at least partially shaped by its domestic politics. Thus America stayed in the Vietnam War not because of any grand aim to contain communism but because none of its politicians dared give opponents the chance to portray them as "soft on Commies". Once American soldiers happened to be there - and they were there initially with the aim of containing communism - they could not be withdrawn when it became apparent that the effort was not worth any likely reward. Instead, for domestic political reasons, the US had to keep on upping the ante in the great game of the Cold War, only to eventually lose the whole pot.

Similar pressures, although the eventual result may be a victory rather than a defeat, can be seen in the on-going, long-running US campaign to build support for an invasion of Iraq. The US Government is moving against Iraq not as part of a grand scheme but in response to immense domestic political pressure to be seen to be doing something after the September 11 attacks. Afghanistan has been cleaned out and cleaned up - sort of - but without the violent battles and capture of Osama bin Laden that American public opinion demands. For that outrage, so US public reasoning undoubtedly goes, there must be some sort of retribution, preferably violent, bloody and spectacular and on prime-time TV. The last but by no means least important player in this world drama is the American military, which must also be seen to be doing something to justify its colossal budget.


With no obvious conventional target to attack, in this peculiar new-age war against terrorism, the US flicked through the list of likely suspects to arrive at Saddam Hussein. Saddam's links to the September 11 attacks are tangential at best but then the September 11 attacks were virtually random - seemingly inspired by a hatred of America and what it stands for, rather than for any specific reason.

Faced with this sort of randomness and nuttiness, the US has responded with its own form of randomness in riding the world of Evil in deciding to pick on Hussein, albeit with the decided advantage that he is guilty of almost whatever charge can be brought against him and more besides - instead of being innocent bystanders like the people in the World Trade Square and Bali. But commentators of one sort or another persist in ascribing geopolitical motives, such as the US wanting to extend its world hegemony or to take control of more oil.

The suggestion that the American government wants control of Iraq for its own sake can be dismissed out of hand. Who would want it? As for controlling oil supplies the Americans already have forces in Saudi Arabia and the Saudis have always been a major factor in controlling the price of oil. In fact, for long periods they have controlled it directly, either through OPEC or outside it. In contrast, an embargo against Iraqi oil was in force for some time (it is now leaking badly) without anyone - or oil prices - being greatly affected.

So should the US be allowed to invade Iraq and finish off this piece of business left over for the first Gulf War? One factor that makes Hussein such an attractive target, over the likes of Pakistan and Iran - which have more direct links to the Taliban - is that he has no friends anywhere. No other Middle and Far Eastern countries will lift a finger or shed a tear over his demise, despite some mutterings the contrary. Not even the Islamic fundamentalists seem to care (a point which would seem to make a mockery of the whole exercise).

Another factor in favour of the invasion, from the humanitarian point of view, is the UN trade embargos against the country, which have killed many thousands of Iraqi citizens by denying them food and medicines (I have seen estimates in the hundreds of thousands). A successful invasion would see that embargo lifted and the country set to rights.

All that makes a nonsense out of the recent peace marches. If America wants to go the trouble of ridding the Earth of an appalling regime and so end embargoes that have killed countless thousands then those opposed to War as such should simply stand aside, muttering, and wait for a better opportunity to make their point. Further negotiations with a man like Hussein are a waste of time.


As to the invasion itself, would a successful one kill more innocent people than, say, the Iraqi secret police in one year? Probably we will only find out if the invasion goes ahead and someone seizes the Iraqi secret police's records (assuming they bother to keep any) but I doubt it. Even the Republican Guard units are likely to do little more than fire a few shots, for form's sake, before surrendering, despite grim warnings of guard units fighting house-to-house in urban areas, and blood-thirsty pronouncements by Iraqi citizens interviewed by Western media. Who would fight for Hussein? especially as his departure would mean the end of sanctions. I strongly suspect that instead of planning to fight, the military and everyone who is anyone is now busy manoeuvring for advantage in a post-dictator Iraq.

Let's get this invasion over with.

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About the Author

Mark Lawson is a senior journalist at the Australian Financial Review. He has written The Zen of Being Grumpy (Connor Court).

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