In its rush to war against Iraq, the Bush administration is suffering from
tunnel vision. Its inability to see what is important outside of a narrow range
of considerations could lead to dangerous outcomes.
The U.S. effort to locate and destroy the surviving forces of al Qaeda would have to be scaled back. Many senior officers and Special Forces personnel have been withdrawn from Afghanistan and surrounding areas to join the forces being assembled for the assault on Iraq. Particularly troubling in this regard is the fact that Gen. Tommy R. Franks (commander of all U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf area) and his senior staff have been devoting almost all of their time to planning for the war on Iraq instead of overseeing the war on terrorism.
Washington would be compelled to grant tacit support to Russia, China and India to mimic the U.S. invasion of Iraq by engaging in attacks on their own terror-linked enemies.
For Russia, the intended target of such action is the northern region of Georgia, which is said by Moscow to serve as a base camp for the rebel fighters in Chechnya.
For China, it is the Uighur separatist movement in remote Xinjiang province -- a movement recently placed on the list of terrorist organizations by the Bush administration in a bid to secure Chinese support for tough action against Iraq.
And for India, it is the separatist fighters in Kashmir and their alleged backers in Pakistan.
By asserting the right to engage in preemptive attacks on Iraq in the name of self-defense, Washington has emboldened those in Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi who are seeking any justification to strike against favored targets of their own.
The U.S. attack on Iraq could lead to a swelling tide of anti-Americanism throughout the Muslim world. Arab Muslim citizens of Iraq have already suffered from the dire effects of the U.S.-imposed trade embargo. To inflict more suffering on them, while doing virtually nothing to curb Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians, raises the specter of widespread and possibly violent anti-American demonstrations. Such demonstrations could prove a serious threat to the survival of pro-American regimes in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and they could spark a new round of terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies, bases and other facilities.
A similar upsurge in anti-American sentiment may manifest itself in Europe and other normally friendly areas. The Bush administration's stated intent to invade Iraq with or without further U.N. backing has angered some of America's staunchest friends -- many of whom are already resentful of unilateral U.S. action on the Kyoto climate-change treaty, the International Criminal Court and other initiatives.
Already, the U.S. approach has led to a breach in U.S.-German relations and to massive anti-war demonstrations in England.
A further increase in anti-Americanism could jeopardize the war against terrorism as friendly states withdraw or minimize their support for some U.S.-backed anti-terror operations (like the hunt for al Qaeda remnants in Southeast Asia).
These are some, but not all, of the possible consequences of the single-minded U.S. campaign to engineer a ''regime change'' in Baghdad. If we persist in this behavior, the unintended consequences of tunnel vision could result in serious and lasting damage to vital U.S. interests.
Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., and the author of Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict.
©2002 Michael T. Klare