[Previous] [Main Index] [Next]

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Why Continued Containment and Deterrence of Saddam, Besides Not Being Effective, Have Been and Will Be Far More Costly Than A Quick War and Regime Change

These comments are prompted by an email from Dr. Edward Trevelyan, an employee of the US government and a former Olympic Gold-Medalist . . . a specialist in international relations.

Michael: The article linked here by Walter Russell Mead --- a justifiably gifted specialist on US foreign policy --- may exaggerate the costs of ongoing containment of Iraq compared to the use of war, but it's a vigorous argument: containment's problem isn't that it doesn't work, but that it produces resentments that brought us 9/11 (perhaps the only "link" between Saddam and Osama), and huge costs in lives and to the surrounding political climate in the Middle East. My question is: will those resentments be any less if war is the choice? ---Edward

Deadlier Than War By Walter Russell Mead

Our buggy response:

1) Why Liberals Prefer Sanctions and They Usually Don't Work

Thanks Edward, the article by Mead is thought-provoking and accurate. More generally, it underscores a huge problem at the heart of liberal approaches to dealing with authoritarian or totalitarian regimes, whether security or human rights questions are at stake: the liberal aversion to use military force in dealing with such states --- once democratic countries leaders find the conflicts with such states are important to their own national interests ---almost always backfires. Above all, it emboldens the dictators to continue their threatening or blood-splotched repression, taking the aversion in democratic countries as a sign of weakness to be exploited. Appeasement in the 1930s showed that. Appeasement ever since has done so too.

And it's shown by the history of the sanctions regime directed for 12 years now at forcing Saddam Hussein to disarm.

More concretely, liberals generally shrink at the use of force in dealing with major challenges of a security sort, hoping almost always to find alternatives. That aversion shows up even when collective security is used, which has been employed only twice in the UN's 58 year history . . . in Korea in 1950 and the Gulf War 1991, each time thanks to the willingness of a superpower, the US, to take the initiative. Even in the Gulf War debate during the fall of 1990, after Saddamite Iraq had attacked and annexed Kuwait, a sovereign state member of the UN, most liberals and radicals in the US and West Europe opposed using force, denounced the senior Bush administration in similar extravagant tones and rhetoric being used now --- the war was for oil ("no blood for oil"), and Bush was out to dominate the world --- and kept emphasizing that we should use economic sanctions instead.

What might these be?

Essentially, there are only two such alternatives --- diplomatic condemnation, which amounts to nothing in dealing with ruthless dictators, or the one we just mentioned . . . economic sanctions.

For all their appeal, though, economic sanctions scarcely ever work. The best statistical studies show that they bring about desired changes in target states only about 20% of the time . . . and almost never when that state is ruled by a determined and highly insulated dicatorial regime. (See-- Robert A. Pape, "Why Economic Sanctions Do Not Work," International Security (Fall 1997), pp. 90-110. The dictatorship --- to clarify the term --- might be controlled by an all-powerful autocrat: Hitlerian Germany, Stalinist Russia, Maoist China (for three decades anyway), and Saddam Hussein in Iraq for 27 years or so now. Most of the time, it's a collective leadership, a small cabal --- the heads of the Communist party, the Fascist party, Milosevik's clique in Yugoslavia after Tito's death in the 1980s, and the Baathist parties in Syria now and in Iraq . . . at any rate, to stay with Iraq, until Saddam ascended to power in the mid-1970s and destroyed all opposition even within the Baathist ranks, replacing them systematically with tribal-clan family and two or three associates in the 1980s and 1990s. Either way, autocratic or collective, the dicatorial regime can withstand internationally imposed economic sanctions and even flourish by passsing on all the costs to the population, then whipping up national resentments against the outsiders.

