VIEW POINT: U.S. must not ‘go
it alone’ in waging war against Iraq
World Community must join,
By MARK A. MARTINEZ, Ph.D.
Sunday / October 13, 2002
not you agree with President Bush’s rationale for pursuing war with Iraq, one thing is clear. The president must secure key allied and
moderate Arab support if our Iraqi effort, and the larger war on terror, is to
succeed. Without this support, going it
alone in Iraq will chip away at American prestige
and create a more tense and divided world.
unaccompanied and preemptive war appeals to the imperial visions of fringe
policy-makers in the Bush Administration.
This is so because it allows them to recreate an era where, in their
minds, the U.S. could use force at will and act
unilaterally. However, as Vietnam, the Cold War, and the Gulf War
demonstrated, this moment in time never existed. To understand why the U.S. should work with the international
community we must remind ourselves the 20th century was the American
Century because of two parallel strategies.
One pillar of American geostrategy was based
on power politics, which required military build-ups backed by nuclear
weapons. The second pillar rested on
building multilateral institutions that promoted our interests but also
facilitated global dialogue.
reliance on the former, power politics, shouldn’t be
surprising. The primary features of
international politics – fear, security, and deterrence – haven’t changed over
the millennium. Practical considerations
like the need for stability and growth, and the reality that the Soviet Union couldn’t be eliminated, led us to
focus on containing Russia by building security
alliances. It wasn’t always pretty, as
the Korean War and various proxy wars around the world demonstrated. But from a security perspective it worked.
and strategic partnerships afforded us the stability necessary for diplomatic
treaties to thrive, which were the basis of the second pillar of American geostrategy: Building global institutions that allowed the U.S. to promote democracy and capitalism
around the globe. These twin strategies
– power politics and inclusive multilateralism – created a stable balance of
power that provided a predictable and manageable global environment.
shows us the cumulative impact of treaties like those signed at Versailles (1919), Yalta (1945) and Bretton
Woods (1945) has been a world order based on respect for national sovereignty,
cooperation, and growth. The
institutions that flowed from these agreements haven’t always gotten it right
but they established a broader set of relationships and standards of
international protocol that tied the world together in a web of treaties,
international law and diplomatic routine.
More than anything else, the habit of dialogue continues to be the
legacy of the American Century.
This is why
going through the UN to press our case is so important. It places Iraq in the position of rejecting UN
inspectors, and the weight of world authority.
Without military provocation, or evidence that Iraq has anything to do with al-Qaeda,
this is the response needed to legitimize U.S. action in the region. Absent this legitimizing process, the U.S. will be hard-pressed to gather the
financial and logistical support necessary to make our long-term efforts in the
region successful. In the process the U.S. will undermine long-standing
patterns of cooperation, endanger fragile relationships, and undercut American
prosperity around the globe.
example, if aggressive unilateralism against Iraq can be justified today, what can we
do when Russia, India, China use the same argument in their
sphere of influence tomorrow? Currently
these and other nations can be swayed by international opinion. Tomorrow this won’t be the case.
war in Iraq won’t be complete with military
victory alone. A post-Sadaam Iraq will have to be rebuilt,
governments must be established, peacekeepers will have to be brought in, and
task-oriented multilateral agencies will have to be consulted, among other
tasks. To do less will invite state
breakdown and radical mischief in Iraq.
We had a difficult time getting support in Bosnia, and were fortunate the global
goodwill generated by 9/11 encouraged other states to ante up in Afghanistan.
We will not be so fortunate in a post-Sadaam Iraq.
Success in Iraq will demand an expensive and
sustained operation, which will require a perpetual war tax on the American
public if we go it alone.
more importantly, going it alone might cause us to lose the support of moderate
Arab allies. Domestic realities will
require Pervez Musharraf of
Pakistan, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, and moderates in places like Jordan to distance themselves from our
efforts in Iraq.
Radicals and fundamentalists might begin calling for regime change too.
This would be a best-case scenario.
uglier reality would be the overthrow of the corrupt and kleptocratic
Mubarak regime, and the ouster of increasingly
authoritarian and isolated Musharraf in Pakistan.
Just the threat of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal falling in
fundamentalist hands would prompt another U.S. preemptive strike. An additional economy busting war tax will
it will be difficult to convince our allies of the need to cooperate in global
efforts like intelligence sharing, tracking international capital, pursuing
criminals, and turning over terror suspects if they believe we will ignore
information, or pursue our own course without consulting our partners.
few doubt Sadaam’s evil, if we are going to engage Iraq we must not compromise the
larger war against terror. Ultimately,
going it alone against Iraq will undermine
international cooperation, split military alliances, and foment instability and
radicalism, precisely when our fight against terrorism requires partnerships.
The next American Century requires that we engage our allies while working
through the institutions that have contributed so much to our world. Our long-term security depends on it.
Dr. Mark A. Martinez is an associate professor of American foreign
policy and international relations at California State University, Bakersfield.