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Manufacturing compliance: peacebuilding in an outlaw state: Iraq crisis '98.

"You can do a lot with diplomacy, but you can do a lot more with diplomacy backed up by firmness and force." (1) Such was the assessment of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on returning from his successful visit to Baghdad to persuade Iraq to allow the resumption of United Nations weapons inspections and thus avoid the threatened US-led military attack. By extolling the Iraq-focussed military undertakings of the United States and Britain (yes, Canada squeezed its way onto the list, too), Mr. Annan was not only being politically attentive, but he was articulating the prevailing wisdom. And however much one is disposed to reject military "solutions," in the circumstances of the most recent edition of the Iraqi crisis, the Secretary-General was simply acknowledging the undeniable case that force and intimidation remain prominent elements of prevailing approaches to managing political conflict. Military threats do indeed intimidate and in the following article Ernie Regehr discusses the tragedy and the challenge of that tenacious reality in the context of Iraq.

The tragedy of war lies not only in the social, political and human devastation that necessarily accompanies it, but also in the fact that it is human and material pain that rarely produces a commensurate gain. The resort to full-scale military combat in Vietnam or Afghanistan or Sudan or Iraq failed and still fails utterly to provide the "solutions" sought or promised. Indeed, in the "Iraq Crisis" of 1998 there has been a rather broad acceptance, even from the advocates of military air-attacks, the only kind seriously contemplated, that they would not deliver what is needed - such attacks would not guarantee destruction of suspected weapons of mass destruction materials or production facilities, and would certainly not destroy either the will or capacity of Iraq to create such weapons.

New York Times columnist William Safire put the point rather starkly. Saddam Hussein and Iraq could withstand massive bombing assaults on military targets (air defences, command and control centres, suspected sites of weapons of mass destruction) and industrial sites (presidential palaces, even those occupied by civilians, industrial and oil facilities). "He would be wounded and his people impoverished, but Iraq would remain triumphantly unoccupied with Mr. Hussein in command - building his weapons of mass destruction and buying missiles to deliver them." (2)

Of course, Mr. Safire was arguing that the US should go the next step of invading, occupying Iraq and then conducting elections - suggesting that whatever the constraints on Mr. Safire's analysis, realism is not among them. Even President Bill Clinton, in threatening military force, acknowledged that it offers no solution: "a bombing campaign would 'seriously diminish the threat' posed by Iraq's chemical and biological arsenal - though it would not, he admitted, destroy it." (3)

In other words, the best that could be said for military action was that it might achieve about as much as the non-military option of inspections. Neither would be an unqualified success, but both would certainly create some serious obstacles in Iraq's pursuit of a weapons of mass destruction capacity. But why is minimal success enough to justify military action, while similarly qualified success renders diplomacy inadequate?

Military effectiveness

The world community is obviously obliged to pursue measures to gain Iraq's compliance with international standards and obligations, but it has the additional obligation to use means that themselves pass the test of effectiveness, not to mention respect for the law and for the welfare of the people of Iraq.

There is no conclusive evidence available to suggest that any military attack will succeed where diplomacy has failed. Indeed, the most persuasive evidence suggests that repeated military attacks in 1991 and since then have failed to destroy either suspected stockpiles or the capacity to pursue further production, and such attacks certainly have not ended President Hussein's apparent ambition to acquire such weapons. There is no evidence that what failed in 1991 and in subsequent air attacks would succeed in 1998. It is the people who would be hurt most, with the likely result that their enmity toward the West would increase as would their support for Mr. Hussein's tyrannical regime.

Furthermore, if the objective is to reduce the danger of Iraqi use of such weapons and to prevent them from doing harm, it might be argued that a military attack would dramatically escalate the risk of their being used against the neighbours of Iraq, and of dangerous chemical, biological or nuclear materials being leaked into the atmosphere by virtue of explosions. In other words, as Gen. Lewis MacKenzie (Ret.) put it, "there are no 'good' targets" in Iraq. (4) Use of military force thus would be truly irrational. It would be destructive and contrary to the short- and long-term interests of those carrying out the military attack.

Indeed, a credible view is that even though the US was shaking a big stick at Saddam, it was ill-prepared to use that stick (it did not have credible targets and was worried that its attacks would find few purely military targets and that it would soon get caught up in controversy related to attacks, if not directly on civilian targets, then with considerable civilian collateral damage and killing). In this scenario, Mr. Annan got the US out of a difficult jam by allowing it to save face while backing down from a military confrontation. Saddam Hussein, if he is as coldly calculating as claimed, far from being intimidated by military attack, may well have welcomed it - the outcome of which could well have been further alienation of the US in the region and more broadly internationally, and the strengthening of his own image at home as the one who defies superpowers.

Whatever the scenario of choice, if the threat of force did indeed help to persuade Saddam Hussein to be more cooperative, at least for the moment, then the challenge is to find alternative, non-military and less tragic means of compelling outlaw regimes to conform to international standards. How can we manage to do more with diplomacy that does not rely on the threat, and inevitably the use, of force?