On top of that, no sanctions can prevent end-around blackmarket operations by the authoritarian or totalitarian regime being targeted, including its firms . . . or by outside countries doing business on the sly too. Once Iraq's oil exports reached $17 billion by 2000 under an arrangement of selling oil for food that will bed clarified in a moment to two, the oil slippage through Turkey, Syria, and Jordan multiplied in every direction. And the French and Russians and Germans, actively involved in trade with Saddem throughout the decade --- never mind investments (some of which trade and investments violated the sanctions) --- were getting the biggest shares of the hog-rush to make deals with the Saddamite regime.

So economic sanctions seldom work, and they have never been shown to work against a powerfully lodged dictatorial regime, led by aggressive and greedy or reckless high-stakes risk-takers --- whether Mussolini's Italy, Nazi Germany, military Japan, Milosoveki's Yugoslavia, or the Soviet Union, and now of course Iraq --- no matter how much economic damage they should be inflicting in principle on those regimes. The use of sanctions, though, does salve liberal consciences. No bombings are reported; no battles on the ground. Hey, look: there's a good alternative to forcing the hostile or belligerent state to change its behavior. They'll say it even if, as we'll see in a moment, the sanctions are not only not changing the behavior of the target government, Saddamite Iraq in this case, but have inflicted huge costs on the Iraqi people while Saddam himself has pursued his WMD programs and bought lavish palaces for himself and his crony relatives.


And of course, this has been said not just by liberals, but by the French, Russian, and German governments recently, which are even more impressed with inspections than economic sanctions. What could be more duplicitous? So far, almost all the findings of the inspectors are procedural matters save for the short-range missile uncovered by serendipity. What the US-UK-Spanish governments are demanding is full compliance with Security Council resolution 1441, passed last November: Iraq was to cooperate in disarming "totally," "unconditionally," and "immediately." Among other things, that meant fully disclosing its chemical and biological weapons and destroying them.

In a blast at such French, Russian, and German maneuvering and time-buying --- endorsed by the US and EU radicals and much of the liberal camp --- Senator John McCain, held prisoner by the North Vietnamese for years, says bluntly in an article published in yesterday's New York Times and today's International Herald Tribune,

The[ir] main contention is that we Americans have not exhausted all nonviolent means to encourage Iraq's disarmament. They have a point, if to not exhaust means that America will not tolerate the failure of nonviolent means indefinitely. After 12 years of economic sanctions, two different arms-inspection forces, several Security Council resolutions and, now, with more than 200,000 American and British troops at his doorstep, Saddam Hussein still refuses to give up his weapons of mass destruction.

Only an obdurate refusal to face unpleasant facts - in this case, that a tyrant who survives only by the constant use of violence is not going to be coerced into good behavior by nonviolent means - could allow one to believe that we have rushed to war


2) A Third Liberal Alternative: Collective Security

The use of collective security --- a UN sanctioned military operation --- might be endorsed by liberals as a half-way measure to bolster economic sanctions, but almost always in the abstract, not in practice.

Consider. Back in 1990, most liberals in the US and the left in the EU did not support military force to oblige Saddam to get out of Kuwait, which he had invaded and annexed, the first time a sovereign UN member had had its independence annihilated this way. Despite UN authority that obliged law-abiding members of the UN to go to war to punish Iraq if it didn't withdraw from Kuwait by January 16, 1991, the political left in this country and the EU still agitated against war. Public opinion was even more divided in this country then than it is now for using force (until the recent polls, showing that a majority of Americans --- tired of all the endless haggling at the UN --- now say they will support a war to topple Saddam even without UN Security Council approval). As late as the US Senate vote in early January 1991, the Senate itself was heavily divided. And the same slogans used by the left today, in Europe or here, were vocally stressed throughout the fall and into January of the next year, 1991.

The alternative preference of the left and most Democrats: using economic sanctions. Exactly the pressure that has been the official policy of the UN after the Gulf War ended, and Saddam committed himself solemnly, in written terms of the armistice with the US military command, later endorsed by the UN, to carry out full disarmament of his WMD programs.


Note in passing that the League of Nation's effort at collective security failed repeatedly throughout the interwar period. Since 1945,they have been used effectively only twice in UN history --in Korea in 1950, and in the Gulf War. Period.

