The Case Against War | The Nation


The Case Against War

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Portions of this article originally appeared on the
Foreign Policy in Focus website (www.fpif.org), where Zunes serves as Middle East editor.

7. Regime change will be popular in Iraq and will find support among US allies in the region.

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Stephen Zunes
Stephen Zunes, a professor of politics and chair of the Peace & Justice Studies Program at the University of San...

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While there is little question that most of Iraq's neighbors and most Iraqis themselves would be pleased to see Iraq under new leadership, regime change imposed by invading US military forces would not be welcome. Most US allies in the region supported the Gulf War, since it was widely viewed as an act of collective security in response to aggression by Iraq against its small neighbor. This would not be the case, however, in the event of a new war against Iraq. Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah has warned that the Bush Administration "should not strike Iraq, because such an attack would only raise animosity in the region against the United States." At the Beirut summit of the Arab League at the end of March, the Arab nations unanimously endorsed a strongly worded resolution opposing an attack against Iraq. Even Kuwait has reconciled with Iraq since Baghdad formally recognized Kuwait's sovereignty and international borders. Twenty Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo in early September unanimously expressed their "total rejection of the threat of aggression on Arab nations, in particular Iraq."

American officials claim that, public statements to the contrary, there may be some regional allies willing to support a US war effort. Given President Bush's ultimatum that "either you are with us or you are with the terrorists," it's quite possible that some governments will be successfully pressured to go along. However, almost any Middle Eastern regime willing to provide such support and cooperation would be doing so over the opposition of the vast majority of its citizens. Given the real political risks for any ruler supporting the US war effort, such acquiescence would take place only reluctantly, as a result of US pressure or inducements, not from a sincere belief in the validity of the military operation.

8. "Regime change" will enhance regional stability and enhance the prospects for democracy in the region.

As is apparent in Afghanistan, throwing a government out is easier than putting a new one together. Although most Iraqis would presumably be relieved in the event of Saddam Hussein's ouster, this does not mean that a regime installed by a Western army would be welcomed. For example, some of the leading candidates that US officials are apparently considering installing to govern Iraq following a successful US invasion are former Iraqi military officers who took part in offensives that involved war crimes.

In addition to possible ongoing guerrilla action by Saddam Hussein's supporters, American occupation forces would likely be faced with competing armed factions among the Sunni Arab population, not to mention Kurdish and Shiite rebel groups seeking greater autonomy. This could lead the United States into a bloody counterinsurgency war. Without the support of other countries or the UN, a US invasion could leave American forces effectively alone attempting to enforce a peace amid the chaos of a post-Saddam Iraq.

A US invasion of Iraq would likely lead to an outbreak of widespread anti-American protests throughout the Middle East, perhaps even attacks against American interests. Some pro-Western regimes could become vulnerable to internal radical forces. Passions are particularly high in light of strong US support for the policies of Israel's rightist government and its ongoing occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The anger over US double standards regarding Israeli and Iraqi violations of UN Security Council resolutions and possession of weapons of mass destruction could reach a boiling point. Recognizing that the United States cannot be defeated on the battlefield, more and more Arabs and Muslims resentful of American hegemony in their heartland may be prone to attack by unconventional means, as was so tragically demonstrated last September 11. The Arab foreign ministers, aware of such possibilities, warned at their meeting in Cairo that a US invasion of Iraq would "open the gates of hell."

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