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Upon whom will the ashes of Baghdad fall down?

 

by Franck Biancheri
14/04/2003

 

In one way or another, this is the question asked to the entire world today. Strangely, the various answers provided to this question do not seem to depend on people’s appreciation of the military campaign along the two usual criteria:

. the probability of a military success by one or the other belligerant . the sympathy on has for one or the other side.

On the one hand, no one seems to doubt that the US army will overwome the Iraqi army; and on the other hand, no one seems to feel any sympathy for the Iraqi regime, nor for its leader, Saddam Hussein.

No one doubts the result of the military confrontation, no one has sympathy for Saddam, nevertheless…

Where comes from this increasing gap between what appears more and more as two irreconcilable camps? That is to say:

. on one side, the US, British, Australian and Spanish governments, supported to in various degress by some 15 other governments worldwide; and about 40% of the US public opinion (the one and only country where a significant proportion of the population is in favour of a military action, regardless of the UN Security Council’s decision) . on the other side, the French, German, Russian and Chinese governments, supported in various degrees by the majority of the world’s governments; and the majority of the public opinion outside the US.

Since neither the confrontation’s result nor the support to either of the belligerants is called into question, the situation is rather unusual and worth being thought over, beyond the obviousness found throughout each camp’s newspapers and media, and beyond the “reasons” of war.

“Spin-doctors” are tired … and tiresome to the whole world

The weakness of the “pro-war” argumentation lies in its endless fluctuations (each week, a new “reason” is found to go to Baghdad, often in contradiction with the previous week’s “reason”) which strengthened those opposed to a planified military intervention. This situation gives a strong feeling of “amateurism”, coming from people meant to handle a complex war; and such “amateurism” appears as an insult to the cleaverness of the largest part of global public opinon. The first conclusion to draw from these poor performances is that the reign of “spin doctors” (those specialists of opinion manipulation, whom Washington and London love so much) is coming to an end. Or that it is high time for them to renew their staff. In any event, it should compell leaders of the “pro-war” camp to seriously re-consider their “post-war” communication management, as it will be even more complex to handle.

“Pre-emptive war”, a concept as new of the oldest empire

For sure the moral justification to the conflict, one deliberatly rooted in the “new” strategic concept of “preemptive war”, is not very convincing either. Very few people indeed on the planet, including from Saddam Hussein’s neighbours (such as Iran or Turkey who cannot be suspected of sympathies), seem to buy the idea that Iraq has grown into an imminent risk. Have they all gone blind? Well not one single concluding element comes in support of a imminent risk justifying a pre-emptive war.

As to the supposed links between “Al and Saddam “, no one can believe in them by lack of any proof, despite the fact that every one agrees to support war against terrorism. It is in Pakistan, not in Iraq, that the latest seior Al Qaida leader was arrested.

In this context, this notion of pre-emptive war inevitably sounds rather familiar (instead of new) for many people in the world. It has always been an argument for empires to expand: Rome never made war for another reason than protect itself! Before and after Rome, all empires have always done so.

This ” déjà-vu “, this reminder from the past centuries, shared by all the countries in the world which experienced invasion (the US, the UK and Australia are among the very few countries which never knew any such situation), is fueling the global opinion’s increasing puzzlement. Just as much as the concept of a “new Europe” invented by Donald Rumsfeld does not mean anything for anyone who know the Europeans a little, hte concept of “pre-emptive war” sounds very much like the old imperial expansionist argument. It is not surprizing therefore that the moral legitimacy of the conflict is becoming more and more suspect for a growing amount of people, including in the US.

Why would Washington want so much to dilapidate the moral capital the Americans accumulated along two centuries?

The statement repeated by Washington and its allies that this war will happen, even against the will of the UN Security Council, does not contribute (quite te contrary) to clear the suspicion. In fact, it makes it worse in a way few decision-makers in Washington seem to realize. Of course we are aware that these decision-makers made a choise to disregard public opinion. But the stakes are higher in this case than the mere opinion of people on war; it is about the opinoion of people about the nature of the US power in this beginning 21st century.

Nothing played yet for sure; however from one side of the planet to the other, perpection of the US is slipping from positive to negative . Dies it matter?

