|War on Iraq: Costs and
By Francesco Sisci
Part 1: The war on terror's neglected
BEIJING - What will happen to
the Middle East after a US war with Iraq? A new balance
in the region will have to be established, but so far
Washington is telling the world only that it wants a war
- it won't reveal what it has up in its sleeve on the
new Middle East balance.
Even now, before any
war to destabilize things further, a key US ally in the
region, Saudi Arabia, is so troublesome that the United
States has not come to grips with how to tackle it. Most
of the al-Qaeda terrorists came from there, most of the
al-Qaeda money came from there, the ideology inspiring
al-Qaeda, Wahhabism, comes from and is cherished there.
Saudi involvement with al-Qaeda is such that it is
difficult to tell charitable and "terrorist" donations
apart, and for this reason many Saudi assets have been
under threat of seizure by the US. This threat, along
with the recent Enron scandal, is also behind the recent
flight of Saudi capital from the United States that
helped weaken the US dollar.
Yet it is
impossible to think of waging a war against Saudi
Arabia, as its security is practically all in US hands.
Furthermore Saudi public relations in the US is so
effective that Washington can hardly interfere with
Saudi political decision-making - it is hard even to
think that Washington could push for a Saudi king of its
liking when the present aging reigning group comes to an
With so many issues on the table and
without clear support for a moderate Islamic ideal to
counter present Islamist militancy, it is understandable
that so many US allies (and non-allies) are dragging
their feet at the thought of opening a new, complicated
front in Iraq. Anything could happen. In northern Iraq
there is a de facto Kurdish state. What will happen to
it? How would its autonomy be re-established in a new
united Iraq, or conversely how could it progress toward
independence without causing havoc in Turkey, where
Kurds are one-third of the population? What will Syria
or Iran, both with large Kurdish minorities, do with the
Iraqi Kurds, who could trigger Kurdish nationalism in
these countries neighboring Iraq?
in southern Iraq there is a Shi'ite minority who would
like to cuddle up to Iran; what will become of them
after the war? After the war, what will become of Saudi
Arabia, of the Palestinians, of Egypt, of militant
Islam? In military terms, certainly dear to Secretary of
State Colin Powell, what is the objective of the war?
The same issue is now present in Afghanistan, where
there are growing reports of al-Qaeda regrouping. The
Afghanistan issue has not been solved, and won't be for
a long time.
Overall, a war in Iraq could move
the front of instability from the Mediterranean to
Central Asia. To keep this vast area under control the
United States can't act alone - it needs a vast array of
allies, old and new.
War on Iraq perhaps should
not have been considered, but now it must be waged. If
the US does not fight in Iraq and topple its dictator,
Saddam Hussein, then terrorists all over the world will
feel encouraged and Washington will lose face. And face,
as the Chinese have told us for 2,000 years, is the key
to influence and authority. Most of the world has much
to lose in a face victory of terrorism against the
United States, and therefore the US must be supported in
its war. But if face is a good enough reason to start a
war, it is not enough to win the war (and the following
peace) and bring about stability. Meanwhile this face
support creates new problems.
If the US receives
support for its initiatives only to save face, its own
face could be lost in a short time, as US face can't
every time be a good reason for others to risk their
necks. The US needs to build a broad long-term strategy
and find broad international support for its strategy.
This leads to the second point, which is even more
Stability in the Middle East Central
Asia can be achieved only with the active support of
Russia, China, India and Pakistan. If any of these
countries does not actively cooperate stability in this
region can never be achieved and instability could spill
over on any side of the Eurasian continent. Therefore
war in Iraq entails a new American Eurasian strategy
that so far has not surfaced.
is the economy. The combined effect of the burst of the
"new economy" bubble, September 11 and the Enron and
creative accounting scandals is that the United States
is losing momentum, and no one can see when and whence a
new US economic dawn will come.
War on Iraq
could dispel some of the effects of September 11; it
could also be a demand stimulus partly compensating for
the fall of the new economy. But US business needs
expansion, and the tough truth is that where there are
soldiers there are no businessmen. Prolonged instability
in the Middle East and Central Asia doesn't bring about
many business opportunities for the United States, which
can't count on a strong domestic drive to make up for
the loss of foreign expansion.
During World War
II the US just needed strong demand to open full-blast
its production overcapacity. Now the hope would be that
a victory in Iraq could reinforce the United States'
leading role, and the capitals that have fled the US
because of Enron and the failures of the new economy
would come back. But for this the US needs to the trust
of its new and old allies so that they will invest in
the US dollar and the US economy. The US in turn should
show a new growth drive for its economy and the planet,
similar to what happened in the 1990s with the Internet
and telecommunications. Nothing of the sort is happening
Without this, even with a military victory,
the US might come out of Iraq more isolated, as
isolation is the price of unilateralism. And modern
business suffers because of isolation. This in turn
could spell a political setback hard to confine and in
which no large country, including China, Russia and
India, has an interest, as this would weaken the US as
the anchor of global political stability. And a
double-dip recession could be just around the corner.
The Tet offensive was a lesson for the United
States during the Vietnam War, and it was not so long
ago that it should have been forgotten.
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