buzzwords in Washington concerning Iraq these days are "regime
change," which in a sense is surprisingly honest. It means the
upcoming Gulf War II will not be about protecting Kuwait or stemming
Iraqi aggression. The pretenses have been discarded, and now we’ve simply
decided Saddam must go. We seem to have very little idea, however, what
a post-Saddam Iraq will look like. We should expect another lesson in
nation-building, with American troops remaining in the country indefinitely
while billions of our tax dollars attempt to prop up a new government.
goal of regime change in mind, the administration recently announced
plans to spend nearly $100 million training an Iraqi militia force to
help overthrow Hussein. A NATO airbase in southern Hungary will be used
for military training. The problem, however, will be choosing individuals
from at least five different factions vying for power in Iraq, including
the fundamentalist Kurds in the north. Given the religious, ethnic,
and social complexities that make up the Middle East, do we really believe
that somehow we can choose the "good guys" who deserve to
any of these groups will be happy to use American military power to
remove Hussein, and will form a short-term alliance with the Pentagon
accordingly. Their opposition to the current government, however, should
not be mistaken for support for America or its policies. As we’ve seen
so many times in the past, the groups we support in foreign conflicts
rarely remain grateful for long.
Hussein and Osama bin Laden are perfect examples of our onetime "allies"
who accepted our help yet failed to do our bidding for long. Both gladly
welcomed American money, weapons, and military training during the 1980s.
With bin Laden we sought to frustrate the Soviet advance into Afghanistan,
and many Pentagon hawks undoubtedly felt vindicated when the Russian
army retreated. Yet twenty years later, bin Laden is a rabid American-hating
madman whose operatives are armed with our own Stinger missiles. Similarly,
we supported the relatively moderate Hussein in the hopes of neutralizing
a radically fundamentalist Iran. Yet this military strengthening of
Iraq led to its invasion of Kuwait and our subsequent military involvement
in the gulf. Today the Hussein regime is belligerently anti-American,
and any biological or chemical weapons he possesses were supplied by
our own government.
seen this time and time again. We support a military or political group
based on our short-term objectives, only to have them turn against us
later. Ultimately, our money, weapons, and interventionist policies
never buy us friends for long, and more often we simply arm our future
enemies. The politicians responsible for the mess are usually long gone
when the trouble starts, and voters with a short attention span don’t
connect the foreign policy blunders of twenty years ago with today’s
problems. But wouldn’t our long-term interests be better served by not
creating the problems in the first place?
The practical consequences of meddling in the domestic politics of foreign
nations are clearly disastrous. We should remember, however, that it
is also wrong in principle to interfere with the self-determination
rights of foreign peoples. Consider how angry Americans become when
Europeans or Mexicans merely comment on our elections, or show a decided
preference for one candidate. We rightfully feel that our politics are
simply none of the world’s business, yet we seem blind to the anger
created when we use military force to install governments in places
like Iraq. The unspoken question is this: What gives us the right to
decide who governs Iraq or any other foreign country? Apparently our
own loss of national sovereignty, as we surrender more and more authority
to organizations like the UN and WTO, mirrors our lack of respect for
the sovereignty of foreign nations.