Magazine article The New Yorker

WAGING PEACE Series: 1/5

Magazine article The New Yorker

WAGING PEACE Series: 1/5

Article excerpt

President Bush has now taken to suggesting that a war to get rid of Saddam Hussein be thought of as analogous to the Second World War. Last week, the President spoke in utopian terms of the aftermath of such a war, for which he is openly impatient. Never mind disarmament; the true objective, Bush said, is to replace Iraq's tyrant with a regime that, as he described it, might have pleased the Founding Fathers, and which would serve as a model for the democratization of the rest of the Middle East. "America has made and kept this kind of commitment before in the peace that followed a world war," he said. "After defeating enemies, we did not leave behind occupying armies, we left constitutions, and parliaments. . . . In societies that once bred fascism and militarism, liberty found a permanent home."

As uplifting as the memory of the aftermath of the Second World War may be, the analogy is at best premature. In 1945, the Allied victory was total, the surrender of Germany and Japan unequivocal, the war decisively won. In 2003, the destruction of Saddam's regime will be an incremental victory, like the liberation of Paris on the way to Berlin. Nor are the repercussions of even a successful invasion guaranteed to be uniformly favorable. Just as America's defeat in Vietnam did not precipitate defeat in the struggle against Soviet Communism, victory in Iraq will not necessarily precipitate victory in the struggle against terror, or insure the proliferation of peace in the Middle East.

A lot has happened since 1945, and in the interim America's military excursions have more often propped up, or left in their wake, unsavory regimes whose subjects have felt betrayed by the promises of freedom made to them. Bush may see an opportunity to reverse this trend in Iraq, but what he and others in the Administration don't explain is how we're supposed to get there from here. Our military supremacy is not in question, but even the President does not propose that America can unilaterally win the sort of peace he seeks. "Rebuilding Iraq will require a sustained commitment from many nations," he said. Yet, after six months of diplomatic efforts, Washington is more isolated than ever. The allies that the Administration has lined up are not only less numerous than its opponents but also less significant in the balance of international power and opinion. The fifteen members of the U.N. Security Council are now bitterly split, with an Anglo-American-Spanish-Bulgarian bloc pushing for a new resolution to go directly to war and a Franco-German-Russo-Sino-Syrian camp seeking to give Saddam four more months to decide whether to disarm. With the lines so drawn, and France and Russia threatening to use their vetoes, the council's decision depends heavily upon its half-dozen undecided seat-holders--Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico, and Pakistan. All but one would have to support the new resolution for a war to have the U.N.'s imprimatur. In bidding for the votes of these unlikely arbiters of the will of "the international community," the Administration has taken an especially blunt tack. As one diplomat told the Washington Post, the message from the White House is "You are not going to decide whether there is war in Iraq or not. That decision is ours, and we have already made it. It is already final. The only question now is whether the Council will go along with it or not."

Demanding someone's acquiescence by saying that his vote doesn't really count sounds like the height of cynicism, and stirs unhappy memories of the butterfly ballots and imperious courts that brought Bush to office. …

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