ed121202: The Right Side of History
Still believe the conventional wisdom regarding a possible war with
Iraq -- that the United States will be forced to "go it alone"?
Then consider the case of France, who may well turn around and join
America in removing Saddam Hussein from power.
Yes, France. To be sure, Paris officials have made a near cottage
industry out of criticizing Washington's approach toward Iraq. Most
notably, French President Jacques Chirac attacked the doctrine of
pre-emptive action as "extraordinarily dangerous."
But as the Bush administration's overtures to the United Nations
bore fruit, the tune changed. Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie
declared that "the French armed forces are always ready" should
Saddam Hussein defy the will of the Security Council. Many senior
French strategists consider a war inevitable and admit privately
that they want to keep their options open. If anything, the trouble
won't be getting the French into Iraq but getting them back out
after the fighting's over.
France, like many other European countries, sees the writing on the
wall for Saddam. Indeed, the United States can expect to liberate
the people of Iraq with one of the biggest strategic and diplomatic
coalitions the world has seen in modern times.
Some nations, such as Britain, will join for the purest of motives
-- to end brutal repression and to remove the danger posed by
Baghdad's weapons of mass destruction. Financial interests will
coax others, such as France and Russia, into the coalition. Russia
has $7 billion worth of oil leases and loans tied up in Iraq and
recently unveiled a 10-year trade deal worth $60 billion. Moscow is
owed at least $10 billion in unpaid debts by the Iraqi regime. Its
cooperation depends on it being allowed to pursue these claims with
a post-war government. France also has extensive trade interests in
Whatever the reason, it's become clear -- from the warm welcome
President Bush received on his recent visits to newly inducted
members of NATO to his success at convincing Moscow and Paris to
sign on to the new U.N. resolution -- that the world wants to be
seen standing alongside Washington.
Not surprisingly, the United States and Britain would do nearly all
the fighting. The United States began moving troops and equipment
into the area months ago, and Britain is gearing up to send more
than 30,000 military personnel. Australian troops are also likely
to see combat.
NATO allies Spain and Italy would provide valuable logistical and
strategic support, along with younger members of the alliance, such
as Poland and the Czech Republic. Madrid and Rome can contribute
air bases, overflight rights and occupation forces for use after
the war, and they could help rally European support for the war
effort. Some of NATO's newly inducted members, such as Romania and
Estonia, will seize the chance to prove their military and
Key ally Turkey has agreed, with certain conditions, to allow the
United States and Britain to use certain air bases for offensive
operations against Iraq. These include the crucial base at
Incirlik, the Allies' only forward-operating base in the
Several Arab nations, such as Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar and possibly
Saudi Arabia, also are likely to co-operate in the event of war.
Saudi Arabia has indicated that it may allow America to use the
Prince Sultan Air Base near Riyadh to launch strikes against
It's important not to overestimate the significance of Arab public
opposition to a regime change in Baghdad. Saddam Hussein remains a
deeply unpopular figure in much of the Arab world, and few tears
would be shed in the Gulf over his demise.
Arab nations will also want to join in rebuilding post-war Iraq.
The commitment of the United States and Britain can't end with the
fall of Saddam Hussein. The British expect to have 15,000 of their
troops remain in the country for up to five years after Saddam
goes. The United States may have to make a similar commitment to
ensure long-term peace and stability in the region.
Who's likely to be AWOL? Germany. That's because Chancellor Gerhard
Schroeder used shortsighted anti-American, anti-war rhetoric to
revive his moribund campaign and win re-election this past
But electoral expediency is no excuse for moral cowardice, and as
the Germans should well know, appeasement doesn't bring down
dictators. They can either isolate themselves on the world stage,
or they can join what may be one of the biggest international
coalitions ever assembled to remove a menacing dictatorship from
power. The choice is theirs.
Nile Gardiner is visiting fellow in Anglo-American
security policy at The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org), a
Washington-based public policy research institute.
Distributed nationally on the Knight Ridder wire