Diffuse, enduring, and risky for Washington

Indeed, unless victory comes fast and steady (less than a few weeks) and followed by the set up six months later of a stable regime in Baghdad, the US for the first in their history will be faced with a negative image of themselves all over the world. The psycological and political trauma of the Vietnam war will be nothing compared to this one (at the time of the Cold War and with the proximity of the 1945 victory, a thick shield protected them against bad feelings anyway). And a major political crisis is likely to happen inside the US as a result of this trauma. Let’s not forget that the funds allocated to the war in Iraq are those Washington refused to the US education system. At home too, the moral legitimacy of this operation will play a key role until 2004. Unless a perfect scenario (short war, fast stabilisation), the entire moral credit of the US is about to be squandered by Washington overe one single oeration. Is it really worth it? The Gremans and the French know exactly what it means : France squandered its moral capital out of weakness in 1940 and Germany out of arrogance in 1945. And its reconstruction (never complete) takes more time than its takes to invent alternatives to oil.

After the war, Washington will have to negotiate the financing of Iraq’s reconstruction

The economic cost will clearly be a decisive elemnt in order to estimate the impact of the announced war. Like we said about education, in the US themselves, many citizens and elected officials worry about this. This time no one will pay the bill of war. And let’s be clear, for the reconstruction of Iraq, countries called upon will horse trade their financial support against the very “advantages” Wahsington wanted to negoatiate before the entry into war. The economic and financial might of the US is undeniable, but a lot lesser than everyon pretends to believe, and involves a growing number of multiple deficits. In a way, it is like the US space programme. Impressive but in the end in locked in an impasse.

The frailty of this economic might accounts of the ineluctability of this war, meant to preserve by any means Washington’s might to the top in order to preserve world’s confidence in the US economy.

Howver the opposite result could happen, undermining the image of the US worldwide.

What if the Us invasion of the Arab world ends up like the French or German invasions of Russia?

I underlined many times the frailty of certain optionsA plusieurs reprises, j’ai souligné la fragilité de certaines options de Washington qui reposent de plus en plus sur un déroulement ” parfait ” de la guerre et des mois qui suivront. Pour conclure, ce point mérite d’être développé. Ce scénario ” parfait ” voit ses probabilités se réduire de semaines en semaines. Depuis plusieurs mois, en effet, la configuration idéale (soutien des alliés, soutien des Nations-Unies, …) s’éloigne un peu plus, y compris en terme militaire (refus turc). Parfois cette opération d’invasion du monde arabe et de remodelage du Moyen-Orient (comme l’a confirmé le Président Bush ; et qui pourrait séduire beaucoup d’Européens si l’objectif de démocratisation du Moyen-Orient dans son ensemble était vraiment mis au cœur d’une politique américaine) me fait penser aux invasions française ou allemande de la Russie. Soyons clair, je ne compare pas ici les idéologies ou les systèmes politiques, je compare différentes tentatives impériales auxquelles je trouve des similitudes.

Dans les deux cas, leur préparation et leur calendrier théoriques n’ont pas été respectés, tandis que la résistance des peuples, la différence des mentalités comme la dureté du climat ont été sous-estimés. Dans les deux cas, la conviction du dirigeant dans une victoire rapide et inéluctable a balayé les doutes ou les oppositions internes ou émises par les amis. Et en plus aujourd’hui les amis européens sont tellement divisés qu’ils sont incapables de peser positivement sur les évènements.

Espérons que les cendres de Bagdad ne retombent pas sur Washington, car indiscutablement elles apporteraient un chaos terrible aussi bien en Occident que dans l’ensemble du monde. Dans tous les cas, nous entrons dans une période de réorganisation mondiale. Il est peu probable que les Nations-Unies survivent tel quel à la guerre en Irak. Selon les résultats, ce sera soit les Etats-Unis, soit les Européens en particulier, qui paieront le prix de cette réorganisation. Comme il sera impossible d’enlever le siège permanent de la France sans enlever aussi celui du Royaume-Uni, il pourrait être paradoxal qu’un des principaux résultats de la guerre à venir soit l’émergence d’un siège pour l’Union européenne au Conseil de Sécurité. Obligeant ainsi les Européens à s’organiser et à enfin composer une vraie puissance à l’échelle globale. Une seule chose reste certaine : le dialogue entre citoyens américains et européens reste plus que jamais nécessaire …. car nos leaders se préparent à des conflits croissants !

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