In the world of George W Bush it’s all so simple when it comes to
Iraq - you invade the place, take out the bad guys, install one of your
own, and then close the door and move on to the next target of your rage.
Oh, and while you are busy installing a new leadership team in Baghdad
provide them with false hope that they will receive regular buckets of
money from you to rebuild the nation.
And in the world of prominent commentator and best-selling author the
New York Times' Thomas L Freidman, Iraq is worth invading if it brings
about "regime change and democratisation". Friedman argues that
the yardstick of US success in Iraq will be if it results in those in the
Middle East he calls "undeterables" - those who relish in acts
like those that took place on 11 September.
Both views are flawed.
At the same time that the Bush Administration was continuing with its
build-up to an invasion of Iraq President Bush vetoed a US$5.1 billion aid
bill from Congress that included US$174 million for Afghanistan. This is
despite the desperate need for funds to reconstruct this war-ravaged
country that is the grip of a drought and to which 1.5 million refugees
And last week it was reported that Bush Administration officials are
preparing to fund an US$80 million road-repair program in Afghanistan by
cutting a disaster relief program for that nation by US$40 million.
This at a time when Afghan President Karzai is warning the US that
al-Qaeda and Taliban forces are increasing their activities outside the
So why should we expect any different from President Bush when it comes
to Iraq? This administration lacks the magnanimity of the Roosevelt and
Truman administrations - the architects of the Marshall Plan that
reconstructed post -World War II Europe.
And what of Mr Freidman's cultural change argument? It misses the vital
point – oil!
The US imports between 2 and 3 million barrels of oil a day from the
Middle East. This figure has risen from 1.8 million in 1991 and shows no
sign of decreasing. In fact, the 112 billion barrels of oil reserves that
Iraq possesses focuses the mind very clearly in favour of putting a
friendly regime in place in Baghdad.
But lets say that Mr Freidman's 'hearts and minds' strategy to
inculcate democracy in the Middle East worked over a period of years and
in the case of Iraq it resulted in throwing up a democratically elected
leader who sought to drive a very hard bargain with the US for access to
those oil reserves. Would this please a US administration that has at the
heart of its economy a petrol guzzling culture? One suspects not.
And if you want evidence of the oil-beats-democracy thesis you need
look no further than Iraq's neighbour Iran. President Khatami is
introducing reforms to curtail the extraordinary powers of the Council of
Guardians that represents the greatest impediment to democracy in that
country. Where's President Bush on this one? Nowhere to be found - in
fact, Iran is in his 'axis of evil.'
A war on Iraq, and in places like it, will only make sense when the US
as the leader of the developed world, works with its allies to genuinely
reform its own outlook and ends its hypocrisy and cant - on current
indications, that’s a long way off.