An Iron-Fisted Foreign Policy
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on Wednesday, September 18, 2002 in the Toronto
Iron-Fisted Foreign Policy
Bush's Hard Line on Iraq Serves Notice That No Carthage Will Be
Allowed to Rise to Challenge Today's Rome
OTHER THAN that Saddam Hussein is a thoroughly nasty guy, the U.S. justifications
for invading Iraq are extremely flimsy. No evidence exists that Saddam's had any
dealings with terrorists. He has no missiles to deliver weapons of mass destruction.
He's years away from developing a nuclear warhead.
Two good justifications do exist, though, for deposing (a.k.a. executing) Saddam.
They are interesting in themselves. As interesting, is that President George W.
Bush has chosen not to mention either.
The first is that while Saddam has no technical delivery system (perhaps a dozen
Scuds, now rusting and always primitive and unreliable), he does have, potentially,
a lethally effective delivery system: human beings. A terrorist prepared to die
— as the Al Qaeda types are — could secret biological weapons into the U.S. on
his person; if necessary, inside himself.
Presumably, Bush has avoided mentioning this in order not to spook the American
public. Also, not to put the idea into Saddam's mind.
The second justification takes off from the fact that Saddam makes such an ideal
target for the U.S. because he's so easy to demonize (not least because he is
indeed thoroughly demon-like). Because he's so visible, eliminating Saddam will
send an especially powerful signal to all other countries — North Korea for example,
or Iran — trying to develop weapons of mass destruction.
Bush, in some important part, thus is using Saddam as a stalking horse to discourage
all actual, as well as potential, opponents of the U.S.
That's a perfectly valid tactic of global realpolitik. It's the strategy
involved that really matters. Bush is doing this at least as much for the sake
of American foreign policy interests as for the sake of the war against terrorism.
He can't say this, of course. He needs to appear to be high-mindedly and courageously
saving the world from Saddam's horrors.
Except that, only last June, Bush gave away the real nature of his foreign policy
objectives, compared to which action against Saddam is just a side issue. In a
speech at West Point, he said:
"America has, and intends to keep, military strength beyond challenges — thereby
making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless and limiting rivalries
to trade and other pursuits of peace."
It's pure, unadulterated, unilateralism, in the exclusive interests of the U.S.
and of those running it, like Bush and his aides.
No Carthage will be allowed to arise to challenge today's Rome, nor any mini-Carthage
as some "rogue state" might become, once equipped with even crude weapons of mass
Bush was giving notice that the U.S. will forever hopelessly outspend everyone
Indeed, more significant than the often commented-upon fact that the U.S.' military
budget is larger than those of the next 15 nations combined, is that it accounts
for 80 per cent of all the world's military research so that it can fight wars
that no one else can even yet imagine.
The other way by which the U.S. can remain forever ahead of everyone else is to
bash whoever even raises their head. Which is what is happening to Saddam.
This policy of Bush's is exceedingly well thought out in terms of U.S. national
interests. And it is being pursued with great determination and great skill. From
Saudi Arabia to France, countries once hostile to action against Iraq are falling
over themselves to support it.
All of international affairs, it seems, has been redefined into a Pax Americana.
Because no one else has real military power, no other country, and no other people,
matter. Ultimately, the entire rest of the world doesn't matter. National Security
Adviser Condoleeza Rice said this effectively when she said during the election
campaign that the new foreign policy would, "proceed from the firm ground of the
national interest and not from the interest of an illusory international community."
You can still find a few examples of people who still believe that the international
community is real and that its interests are valid. German Chancellor Gerhard
Schroeder, with his defiant declaration he will not support an invasion of Iraq,
even one sanctioned by the U.N. And Malaysian Prime Minister Muhammed Mahathir,
who has argued that attacking Iraq will create a "chasm" between Islam and the
And Jean Chrétien with his talk that the disparity between rich and poor, the
West's greed, and the humiliations inflicted on weak societies, are responsible
in part — not entirely, not in the majority — for the fury of the terrorists.
In my next column I'll venture my opinion about Chrétien's opinions. Here, it's
enough to make the point that he has opinions, that they aren't the same as Bush's,
and that he has the courage to express them.
Richard Gwyn's column appears Wednesday and Sunday.
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