Another American Century

by Seymour Schechtman

At the end of World War II after four years of almost world wide carnage there was a large undercurrent of idealistic sentiment for a new approach to international politics. This desperately hopeful feeling was expressed with mystical fervor in the expression "one world". This was perhaps what some of us thought would be our fulfilled hope in the creation of the United Nations, but many of us, even then, had many misgivings about this fledgling offspring, which now is past 25 years of age and still shows no signs of growing up beyond the rebellious, coltish stage of no responsibility other then biting the hand that sustains them. We then had the dream then of a universal government, and one unifying language, which we naively thought might be Esperanto! Most national boundaries would gradually fade away, and somehow global elections would make for some sort of world wide concord and harmony. The name Gary Davis comes to mind as the prime proponent of this delusional fantasy, which then some of us, alas, thought to be an idea whose time had come. Now, the name of Gary Davis can not be found even as a hoary historical footnote.

The nation state has remained the organizing political principle of the time, even if those borders have within them several different ethnic entities. Today we are at last beginning to see those borders beginning to blur at least slightly. That is, we are beginning to see the doctrine of preemption espoused, overriding of a country’s sovereign border in the name of self defense. Not for conquest of territory necessarily, but to put a stop to the aggressive intentions of one’s adversary who seems poised to strike at you. Thus, for allegedly defensive reasons one strikes first---"your best defense is a good offense----". A far cry from the one world pacifism of Gary Davis, and who is to be the judge of the integrity and virtue of the nations who strikes preemptively? Indeed, the world shuddered at the first preemptive strike--the Israeli bombing of the nuclear reactor at Osirak in Iraq in l981 and looked the other way in l967 when Israel preemptively struck at the passive Arab Airforce and routed them while they were still grounded, and even before a formal state of war had been declared. Severe condemnation then for these acts of aggression and now almost universal approbation!

The thought of preemption, of course, is still relatively new to the American ethos, a post 9/11 phenomenon. We have rapidly become adjusted to its necessity, however. Our once impregnable home base was invaded with devastating effect, and our immediate and continuing response has been the firm resolve to adequately punish the transgressors and never be so attacked again. Even if we have to transcend national borders. And we in effect invaded Afghanistan to overcome the Taliban with some local support but still without a formal declaration of war. With a great deal of success after a six month campaign of combined closely coordinated air and ground attack. And now we have another aspect of the preemption doctrine at hand, another example of the extension of wartime affects under the cloak of "peaceful" pursuits.

Iraq is the locus of this newer manifestation of our "best defense is a good offense" strategy. The world has long known that Saddam Hussein has been stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, nerve and poison gas, toxic chemicals and other destabilizing agents. And, of course, his ardent efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. His general demeanor over the years as been anything but friendly. War against Iran, the Gulf War, and then the burning of the Kuwaiti oil fields are not acts of a balanced, cooperative, and well meaning neighbor. And his open, outright hostility to capitalist America and its culture and religion do not betoken good will and friendship. Nor does our firm support of the State of Israel endear us to him.

The term "appeasement", not much in use since the days of Adolph Hitler, sits well in the failure of the politics of containment of Hussein. Supposedly under sanctions since his defeat in the Gulf War, he has defied the prime sanction of inspection of his possible stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction since l998, a glaring failure of both the United Nations and the United States under President Clinton. He has successfully opposed 16 scheduled visits by authorized UN inspection teams and finally ejecting them outright from his country in l998. And with them completely out of the way there is every reason to believe that his arsenal of biological, chemical and now possibly nuclear weapons, unfettered by hampering inspections, is dangerously close to full deadly implementation against us.

There is much debate and doubt about our Iraqi dilemma. Is our avowed intention to invade if necessary a legitimate extension of our war on terrorism, so well begun against Al Queda in Afghanistan? How does it jibe with our evidently bogged down Palestinian Israeli contretemps? Is this Iraq episode a diversion, off the main anti terrorist course or well synchronized with our main objective? And, scare bogey number one, will an invasion further inflame the Islamic world, already not very happy with our ultra successful capitalist, pro Israeli stance?

