Americans owe a debt of gratitude to the coalition of people and countries around the world that is trying to save us from a catastrophic war in Iraq.
In the recent UN Security Council debate on Iraq, 60 nations spoke against U.S. policy, and not a single country except Israel and the United Kingdom spoke for it. This global united front opposed not only Bush’s Iraq policy, but also the entire “Bush doctrine,” whereby the U.S. can unilaterally and preemptively attack any country it sees as a potential security threat.
A child could see that the Bush doctrine is divorced from reality. Four percent of the world’s people, however rich and well-armed, can’t control the rest of the world by themselves. And the American people in fact don’t buy the Bush doctrine. In an October Gallup poll, Americans say 51% to 40% that “the United States should not attack another country unless that country has attacked the United States first.”
Americans rightly fear the multitude of threats that are emerging around the world, from the proliferation of nuclear weapons to 9/11-style terrorism. The idea that we can protect ourselves from these threats by unilateral military adventures, however, is an illusion that undermines the one strategy that can really protect us.
The one approach that can deal effectively with these threats is the global coalition that is now seeking to impose weapons inspections on Iraq while simultaneously containing U.S. unilateralism. It currently includes all but three of the world’s countries. All Americans who care about battling the real dangers facing our country need to join this coalition.
But to join it we need to let the inspectors go to Iraq and do their job. The Bush administration must stop trying to impose conditions that U.S. officials have openly said are intended to provoke Iraqi resistance–so we have a pretext for going to war.
Then we need to start reversing the many other unilateralist policies that divide us from the global coalition. Take, for example, the war on terror. Our government is now telling us that–despite our supposedly victorious war in Afghanistan–we are no safer from terrorist attacks than we were on the eve of 9/11. But the idea that we could defeat terrorism from 20,000 feet in the air was absurd from the start. We might as well have bombed the Washington, DC metropolitan area to stop the sniper attacks.
Rather than threatening to bomb any country we accuse of harboring terrorists, we need international cooperation to track down people like Osama bin Laden and bring them to justice. And by the way, if we want to see justice done, we’d better switch from undermining to supporting the International Criminal Court.
Similarly, if we want to be safe from weapons of mass destruction, we need to give up the notion that we can eliminate them by attacking countries we accuse of having or wanting them. After Iraq, are we going to wipe out North Korea and Pakistan? How about Israel? Countries without nuclear weapons will continue to seek them as long as we go on building more ourselves. What we need to do instead is work with the rest of the world toward nuclear disarmament.
Of course, before joining the global coalition, Americans will have to get our own government under control. This may take regime change in America. And that would make the lives of ordinary Americans a whole lot safer.
Jeremy Brecher ([email protected]) is a Connecticut-based historian and the author of twelve books, including Globalization From Below, and a political commentator for Foreign Policy In Focus (online at www.fpif.org).