Both times since 1945, the US --- a super-power ---took the lead in organizing and supplying the bulk of the firepower. Otherwise, its' a dismal record.

The UN failed in Bosnia; its peace-keeping forces had no peace to keep, and the UN safe-haven cities were overrun by Serb forces and massacres on a large scale carried out in 1995. Only the use of bombing by the Clinton administration saved the mission. Earlier, the year before, the UN did nothing to stop the genocide in Rwanda. As for the subsequent 1999 Kosovo war --- which destroyed Yugoslavia's Milosevik regime eventually as a fall-out and brought peace to the Balkans --- it was carried out by NATO completely outside UN Security Council authority. The Clinton administration withdrew its resolution to get such authority in March 1999 when the Chinese and Russians said they would veto it. The French and Germans, now great advocates of ONLY using Security Council authority -- no, I take it back: the Schroeder government, in a bout of moralistic rigidity without parallel, won't back war no matter what the UN does --- went to war; and what's odder still, , the same Schroeder government even sent German forces for the first time since 1945 into combat.


How did Paris become so enthusiastic about UN Security Council authority in the last 3.5 years? How did the same German government end up resorting to ultra-pacifism?

No one need be a great specialist on German and French policies to understand that their chief target isn't to disarm Saddam Hussein: it's instead the US, and the aim appears to be to stymie and reduce US influence in Europe and globally.

To repeat: the sudden enthusiasm in Paris for the UN Security Council did not motivate French diplomacy at any point in the past, including as late as the war over Kosovo. Paris, like Berlin --- led by the same left-wing government that now says it won't support a war even if the UN Security Council endorses it against one of the two or three cruelest and most blood-splattered regimes in the world, which has violated 18 UN resolutions the last 12 years and is playing games again with it and the inspector --- have both reached their current diplomatic positions for self-interested reasons that have no relationship to any principle other than to entangle the US in endless debates. In the French case, that includes protecting its client-friend in Baghdad. France, as it happens, is the only member of NATO that retains an embassy in Baghdad, and each month a leading French diplomat has journied to that city to deliver messages and advice to Saddam, even as, surprise! French oil and industrial contracts with that country number in the tens of billions of dollars. Though unconfirmed, lots of newspapers have said that TotalFinaElf --- a French oil company, the 5th largest in the world --- has signed an exclusive contract with Saddam for all the future drilling in Iraq once the sanctions are ended. Right now, it has drilling rights for about 25% of all Iraqi oil reserves:

"...Regime change in Iraq is precisely what France, Russia and other UN security council members threatening to use their vetoes against a UN-led invasion fear the most. Both countries have strong ties to Iraq in terms of oil. France has the fifth-largest oil company in the world, TotalFinaElf, which uses Iraq as a main source of international oil reserves. TotalFinaElf has exclusive negotiating rights to develop new oil fields in Majnoon and Bin Umar. The reserves from these two fields total 26 billion barrels of oil. Russia has exclusive rights to sell about 40 per cent of Iraqi oil on the global marketplace. About 10 Russian oil companies have signed development agreements with Iraq, including publicly-traded companies such as Lukoil and Tatneft and state-owned companies such as Slavneft and Rosneft..." Canadian Newspaper

To make this more concrete, at $25 a barrel for crude oil, Iraq's total reserves are now estimated to be about $3 trillion . . . 25% of which, at a minimum, will belong to TotalFinaElf, vast sums that the French might not be able to get if Saddam is toppled. Ever. And yet 80% of French public opinion --- in a country where the state-controlled TV and radio are a fount of nationalist views, now echoed in the Iraqi case by almost the entire political spectrum --- believe that the US government is motivated by oil interests, even though both George Bush and Colin Powell have repeatedly asserted that the oil of Iraq belongs to the Iraqis, and the US and British oil industries --- like those elsewhere --- are especially worried about instability in the Gulf region and prefer stable markets and stable prices to doing anything about Saddam Hussein's brutal government or its WMD programs. Something else. French commercial interests aren't confined to oil. In 2001, French firms legally exported $650 million to Iraq, more than any other country in the world.