Human security

Ever since the latter years of the Cold War, public discourse on war and peace has been undergoing profound changes. The focus has shifted from notions of national security as military defence to human security, having to do with the safety and welfare of each person. Emphasis thus shifts from the military protection of order to the need to build the social, economic and political conditions essential to sustaining peace. This new discourse identifies the foundation of peace, not as the military prowess that protects it, but as the civil society that expresses it and practices it.

While there is no guarantee that military action against Iraq would find and destroy weapons depots or the capacity to build weapons of mass destruction, it could be expected to further weaken the Iraqi people and Iraqi civil society. And to undermine the strength and the will of the people of Iraq is to undermine the very objectives ascribed to both international diplomacy and military action toward Iraq - that is, the establishment of a regime that respects international law and the wishes and interests of its people.

The new peacebuilding paradigm advanced by Canada's current foreign policy recognizes that enduring peace is built from the people up - it requires social, economic and political conditions that are inclusive, meet the basic needs of people, and respect basic rights. These are conditions that cannot be delivered in turnkey fashion from the outside; they must be nurtured within while being supported from without.

Peacebuilding, of course, is itself not painfree. It takes a long time to build peace from below, but if it is supported, rather than undermined by destructive military and economic interventions, it can be both effective and politically expedient. To pursue a policy that obviously and persistently seeks to advance the welfare of the people of Iraq, while holding its regime accountable to international standards, would obviously win support for the international community's response to Iraq where it is most needed, domestically in Iraq and within the Arab world.

The new security paradigm obviously does not reject all resort to military force as a practical tool. Such force has a role in repelling attacking forces; it can be used to occupy territory. But military force cannot be used to build peace. That is the key insight of human security and peacebuilding. Peace requires economic, social and political conditions that are conducive to peace.

Civil society

In Iraq, besides the obvious objective of nurturing conditions conducive to long-term peace and stability, there is the more immediate objective of bringing an outlaw regime into compliance with international standards. But, of course, the point is that the latter depends in considerable measure on the former. The military removal or intimidation of the present Iraqi regime would lead simply to another tyranny as long as Iraq lacks the civil society to take hold of society and give peace its active expression. Without that, getting rid of Saddam Hussein would lead only to his replacement by another figure or figures equally undisciplined, precisely because there is not a credible civil society to counterbalance the regime and to hold the regime accountable in some credible way. Without a cohesive social/political order to give it stability and to hold it together, Iraq faces only two credible options: one, continuing tyranny, or two, breaking up into multiple factions or states, each less stable than the other.

Above all Iraq needs a vibrant civil society that pursues participation in the public process, that defines the public welfare, and that demands that Iraq abide by international law. There may be times when such a society could come under military threat and would resort to military defence - that is normal and obvious - but a stable peaceful order depends on the kind of government, not on the kind of military, that is available. In relations with Indonesia, for example, even US Senator Jesse Helms associates himself with the view that what is needed is greater attention to democracy and to political reforms that would pave the way for a peaceful, post-Suharto transition, (5) but no one in that context thinks it is a process that can be accelerated by military threats or intervention. Domestic justice and international stability in Asia and other regions require that the despots be removed in favour of participatory governments, but the question is how to remove them - and the universal answer, except for a few diehards on Iraq and Cuba, is that it cannot be done militarily.

It is a genuinely grave problem to tolerate indefinitely an outlaw state's persistent and flagrant violation of international law and obligations. The credibility of the UN and the rule of law are both undermined, to the detriment of international security. Indeed, it might be argued that the international community's willingness to tolerate persistent defiance of other Security Council resolutions related to the Middle East has contributed to the weakening of the UN and to undermining the international community's capacity to act effectively in the Iraq case.

Looking ahead

The most fundamental requirement now is that the crisis atmosphere that has now been diffused be prevented from re-emerging and that the pursuit of a vigorous peace diplomacy be supported by measures for peace-building from below or from within. It is clearly in the interests of the Iraqi people that its government be in compliance with international law, and that its government eschew the development of weapon of mass destruction. It is in the interests of the international community to empower the Iraqi people to make such demands more effectively. Such empowerment will come only through economic recovery and through international support for civil society and responsible governance.

To undermine the current regime, it will be necessary to strengthen the people - to become allied with the Iraqi people and to support them as they try to bring their government to account. Military attacks that do not have clear military targets and objectives end up only destroying people, impoverishing them and forcing them to struggle for survival rather than their rights.

(1) Economist, "Playing on the brink," 28 February 1998, p. 25.

(2) William Safire, "To make good the threats against Saddam Hussein," Globe and Mail, 3 February 1998.

(3) Economist, "Mercy Mission to Baghdad," 21 February 1998.

(4) Lewis MacKenzie, "Bomb Baghdad? Canada should opt out," Globe and Mail, 10 February 1998.

(5) Fred Hiatt, "Find a Way To Help Democracy," Guardian Weekly, 1 March 1998.
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Author:Regehr, Ernie
Publication:Ploughshares Monitor
Date:Mar 1, 1998
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