Sunday, March 02, 2003

US Iraq War's Impact on Region

US Iraq War’s Impact on Region

Ghassan Michel Rubeiz, March 2 2003.

It seems that we are heading for an US led war against Iraq to unseat Saddam, disarm regime and replace it:
US declared intention were to avoid risk of weapons of mass destruction, to liberate Iraqis and to set an example to other regimes with similar inclinations. Not articulated bluntly is the intention to intervene militarily in other neighboring countries to maintain stability and enhance democracy in region.
I am sharing with you my observations about the cost of this looming war on Iraq and the impact on the region. To organize my ideas I am asking five central questions around this war that I will try to answer.
Question one: What is the cost and benefit of this war to Iraq to the US and to world peace?
Question two: Is the US able to install democracy in Iraq?
Question three: Is the war a product of new foreign policy in the region?
Question four: Is Islam compatible with democracy?
Question five: What do we hope for if war takes place?



Question One: The cost and benefit analysis
A. Projected Cost:
- Hundreds of thousands killed or injured, mostly Iraqis
- One to two millions refugees and displaced are estimated by UN reports.
- Threat of division of country into cantons of irreconcilable interests: Kurdistan, Shii Islamic republic and Sunni tribal community (oil, identity, land and leadership)
- Regional interventions by Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia
- Spill over political effects on unstable regimes: SA, Egypt and Jordan
- Massive regional and Islamic world anger: 1967 Nakba
- Economic cost for US: 100 billion dollars?
- Moral agony for about half the people of this nation
All the above are not certain, but they are reasonable threats
B. Projected Benefits: Only first two events look certain
- Liberation from Saddam
- Removal of threat of WMD
- Possible Pilot project of democracy building?
- Preparation of climate for Peace process for Israel/ Palestine conflict?

When I calculate the cost and the benefit I come up with a big deficit and I ask the rhetorical question why not disarm Saddam without going to war. We can do it and it is taking place now. To speak about improving climate for Palestine statehood talks is infuriating to Arabs as they watch on TV the assault on Palestinians in Gaza and West Bank daily by ruling Israeli forces.
Question Two: Is the US capable of installing democracy in Iraq?
- Empirical studies of democracy building show that the process is difficult, takes decades and is often flawed
- US political and economic interests have often interfered with democracy efforts (see Thomas Carothers book: “Aiding Democracy Abroad: learning curve, Carnegie 1999) US interests in Iraq include oil, regime loyalty and regime docility of a re-patched federal Iraq
- The humiliation of war do not help the people attacked to “shape up” spontaneously
- American type of democracy building is culturally questionable today in current political climate
- Democracy building requires some degree of unity within the country to arrange power sharing formula and rule of law. Revenge of civil war, sectarianism and tribal loyalty are among major threats to democracy. The “no fly zone” has dissected the country into three rival communities.

Conclusion: I expect a US loyal, desperate Iraq state will emerge from the war mess; the US will be motivated to call this state democratic.

Question Three: Is Iraq war a product of a new foreign policy in region?
Answer is yes and no. What is new is the invasion of an Arab country to deal with growing instability of region. What is not new is the lack of adequate response to the needs of the region, lack of sensitivity to the culture and poor reading of the history of the region.
The shift in US foreign policy to the Arab world is in degree and not in kind. The shift is from a paradigm of diplomatic and political containment of instability to managing militarily. According to former US Ambassador to Iraq, Mr. Joseph Wilson, in a recent interview with Bill Moyers (WETA, Feb 28), the new policy of the US is the design of Mr. Richard Pearl, a strong and passionate supporter of Israeli interests. Pearl, apparently, believes that to solve the Arab Israeli problems you ought to change non-cooperative Arab regimes. Bush’s government is now dominated by Sharon-policy sympathizers, including Mr. Elliot Abraham and Mr. Paul Wolfowitz.



Question Four: Is Islam compatible with Democracy?

- The problem of autocracy in Muslim countries is an artifact of Muslim men’s style of rule, and not a result of Muslim faith. It may be true that there is a crisis of theology in Islam as a result of political dominance of tribal rule. The Islam I know (and I am not a Muslim), is about freedom and equality in principle. Read Sufi literature (Jamal el din El Rumi) and see the celebration of diversity in Islam. Sufism today is marginal in the Muslim world for political reasons. Read about the concept of “Ijtihad” in relation to “Jihad” and discover the power of reason in Islam (Passion for Islam). For eighteen centuries the Christian west suffered the same level of oppression as a result of literal interpretation of religion to suit the Holy Empire and the Divine Right theory of rulers. Islam will face its intellectual renaissance when the right socio economic conditions come to pass.
- The change is in the wind but the Arab world is slowly inching its way toward modernity. Iran, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, Jordan, Tunis are moving forward in small but significant steps toward democracy.
- Islam must be allowed to experiment with its own experience of democracy. Regimes will come and go with free elections; experience will lead Muslims to creative rule of law with time. Read Passion for Islam by Caryle Murphey, 2002, a Pulitzer Prize winner.
Comment: I observe a Christian right campaign on TV addressed to Islam and Muslims. End of the world theology predicts Jesus with a sword returning to Israel soon to save the believers. Arabs are classified in apocalyptic theology to be on the losing side in Armageddon war. Christian Fundamentalism is very dangerous but surprisingly ignored as a minority movement. Christian Zionist theology reinforces Muslim fanatic theology.
Questions five: What do we hope for if war takes place?
For Iraq
- The war will be short and carnage limited
- Iraq will retain some form of unity
- The US army will turn over the administration to a United Nation or multilateral force in transition period
- Commitment to external development aid will not turn to exploitation of Iraq oil revenues for funding reconstruction
- Iraqi capable leadership will take over from external forces soon enough
- A new authentic government will lead the reconstruction process
- Iraq’s debt programming will not cripple its budget

For the Region:
- A viable peace process for Palestine statehood and Israeli security emerges. Colin Powel will have to rescue the ME peace process from the hands of the “Lukednics” dominating the State Department today on ME policy.
_ Syria reclaims its Golan Heights and signs peace with Israel
- An Arab Israeli peace process will lead to a new era of regional development.
It is somehow inconsistent to list the above wish list items, given the current views of the US Administration on ME realities. But America is about learning and change. This is why we are proud to be Americans. Hope keeps us going.

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