That doesn't mean that Paris is motivated only or even mainly by these commercial stakes. They count -- a lot -- but what really matters, it seems, is to stonewall American power and influence. Always. That has been the line ever since de Gaulle took France out of NATO's integrated command and ordered NATO and US forces off French soil in 1966; and though the French during the next 37 years would now and then side with the US if there were overlapping security concerns, they have never acted as a firm ally . . . in effect, balancing inside NATO; only more openly now with the Germans and the Russians.

Kenneth Pollack --- the CIA specialist on Iraq and the Gulf region in the Clinton National Security Council --- doesn't hestitate to talk about French "betrayal" that was occurring off and on throughout the decade, but especially by its end (Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq, p. 100). Russia, by the way, besides having huge oil stakes in Iraq, is said to be owed vast sums of money for the past weapons systems it sold to Saddam in the cold war. Nobody knows the exact sum. Figures are as low as $7.6 billion, and as high as $40 billion.


3) The Origins of the Iraqi Sanctions and the Changes Since 1991

The economic sanctions --- a device to repeat almost always preferred by liberals or by governments that hesitate for whatever reason to go to war with a hostile state, and hope that economic pressures will do the job --- were imposed on the defeated Saddamite regime in the armistice terms of March 1991, and endorsed by the UN Security Council and stipulated in resolution 687. The intention was to maintain pressure on Saddam's regime to comply with the UN disarmament conditions. A related assumption was that Saddam would cooperate fully, disarm, and then have it verified by the inspectors (also created by resolution 687), with the economic sanctions not last more than a year or so.

Ha! Saddam, as Kenneth Pollack notes never thought the sanctions would matter much. Come to that, he believed --- rightly, until George Bush arrived on the scene and 9/11's outrages had occurred --- that the western countries had no stomach for a prolonged campaign to force him to live up to 687's conditions (Pollack, pp. 59-62). (Resolution 687, observe, also demanded that Baghdad return all prisoners, pay big reparations to Kuwait for the invasion and above all the burning of its oil fields, and show marked improvement in its human rights record. Again, only President Bush, referring to all these conditions last September in his speech before the Security Council, seems to have taken the latter three seriously.)

The rest is history.

Saddam until last fall proved prophetic: the French and the rest of the EU save Britain did nothing to oblige disarmament in the long interval, December 1998 and December 2002, when the inspectors weren't on Iraqi soil. At least the Clinton administration and Congress did do something: pass a resolution demanding regime-change in Iraq as a necessary pre-condition of Iraq's disarmament. To repeat: the demand for regime-change is not a Bush policy conjured out of the air: it has been the official US policy for 4 years now. And, with no impact on Saddam, Bush and Blair sent their bombers into action for a little target practice that must have left Saddam even further convinced that he had outmaneuvered the others.


Soon after 687 was passed, UN inspectors sent to Iraq to oversee Iraq's disarmament commitments began to report that the sanctions were hurting the local population. To mitigate the harm to the civilian population while keeping economic pressure on Saddam to disarm, the UN began offering Saddam in 1991 the ability to sell oil aboard in return for strict monitoring of the oil revenue for buying medical and food supplies for his population. Saddam refused. His refusal was strung-out for 5 more years until 1996. The reason? The conditions of economic oversight would, he said, violate Iraqi sovereignty. Most likely, he feared UN economic monitors would discover just how much oil was being shipped through Turkey, Syria, and Jordan anyway. In 1996, for reasons that aren't clear -- perhaps economic hardship was so painful Iraqi society might break down in the urban areas --- he relented and an oil-for-food program was instituted. Under the terms of that agreement, the US has become the biggest buyer of Iraqi oil shipments.

How much of the oil sales has been diverted for weapons programs and personal use can't be ascertained. The diversion is secretive, as is the ongoing WMD programs. As Mead notes though, probably a significant share.


