Monday, March 10, 2003

to go to war or not to go to war seems to be the question these days -- just a couple of days ago on campus there was a walk-out [loads of free riders on that one though, considering the NASTY weather we had that day] protesting the war coupled with a teach-in at Rockefeller Chapel, and my conversations around our dining hall table at the very least have been war-centred in the last week or so. reading a piece in the New Yorker today has prompted today's blog: Kofi Annan said "Quite frankly, some of the recent arguments about wars of liberation, and of moral law...these are issues that the Council has never discussed. For the Council, the issue is disarmament, and all these other issues muddy the waters, and the public gets confused, and the Security Council and the U.N members get confused."

which prompts me to ask what the relevance of the U.N really is these days. its greatest claim to influence in the world is to give legitimacy to actions by world powers 'in the name of the nations of the world'. but when push comes to shove, do the great powers -or the Great Power really- need any real justification or legitimising approval from a world organisation that is paralysed without it? how much influence does the UN have, in reality? i respect Kofi Annan for all the work he's doing with the UN, and i think personally he really is a man who inspires respect and confidence, but at the same time, the organisation he represents is singularly dependent on the actions and beliefs of a few very powerful constituents. there's not much he can do if the US wants to take unilateral action against Iraq except say 'oh that's a really bad idea guys, you should wait for your friends in the SC to come on board.' not happening, boys and girls, not happening. the irony of Kofi Annan's success in redeeming the name of the UN is not that he has somehow made it better at all the things it's been doing, but that he has restricted its actions to what it can in fact do, rather than what it wishes it could do. no more 'peacekeeping missions' that are understaffed to an insane degree to places where it is equivalent to sending your troops to die. that kind of thing.

i would like to believe in a UN that has real authority in the world; i would like to believe that world governments can come to the discussion table and make logical decisions that are for the best for the entire world and not just their self-interested strategies. but it's not going to happen, at least not anytime soon. i'm not sure it can ever happen, because for that to happen nation-states are going to have to give up what amounts to a large chunk of their sovereignty to a 'world government'. that's always been one of the largest issues of the UN: national sovereignty. so i'm not sure the UN i would like to see, the UN that 'we, the peoples' signed up for way back when, is even possible in this world -- i think it's likely to remain a dream for those who wish to believe in a happier, more peaceful world.

but back to the war in Iraq. i think, after some thought, i'm gonna come out on cautiously on the side of going to war, for the following reasons but with the following reservations:

(1) there is no foreseeable alternative way to produce regime change in Iraq. even if we wait another thirty years for Saddam himself to die of old age, he has a bunch of like-minded sons sitting in the wings waiting to take over from good ol' dad. so we'd have essentially another Saddam sitting on the throne, threatening instability in the Mid. East, and worse, a Saddam who by then pretty much would be able to threaten the world with nukes.

(2) Nukes. we don't want Saddam to get nukes. we don't want a 'North Korea' sitting in the middle of the oil region, attempting to gain some kind of regional hegemony. we also don't want to have to continue to spend lots of time and money on containment, which may or may not work. it's also in the nature of an object lesson. 'don't get nukes, other countries who have such ludicrous ideas, 'cos this is what'll happen to you if you do.'

(3) Humanitarian intervention, as the UN would put it: economic sanctions that are imposed by the UN currently hurt everyone but the ones in power. people are starving to death, people are dying from the lack of medical care, because of the sanctions that the uppity-ups and the government work around with illegal trades in oil through neighbouring countries. so better a relatively short, nasty war than another twenty years of suffering for the peoples, esp in the name of the UN. [as an aside, is this really all the UN can do? slap economic sanctions that serve only to hurt the people they want to protect? the short answer is yes. with no political will and no independent military power, that's what they're left with. standing army for the UN, anyone?]

on the other hand, we have:

(1) the US has had a long time to go to war with Iraq, why now? we've known for a long time that he's been building biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, we've known that he has these weapons programs no matter how much he denies it. we've known that he's been evading weapons inspections and making the lives in inspectors hell [good on them, they're tough kids] trying to hide these programs from them. if he's been playing games with the world community upwards of a decade, why did we wait so long to go after him with any kind of decisive force? where's this political will coming from?

(2) i'm unhappy with the rhetoric of 'moral law' and 'wars of liberation', just on a personal level. i can handle it if the idea is containment, regime change, that sort of strategic. i'm unhappy with the moralistic rhetoric coming out of the Oval Office and 10 Downing St about liberation and the battle for democracy. -wrinkle nose- though i do agree to a certain extent that the issue of control of nuclear proliferation esp in hands of 'rogue states' [who defines those, by the way?] is sufficient strategic motivation. [as a quick aside, i'm unhappy with Oe's characterisation of the US adminstration's motivations for dropping the Bomb in WWII: he's giving a primarily strategic decision entirely too much moralistic emphasis. gah. he's a Romantic, and i think i outgrew that sometime in JC when i started learning about the madness in the Middle East conflict.]

i've nothing to say abt possible deaths, or good vs. evil in this argument. for the first: suck it up, shit happens, we just have to deal with it when crazy people take control of an entire country and leave us with no way to deal with them except all out war; for the second, we all know what i have to say abt the idea of good vs evil in this world. hah.

for the latest news on the war on Iraq visit CNN, where they have a special report on Iraqi shenanigans and American/British press squabblings. =) in particular, a March 17th deadline has now been set for Iraqi compliance with UN resolutions passed in the very recent past re: Disarmament. we'll see what happens when the deadline is passed, and Saddam sits laughing at us in the middle of some building marked with a huge red cross on its roof.

welcome to tenth week at the U of C: time to do homework --


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