Condoleezza and the Salvation Mission
The imperial power and its mission, by EUGENIO SCALFARI
The new US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, made quite an impression during her recent trip to Europe which culminated in meetings with Jacques Chirac in Paris and with the NATO and EU allies in Brussels. Europe unanimously agrees that she is quite a fascinating personality with extraordinary mental abilities and a capacity for getting things done.
But what exactly did she want and what did she ask of the Europeans? Two things: to overcome the divisions of the past caused by the war against Iraq and to exhibit a willingness to work with President Bush in building a democratic Iraq. Additional troops have not been requested, but the training of Iraqi security forces as well as the constitution of a new governing elite capable of governing the country are necessary to guarantee Iraq’s security.
Rice said that the US-UK military coalition does not have an exit strategy yet made two seemingly ambiguous and contradictory statements. Her first statement was directed at the EU: From now on we must decide together. The second was, We will leave Iraqi when the job is done. But who decides when the job is done? And what job is she talking about, anyway?
Washingtonians say that to understand what is really going on in the US capital, you have to consult the real authority in the White House: Vice President Cheney. Prior to the Bush Administration, the opinion of the Vice President counted for very little. Now, however, the power of the Executive resides with Vice President Cheney. While Rice was traveling through the Middle East and Europe, Dick Cheney said something very specific concerning the job to be done. He said the job will be finished when the Iraqi armed forces can guarantee security within and without Iraq. Without. That is, vis-à-vis Iraq’s neighbors, meaning Syria and above all, Iran.
Such precision comes from Cheney, not from Condoleezza. Nevertheless, it’s obvious that they are both talking about the same thing. Rice pressed the Iran button again and again. Rice says there is no military option on the agenda for Iran. It may not be on the agenda, but it is still on the table because it must no be pulled it off and no one intends to remove it. Rice says Iran must be treated harshly, that the country must not be permitted to acquire a nuclear capability.
In her contacts with the European allies, the new Secretary of State eloquently and succinctly defined the strategy guiding the second Bush administration: The United States and the West must unite to spread the ideals of freedom and democratic institutions throughout the world. Assistance must be offered to bring down intolerant and tyrannical states. In Rice’s words, We are certain that our European allies, with their diplomatic, political and cultural experience, will fully join us in this mission, simultaneously incorporates Western values and concerns for its security.
President Bush himself is expected in Europe at the end of February. He will doubtlessly retrace the ground covered by Secretary Rice but with more authority due to his office. As usual, he will extol the West’s salvation mission to the rest of the world with inspiring words. He might vaunt two positive events: The Iraqi elections and the agreement initialed in Sharm el Sheik between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He will certainly be received in every European capital with friendship and respect. By what about after? What is going to happen afterwards?—What should happen afterwards?
What can we do to close the gaping Mesopotamian and Palestinian wounds, which despite some tepid progress remain open? And what can we do to prevent new, devastating conflicts from exploding in the hands of the imperial power should it be tempted once again by the military option?
Peace between Israel and Palestine is surely the most comforting news we’ve had during this roiling phase of missteps and postponements. The conditions are there for real progress and united action by the US together with Europe can be a deciding factor. We must create a Palestinian state as soon as possible and assist negotiations between the two sides, including massive financial assistance creating jobs, dignity and a stable income for the Palestinian people and returning Israel’s catastrophic financial condition to health. A partnership with the EU could also push things along towards a rapid and enduring solution, restoring hope and granting a future to peaceful cohabitation of these two peoples in that slender wedge of land.
In Iraq, despite the elections, the game is wide open. Wide open, including terrorism, which brings civil war nearer with each passing day. Wide open, with the emerging power of the Shi’ites, who demand an Islamic state, and the Kurds, whose demands go beyond federal autonomy to agitation for an independent state. We are already witnessing the nefarious and uncontrollable effects caused by those who, lifting the lid of Pandora’s Box, have caused a deadly toxic cloud to advance across the entire region.
There is not much that the European allies can do in the current situation. They can only help train the Iraqi security forces and argue for a gradual withdrawal of the occupation forces. They can also hope that solid guarantees will be granted to the Sunni minority. But these are just words. Events do not depend on us or on the United States. They depend on the Iraqi tribes, on prominent clerics, and on the economic assistance which the United States is able to give. Overall, Europe did not want this war. The postwar situation has dramatically proved that Europe was right. To place the Europeans before a fait accompli in order to persevere with missionary intentions is a pathetic ploy which will hopelessly delay any chance at healing the Iraqi wound.
Obviously, much depends on American public opinion. I’d like to ask a question which is not trivial in importance; if in Spring 2003 Bush had asked his country and the Congress to authorize a war on Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein, would he have been permitted to march in? Would Blair have received the green light from the House of Commons? They invented the pretext of weapons of mass destruction to get the authorization to go to war. Otherwise, the response by Congress and the House of Commons would have certainly been “no”. In spring 2003, the imperial power stacked the deck in its dealings with the UN, the international community and Europe. But above all, it duped public opinion within its own country.
It’s unlikely that the imperial power will succeed at this again lest we be plunged into two decades of untold hostility marked by a constellation of military conflicts.