4) The costs of the sanctions.

Not only are economic sanctions generally useless against a determined and ruthless dictatorial regime, they are also burdensome for the population. In the Iraqi case, the containment and deterrence of Iraq --- with no inspections even after 1998, when UNSCOM withdrew after Saddam had ignored 3 Security Council resolutions alone that fall to cooperate better --- relied strictly on the sanctions until Bush's appearance at the UN in September 2002, demanding that the UN either live up to its commitments to disarm Iraq, now found by the Bush administration after 9/11 to be a grave threat to the US, whose home-front is vulnerable now to terrorist attacks of any sort. After weeks of diplomatic haggling, the French and Russians finally being won over to a tough unambiguous resolution --- either Saddam disarm fully through "total," "unconditional", and "immediate disarmament" or face war ("material breach) --- 1441 was adopted and the rest is current history.

Note only that it was in late January that Colin Powell, to his dismay, was urged to meet his counterparts in the UN Security Council and found that the French were putting a far different spin on 1441. The resolution, he and others thought, does not call for ongoing inspections --- rather, total, complete, and unconditional disarmament, with the inspectors' role limited to certifying the compliance and to report material breaches to the Security Council.

The first breach was the 12,000 page Iraqi document, required by December 8th, 2002, that was supposed to detail the nature of the WMD programs. According to the document, Iraq had none. And if you give me some krypton, I'll immediately, totally, and unconditionally be transformed into Superman.


Back to sanctions: As the Meade article shows --- itself not a new argument, the costs of economic sanctions inflicted on the Iraqi people (probably 60 thousand a year, according to UNICEF studies, and almost all babies or infants under 5 years of age) --- a war to destroy Saddam's brutal regime with its WMD programs would inflict far less costs now, even if it went on for a few weeks, than continued sanctions would over the next 10 years.

Ongoing containment with sanctions would continue over the next decade to kill about a million people. In the Gulf War of 1991, with far better military might at Saddam's disposal of a conventional sort --- a million man army (about 40% effective now at best), Republican Guards, a large air force, armor of a more up-to-date sort than he has now --- the war probably killed 5,000 - 10,000 military men and civilians. The official Iraqi data here are in that range. All the other estimates, the 100,000 or more, no doubt include actual casualties, but these all came at the end of the war --- after an armistice was signed --- when the Shiites in the South and the Kurds in the North rebelled, hoping for US and UK support.


5) Other Policies: Slaughter in 1991 by Saddam's Force, No-Fly Zones, and an Independent Kurdish Republic

Neither London nor Washington did anything originally to help the rebelling Shiite or Kurdish forces. That is the single biggest moral burden the US bears, especially the Bush Sr. administration. For weeks, in March 1991, we stood by while Saddam's Republican Guards, secret police, and special palace guards --- tens of thousands --- used their superior firepower, including helicopter gunships that we let them keep, to slaughter tens of thousands of the rebelling ethnic groups. The Shi-ites suffered the most. About 60-65% of Iraq's 25 million people (precise census figures are hard to get), Saddam's force continued the ruthless massacres for months . . . including the use of chemicals in the marshy areas bordering Iraq and Iran where most of the ground war between those two countries had flared for 8 years or so.

In the north, the Kurds --- whose villages, thousands, had been first sprayed with biological and then chemical weapons, killing tens of thousands in the late 1980s: followed by systematic ethnic cleansing and massacres carried out by elite Iraqi forces --- fled the enraged Iraqi special forces, after their pounding by US and UK and other coalition military during the brief Gulf War, and tried to escape into the mountain areas to the north and cross into Turkey. Attacked by Iraqi helicopter gun ships for days on end, tens of thousands killed, the civilian massacres where at least filmed by tv crews operating out of Turkey. There, finally, the US and the UK --- frustrated in the UN Security Council for days to get approval to intervene militarily to help them --- went in with humanitarian help and, more important, with the French, declared a no-fly zone in the North and South.

