There is a great deal of criticism against the war in Iraq, and the war on terror. In addition to ''Bush lied'' and ''where are the WMD's?'' it is frequently offered that America trained and equipped Saddaam Hussein in the 1980's. Why did the US remove a dictator it once supported and replace his government with a representative democracy?
James Woolsey, former director of the CIA, stated the following at a teach-in at the University of California at Los Angeles on April 2, 2003:
Yes, it's true. We did. We certainly didn't put in Saddam, the Ba'athists did that on their own. But we did back him in some limited ways in the 1980s in the war against Iran. He represented himself to be, and the Reagan administration at the time felt that he was, essentially, the lesser of two evils. And what was weighing on American minds very heavily then was the Iranian revolution of 1979, and particularly the seizure of the American hostages, which absolutely enraged this country. And I think enrages a lot of people here still, and is a rather major barrier to an understanding to the American and Iranian people, which is something I would very much like to see take place.
But, yes, we backed Saddam in limited ways, mainly with intelligence information against Iran during the 80's war between the two. But that shouldn't mean that when we come to our senses we can't take a different tact. Whether it was wise or unwise to back him, I think it was unwise, that doesn't mean that we are forever locked into the proposition that we have to back Saddam Hussein.
Woolsey makes a good point. National interests change, alliances change.
During the Cold War foreign policy was a chess game between the Soviets and America. During this period each side supported its surrogates, and in some cases they were dictators or insurgents.
For example, during the Reagan Presidency the Contras in Nicaragua were supported to block Daniel Ortega's Sandinista socialist movement. Presidents Carter and Reagan both supported the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in order to prevent Soviet success there. The Taliban may have even been supported, at least in principle.
After the fall of the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in 1992, Afghanistan was thrown into civil war between competing mujahideen warlords. The Taliban eventually emerged as a force able to bring order to the country. The rise of the Taliban helped the economy by eliminating the payments that warlords demanded from business people; it brought political benefits by reducing factional fighting (although the Taliban fought aggressively against its enemies, its relative hegemony reduced the number of factions); and it brought social benefits by imposing a set of norms on a chaotic society. The Taliban enjoyed considerable support from Pashtun Afghans and from Pakistan. The United States hoped that the Taliban might push the warlords to resolve their differences and chose a ''hands-off'' policy. Although the radical ideology of the Taliban would later alienate many, several observers initially considered its emergence as a positive development.
Perhaps there were hopes for the Taliban at some point, but once the 9/11 terrorists were traced to Afghanistan, the Taliban became America's enemy. Again, national interests changed. The US went to war and drove the the terrorists and the Taliban from the country.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union things got more complicated, and dangerous. Instead of two camps opposing each other the lines of conflict and competition diverted. Countries held in check by their benefactor (either the US or the Soviets) now began exporting their own interests.
In Iraq, Saddam Hussein was widely believed to possess WMD's. This belief was expressed by the Clinton adminisration, a number of members of congress and Western Eurpoean allies. He had already gassed the Kurds in the north, invaded Kuwait and was offering $25,000.00 to the families of Palestinians who suicide bombed in Israel.
Saddam had failed to comply with UN resolutions placed on him after the US and its coalition partners drove him from Kuwait. Iraq continued to be a thorn in America's side throughout the Clinton administration. The Bush administration inherited this unfinished business when it came to power in 2000.
After linking Al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein and Iraq, along with widely believed intelligence reports regarding Iraq's WMD capability, President George W. Bush set the stage for invading Iraq. Though it is a point of contention with those against the Iraq war, Bush believed that allowing Hussein to share the WMD's he thought they had with the terrorists was unacceptable.
In the aftermath of both the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States has attempted to establish representative Democracies in countries that have only known severe totalitarianism or dictatorship for years. Previously America would have backed a new dictator or strongman that might be able to consolidate power. While that would have reflected previous foreign policy, and might have been the less costly and easier task, the Bush administration chose to seed a representative democracy.
Though there are still examples of dictators enjoying US support, this signals a change in American foreign policy.
By trying to seed Democracies in the Middle East the US is hoping to enable nation states who through self determination can become stable and peaceful neighbors and trading partners.
In a speech given March 8, 2005 at the National Defense University Fort Lesley J. McNair, President George W.Bush said:
The advance of hope in the Middle East also requires new thinking in the capitals of great democracies — including Washington, D.C. By now it should be clear that decades of excusing and accommodating tyranny, in the pursuit of stability, have only led to injustice and instability and tragedy. It should be clear that the advance of democracy leads to peace, because governments that respect the rights of their people also respect the rights of their neighbors. It should be clear that the best antidote to radicalism and terror is the tolerance and hope kindled in free societies. And our duty is now clear: For the sake of our long-term security, all free nations must stand with the forces of democracy and justice that have begun to transform the Middle East.
Perhaps democracy can break out in the Middle East. The Iraqi election has already had a positive effect in Lebanon. There are restless youth in Iran who want more freedom and Saudi Arabia has relented and permitted some local elections.
Like Germany and Japan after World War II, perhaps Iraq and Afghanistan can blossom into modern democracies and have a positive impact on their neighbors. Perhaps other nations in the Middle East can join in and create a region of peaceful prosperous democratic countries not unlike Western Europe.Powered by Sidelines