Apr 10 2003

The Lessons that should not be learnt

Published by at 12:00 am under Articles,US-Middle East

Israeli and US officials have been talking about the need for various other Arab regimes to learn the lesson from the scenes of anti Saddam Iraqis celebrating in the center of in Baghdad. Certainly the lesson of April 9th in Baghdad is that oppressive dictators will one day have to face their people. While it is important for people and leaders to learn the lessons of this war in Iraq, there are lessons that should not be learnt.

America, and its allies, should be careful about basking too much in this victory. The lessons to oppressive regimes are not necessarily a lesson to foreign liberators. What the US could do in this case can’t necessarily be repeated in another country, no matter how noble the causes might seem to be. The act of meddling in the affairs of people, changing regimes and using brute force to impose foreign will on another people are lessons that don’t automatically repeat themselves.

One may ask the simple question, why not? Despite seemingly lofty goal of removing dictators, the world’s super power needs to know the limits of military power. Otherwise such arrogant thinking has often led to the demise of countries who feel that they can wield their power against peoples and leaders the world over with little attention given to local needs.

For example, it is a mistake to compare the situation of Iraq with that of Palestine. The source of the Palestinian people’s desire for freedom and nationhood is not the result of Palestinians blindly following the political desires of Yasser Arafat. So unlike what Israelis think or wish, the Palestinian situation is not a case, which the lesson of Baghdad applies.

Similarly America and its allies should not fall in the trap of thinking that because of their success in Iraq, they could force their will on nearby countries like Syria or Iran. Not that these countries don’t need to have an interjection of democratic reform. But democracy is not a US export item that can be delivered using Abram tanks, cruise missiles, F-18s and B-52 bombers. There is a lot that can be done politically but there is definitely a limit to what can be done militarily.

The American success in Iraq should be viewed with extreme caution. The images of cheering Iraqis, notwithstanding, the feelings of many in the Arab world and in other parts of the world towards America are not pleasant. Even in Iraq, those people who have lost loved ones or property will not easily forget the price that they had to pay in order to reach that point. America also sacrificed many of its own principles in order to be able to do what it did in Iraq. Bypassing the UN and dividing Europe is a heavy price that leaves a bad taste in the minds of hearts of the international community, no matter what the end result has been.. Few will believe that this was only done for the sake of the oppressed Iraqis.

The gap between America and the Arabs that the war on Iraq has exposed needs to be quickly bridged. Much will depend on how the Americans will handle their new role. Mistakes in this position will be costly with ramifications in the form of creating troubles to America and Americans and will feed into Ben Ladinism

Around the world, many will also not forgive the Americans for their seemingly deceitful ways in order to accomplish their goals. Once the fighting started, the Americans and their allies seem to have forgotten about the weapons of mass destruction as they concentrated on toppling the Saddam regime. Many will not easily accept that the ends justify the means. World public opinion will continue to demand a higher goal of the world’s only remaining superpower.

Supporters of democracy and the centrality of people determining their own fate will have mixed feelings about the happy Baghdad scenes of relieved Iraqis. While believing in the goal, they question the process that lead to it. They certainly would not accept the concept that the lesson that should be learnt from the scenes in Baghdad can be easily repeated in other countries or regions simply with the wink of an American general.

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