That no-fly zone in the South was of no help. The Shiites had nowhere to flee (a few did make it through the marshy areas into Iran), and the slaughter went on. In the North, the no-fly zone policed by US, UK, and originally French fighter planes ended the attacks, and the US and UK were able to set up humanitarian relief that led, quickly, to the Kurds returning and establishing over time an independent Kurdish republic in the North, free of Saddamite cruelty and repression. Economically, the North --- though subject to the same IN economic sanctions that went into effect in early 1991 --- have flourished and grown steadily throughout the decade, in contrast to the ruined Iraqi economy in the Sunni and Shia areas.


6) The French, Russian, and German Economic Involvement in Iraq

No need to elaborate. The topic was dealt with above, singling out French economic stakes in the ongoing Saddamite regime, one of the two or three most horrendous mass-murdering governments in the world. Recall only these facts: it was Jacques Chirac, the Prime Minister in 1976 that agreed to give the Saddamite regime a nuclear energy reactor that even Saddam's Soviet allies balked at doing, knowing it was intended for weapons use; it then shifted to diplomatic support in the mid-1990s, in effect becoming Saddam's new patron. At that point, it withdrew from the southern No-Fly zone, and then stopped policing the Northern no-fly zone.

Meanwhile, French propaganda began to whitewash the blood-soaked regime, one of the two or three nastiest on the face of the earth. In 1998, the French deuxieme TV chaine --- which reaches the US daily on the international channel (in Santa Barbara at 6:00 PM) --- dwelt at length in a 15 minute sequence on the wondrous beauties and ardent pro-French nature of Saddamite Iraq: the Iraqis were said to be "devoted" students of French civilization --- cut to a French cultural mission, which showed a group of Iraqis studying some French author with Koran-like awe; the Iraqi government was doing its best to abide by UN resolutions; and the real villain in the story wasn't the ruthless homicidal regime in power, but --- guess who! --- the UN inspection teams, led, it was pointed out, by Anglo-Saxons (the French term for the dreaded English-speaking countries). These inspectors, awful awful people, showed no respect for the Iraqis; in their inspection efforts, they were --- and I am quoting literally from memory --- "brutal and aggressiv." The proof? Cut immediately to a Christian nunnery somewhere in the Iraqi desert, headed by a French-speaking monk. According to him, the brutal and aggressive inspectors had burst into the nunnery months earlier on a tip, no warning in advance, claiming they were searching for hidden weapons. Naturally they found none. In the process, though, the white-beared monk complained, they had groped the terrified nuns and all but gang-raped the lot of them.

What else could you expect from the brutal Anglo-Saxons?

People who don't watch French TV, I add, just can't believe that in a democratic country, the state-controlled system is little more than a mouthpiece of the government. At one time, this meant in domestic politics too. A French professorial colleague told me in the mid-1970s to listen to the radio at 6:00 AM: it was too early for the censors to arrive. In domestic politics, it's somewhat better. In security and foreign policy, it is the Charley McCarthy of the state Edgar Bergen administration-in-control. Tag-on observation here: oddly, as anti-French outbursts (most of them comical, including those flung by professional comedians) have erupted the last three weeks in the US media, the deuxieme chaine's daily coverage of the Iraqi crisis and US policies in it have become more professional and detached, less straightforward propaganda that's ordered by the foreign office through the bureaucratic hierarchy running state television. Maybe there's a lesson here.

As for Germany, its firms have been the most active during the sanctions-period in exporting technical and hardware knowhow to Saddamite Iraq's arms program. A German newspaper reported last December that (to quote the Deutschwelle):

" . . . Iraq's declaration of its weapons programs contains explosive news for Germany, a Berlin paper has reported. The dossier is said to detail covert arms deals between German defense firms and Iraq.

