‘Unavoidable’ attack on Iraq and its global consequences

Posted by Admin on Wednesday, 5 February 2003 | Opini

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Wed, 02/05/2003 7:18 AM

Sayidiman Suryohadiprojo, Former Governor, National Resilience Institute (Lemhanas), Jakarta

After listening to President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address a U.S. invasion of Iraq seems to be almost inevitable. It is now only a matter of when the attack will start. Only if Saddam Hussein is willing to go into exile can the war be avoided. A very slim possibility, looking at Saddam Hussein’s state of mind.

The U.S. President and his hawkish assistants are sure that a war in Iraq will be short. It will be followed by the establishment of a democratic regime that will change not only Iraq but also the Middle East. A very bright and hopeful proposition indeed.

Considering the overwhelming power of the U.S. military forces it is highly probable that the U.S. will win the war very quickly, perhaps within only a matter of weeks or even days.

However to win a war does not automatically mean to win the peace, and that is ultimately what needs to be achieved if the U.S. wants to benefit from its war in Iraq.

To win the peace means that the U.S should be able to repeat what it did in Germany and Japan after World War II. That means that military operations should be continued by a military occupation of Iraq which is very necessary to support a political and economic consolidation of the military victory.

Looking at the objective conditions of Iraq with its many controversies caused by different ethnicities, tribes and religious beliefs, a political consolidation to establish a reliable government is far from easy.

It is not easy to make the shiah people cooperate with those of the sunni (followers of Islam) with their historical differences. No less difficult is to accommodate the Kurds in the north. Anyhow, it is almost sure that political stability requires the full back-up and support of a long lasting military occupation.

But this is definitely not what the U.S. wants, because not only are its military forces required for other strategic actions, it also would not be supported by the majority of the American people who want to have their sons home.

We must remember that the U.S. strategic capability is limited to a one-and-a-half-war strategy, while there are problems with North Korea and Iran. Moreover, a long military occupation requires logistical and financial support that will be a burden for the U.S.

Therefore, the U.S. needs the cooperation of other and preferably rich nations that are willing and able to provide the military occupation force and the financial support for establishing a new Iraqi government.

If Germany and France are still rejecting unilateral U.S. action, their cooperation can only be expected if the United Nations agrees that a war in Iraq is necessary. Another factor is the strong opposition against war everywhere, even in the U.S. and Britain.

If so many people oppose the war, would it be possible for democratic governments in Germany, France and Japan to participate in war actions, even in forming occupation forces after the war. It is therefore far from sure that the political and economic consolidation of a short military war will go smoothly and quickly.

Another important question is the reaction of the Middle East people to a war on Iraq. Although many people hate Saddam Husein, a U.S. war against Iraq would create strong negative reactions among the Arab people.

If that happens, is it assured that the oil and gas supply from the Middle East countries to the international world can continue normally? What will happen to European and Japanese oil and gas requirements?

The price of oil and gas will definitely rise. Some people estimate that the present price of US$30 can go to around $80. If the consolidation of Iraq does not achieve its objectives in a short time, and as long as the general emotional condition of the Arab people cannot be improved, a situation of uncertain oil and gas supply will prevail all over the world.

It is not easy to predict the economic, social and security consequences that will come in that situation.

Anti-Americanism will certainly increase in strength, especially among the Muslim youth. That will strengthen Islam radicalism and the possibility for Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda to enlarge their recruitment in all the countries with Muslim populations.

In other words, international terrorism that initially became the main U.S. war objective will become stronger and not weaker and will broaden its area of operations. Is that not against U.S. interests?

For Indonesia that is now already burdened with so many problems, the consequences of an Iraq war are very disturbing. The economy will be hardly affected and more and more people are becoming poorer. It will have social repercussions in labor and ethnic dissatisfactions that ultimately will worsen the security situation.

A strong Muslim reaction will radicalize Muslim youth and increase the possibility of violence among different religions and ethnicities.

Is President Megawati Soekarnoputri and her government capable of confronting these problems? If not, what are the consequences of a change of government and leadership before normal elections?

These are consequences of a Iraq War that can be envisioned. However, there are many more that cannot be predicted in a situation with such a high uncertainty. What we can do is only to hope for the best.

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