Moral and ethical considerations, if we would consider them, make an invasion almost imperative, for, in addition to the duplicity listed above he has been a cruel, despotic ruler, imprisoning many people without cause or trial; people who are never heard from again. Murder and torture are not uncommon, and he has used poison gas at times against the Kurds in Northern Iraq who resented his oppressive rule. It is well known that neighboring states, who are not pro American, would delight in his overthrow. And of course so would we, because besides the above, there are powerful real politique considerations that are also involved. Iraq sits on even larger oil reserves than Saudi Arabia; reserves not yet tapped because of existing sanctions and antiquated pumping infrastructure. "Regime change", which Bush has been pushing, translates into a friendly, pro American government, a good source of some of our foreign oil needs at reasonable prices, lessening our dependence on Saudi Arabian oil and so making it easier to distance ourselves from their duplicitous friendship", which uses some of our oil money to finance terrorist jihad training and schooling both in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere on a worldwide basis.

The costs of a full scale invasion, while not insignificant, are not overwhelming. In the Gulf War other nations paid a significant part of the total; this time, while other nations may pay only a small fraction of the cost, we can "afford" more of the burden, our economy having at least trebled in the last ten years. And, most importantly, with a stable and cheaper price for oil, most of our industries, especially the airlines, will be able to operate profitably once again. As for the true costs in casualties, the Iraqi army was not much in the Gulf War and is much less now. That a vengeful Saddam may let loose some of his deadly toxins or weapons ---or try to destroy Iraq’s oil fields-- is a calculated risk but on the plus side anti Hussein forces may cause an uprising soon after our initial attacks.

But first we must connect all the dots. Do the Iraqi’s under Saddam Hussein now have this credible destructive force that we now claim? We in this country have signed on to this position. Polls show that our people believe and support Bush and his claims; Congress has given him the war resolution that he wanted. I personally believe him and his claims. But the Security Council at the United Nations wants to reinstate inspections first; "thorough, complete inspections" that should show the true extent of Iraq’s lethal weapons of mass destruction. So we have to dither and dally somewhat, for world opinion must be "appeased", and rightfully so! But Bush, while reluctantly agreeing, is taping his foot impatiently. He has brought the reluctant world--and the foot dragging United Nations-- a long way to confront the reality of mass destruction and terror that we faced on 9/1101, and will have to wait somewhat longer, to see if Hussein’s manifest evil is ripe for explosion, or how much time at leisure we have before preemption time is no longer available and a disaster similar to 9/ll absolutely inevitable. But we will not procrastinate long. Thorough, complete inspections of all sites, unannounced, must begin very shortly, so that war, if necessary, will be fought before the heat of next summer. If no credible evidence of weapons of mass destruction is found then we can continue routine thorough inspections as our more peaceful way of policing Iraq under Hussein.

It is worthy of note that now North Korea has come out of the closet, as it were, proudly announcing that it too has a well developed nuclear program, our approach here follows a more controlled diplomatic route---no threats or browbeating. It does not have the lovely oil centerpiece prize that makes Iraq so alluring, andt to assure that no nuclear material was being diverted to atomic bomb production.

As for the neighboring middle eastern peoples and countries bordering on Iraq, whose anti American feelings are so palpable, over time and good management their state fomented hate will disappear, first because of their innate respect and fear for a forceful, (overwhelming?)display of power and then, with the right propaganda (education?) and economic hope such as capitalistic globalization can provide-- lo and behold! -- we will have allies or at worst grudging but complying neighbors, not quite as companionable as the Germans and Japanese but probably better than the French. And ready for the new Marshall Plan that we will underwrite for all deserving and striving countries in the middle east.

How does the above "happily ever after" scenario account for the terrorists in Israel? Peace, opportunity and prosperity after the requisite amount of initial force. Both a Jewish and Palestinian State after the terrorists have been eradicated or truly converted. Above all we are on the very rocky road that will still lead us somehow back to "One World". There is no way possible to that goal without the United States being the prime player in this truly holy cause.

And the rather messy option of preemption will have to be confronted, as in Iraq, occasionally. For the time being a sort of Pax Americana will obtain, and as the sole super power we will have to be much involved in an informal but actual hegemony of sorts world wide. Rome did it for over three hundred years and for a short period only we have the burden and the opportunity. If this becomes again the American century, as was the last century, we can still be a lamp unto the nations with all our democratic freedoms, respect for human rights, and achievements in the arts and sciences.

And material prosperity for us all.