Just as the heated debates within the German government over the role of German troops and equipment in a possible war against Iraq seem to be cooling down, another potential bombshell threatens to reignite the fires. On Tuesday, the Berlin-based left-wing paper, Tageszeitung reported that aspects of the 12,000-page Iraqi report on Iraq's weapons programs, submitted to the U.N last week, could prove highly embarrassing for Germany. The newspaper - believed to be the first to have access to the top-secret dossier - has written that the Iraqi declaration contains the names of 80 German firms, research laboratories and people, who are said to have helped Iraq develop its weapons program.

Germany, Iraq's number one arms supplier? The most contentious piece of news for Germany is that the report names it as the number one supplier of weapons supplies to Iraq. German firms are supposed to easily outnumber the firms from other countries who have been exporting to Iraq. They have delivered technical know-how, components, basic substances and even entire technical facilities for the development of atomic, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction to Iraq right since 1975.

In some cases, conventional military and technical dealings between Germany and Iraq are said to date till 2001, ten years after the second Gulf war and a time when international sanctions against Saddam Hussein are still in place. The paper reports that the dossier contains several indications of cases, where German authorities right up to the Finance Ministry tolerated the illegal arms cooperation and also promoted to it to an extent...."

Those who want a more recent, detailed analysis of the extensive economic ties of German firms to Iraq, including apparently sales of illegal equipment, will find it here: German Hanky-Panky.

Russian firms, needless to add, have also been highly involved in the arms transfer to for Iraq, and to an extent in the oil business, but the extent of its overall nvolvement isn't clear. What we do know is that Baghdad owes the French and Russians tremendous sums of money. You sometimes see figures of $8 billion or so each, other times $40 billion . . . nobody knows. We do know that a big French oil firm has signed a $40 billion contract with Saddam, itself not a violation of the sanctions, which have officially allowed oil sales in return for food and medicine purchases, since 1996. We also know, and Mead repeats the knowledge, that huge sums of this oil money have been diverted to WMD programs and Saddam's and his elites' own personal use.

Probably the best estimate of the Russian economic stakes in ongoing Saddamite Iraq --- which also touches on more French entanglement --- appeared yesterday in the Moscow Times:

" . . . Iraq owes Russia over $8 billion in debt. LUKoil had the rights, potentially worth $20 billion, to develop the vast West Qurna field in Iraq, but had them snatched away in December when Hussein's regime accused it of trying to clinch a deal with the U.S. that its contract would be guaranteed under a new regime. Since then, however, a few medium-sized Russian oil companies have clinched deals to develop smaller fields. Russian firms also have won more than two-thirds of the contracts under the UN oil-for-food program.

For France, it's a $70 billion question. France's BNP Paribas bank has exclusive rights to handle all the funds coming out of Iraq's oil-for-food trade, said a UN diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous. That's $70 billion, and after a regime change it's unlikely France would keep hold of this account. "France has always been against regime change in Iraq because of the massive revenues BNP Paribas makes in handling Iraq's account," the diplomat said.

Those combined interests in Iraq could drive a future Franco-Russian alliance. At the start of his term in power, Putin was set on forming an alliance with the EU at the expense of the U.S. In 1999, just after he became prime minister, he laid out a proposal to move Russia's trade out of dollars into euros. . . ."


7) The End of Saddam: Also the End of Containment as a Disaster

While inspections (off and on) and economic sanctions have been a feel-good policy for liberals and a pretext for governments like France and Russia to do business with Saddam on a huge scale, they have, along with the entire so-called containment policy, been a disaster. A disaster for the Iraqi people above all, who have suffered under the economic sanctions even if the Saddamite regime bears the responsibility here. A disaster for us if the aim has been to disarm Saddam and to get him to improve his human rights record. A disaster too for the Middle East and our interests there, because as Mead points out rightly, Saddam's presence and heroic stature in the eyes of the Arab street as he defies the UN and especially the US and the UK repeatedly allows him to set the tone for the rest of the region. A disaster too for the UN --- which had already discredited itself in Somalia in 1993, , then the next year in Rwanda when nearly a million people were butchered in a genocidal camapaign, then in 1995 in Bosnia when UN peace-keeping missions collapsed and safe-haven areas were overrun by Serbs (the massacres and the war stopped only by the US systematically bombing Serb positions), then in its failure to even be relevant to the Kosovo war in 1999, and now, over Iraq, by the endless haggling over Iraqi disarmament, the only gains being -- as Saddam Hussein plays off the major powers against one another --- cooperation in procedural matters and a continued denial that Iraq has WMD. And that little cooperation, 4 months after UN Security Council Resolution 1441 demanded "total," "unconditional," and "immediate" compliance to disarm, a result not of inspections but 250,000 American troops in the region, backed by the largest air and sea firepower in history.

