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Thursday, April 10, 2003
The aftermath

In the history of replacing tyrants, the West and the USA do not have good records. One has only to think of the Pahlavi regime in Iran, Marcos in the Phillipines, Noriega in Panama. And then there is the matter of Pinochet, installed to replace a democratically elected leftish (but anti-US business) administration in Chile. And don’t mention Afghanistan. The result of getting into bed with the nasties on the specious grounds of ‘my enemy's enemy is my friend’ ('whoever hates the Soviet Union has to be OK') was quite disastrous.

A US-nominated interim administration in Iraq would be tainted with the suspicions engendered by previous cock-ups. American ideas of democracy appear to incorporate rampant laissez faire and licking Uncle Sam's arse. But doing nothing has its problems, too: one can envisage tribal loyalties leading to genocide at the worst or fragmentation at the best; a new disintegrating Yugoslavia in Iraq. There are parallels. Horrible...

One would expect a better 'game plan' from soi disant senior democracies. The important thing is to get aid into the country (medical first), then an administration to stop the mafioso getting control. The administration must have a clear path to self-determination. The United Nations is the only organisation remotely able to give such a venture long-term viability.

Spain and Portugal represent successful transitions to democracy in Europe but they were effected by the people themselves in a region already totally democratic. The mistakes of 1991 made it certain that the Iraqis, on the other hand, would need some help in throwing Saddam out. And this in a region not conspicuous for its plethora of liberal democracies. Do not, therefore, make the mistake of thinking that the Iraqis will be forever grateful to the coalition for this recent release. Do not expect more than perfunctory gratitude. There will be a growing sense of shame that the Iraqis could not do the job themselves and this will manifest itself very quickly as resentment against the liberator/occupier.

If there is not prompt and appropriate action, Iraq could well become a lawless state (or series of statelets) where the only possible outcome would be fundamentalist and Islamic. It would be the ultimate irony if US military power has just laid the ground for the local long-term growth of bin Ladenism.

(Oh and by the way, wasn't the excuse justification 'Weapons of Mass Destruction'? Get the inspectors back, quickly.)

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