All around, no offsetting virtues for diplomatic condemnation and pleas, economic sanctions, and the inspection system, the backbone of the containment policy as far as the UN goes. Rather, a disaster of mammoth proportions and in every direction.


The moral? Liberals and radicals want it both ways: a feeling of moral purity and clean hands in international relations --- no force, not even in practice for collective security if it means war (which is what collective security entails, as opposed to limited peace-keeping missions), ahd instead the use of ineffectual sanctions and diplomatic condemnation that in the Iraqi case have inflicted huge damage on the Iraqi people, not the cruel and ruthless despotic regime. All the while, of course, marching and mercilessly criticizing those as war-mongers who know that dealing with such brutal, murderous, powerfully armed dictatorial states requires either a credible use of force or its actual use --- withering and decisive --- if the dictator or the ruling clique don't honor their obligations or change their threatening behavior. What this means is clear. As in Bosnia in 1995 or Yugoslavia in 1999 and Taliban Afghanistan last year --- as was even more the case in WWII and during the cold war --- democratic countries are needed with the will-power and military means to confront these cruel and dangerous states directly and, if need be, destroy the ruthless dictators and their oppressive regimes.

Fortunately, for the first time in history --- as the campaigns in Yugosolavia in 1995 and 1999 and then against the mass-murdering fanatical Taliban government in Afghanistan in 2001 have shown --- the fast-paced advances in military technology allow for extraordinary accuracy in pin-point targeting, even if need be by sending a missile through an open window, with little damage to the surrounding population, and in the process destroy these brutal states quickly and with few civilian casualties.


As for the wider liberal-radical hokum --- also indulged in by managerial realists like those in the Bush Sr administration --- that the liberation of a people by war can't bring a much better, stable political system, in this case Iraq, the same thing was said about Germany and Japan in 1945, and about the Balkans in the 1990s, and about Taliban Afghanistan last year. The Balkans are now quiet and stable; some of the new states there will be joining NATO in the future. Yugoslavia has a democratic regime. Taliban Afghanistan enjoy the first general peace its had in 30 years of bloody war. Two million Afghan refugees have returned; 3 million students are enrolled in schools, half of them girls, and it will be 5 million next year. People can go to the cinema at night in Kabul and not be worried about Taliban women-whippers or terrorist operations. The regime is developing for the first time a professional army and police force while creating a legal system of a secular sort.

Naturally, the political left won't tolerate hearing any of this. Full of self-righteous ideologues and rigidly cocksure people in the avant-garde peace movements (AKA appeasers), its leadership ranks are also ignorant largely of history and useutopian standards to judge events --- something inculcated by mediocre professor and teachers of the pc-ilk in schools and universities. What, post-Taliban Afghanistan a success so far? Where's the full rule of law, democracy of the (imagined) New Zealand sort, the development of a welfare state, prosperity in every home? The same extravagant crapola was said about the Balkans. Those poor American saps: for 1000 years neither the Russian, Austrian, Ottoman, or any other outsider could bring peace and stability for a long time. It was said earlier about South Korea and Taiwan, military dictatorships full of state-capitalism propped up by American troops and money. And the conventional left-wing and standard realist-managerial outlook in 1945 was that to expect democracy in Germany or Japan was to expect the impossible, something only naive Americans would even consider.

michael gordon gordonm40@cox.net