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David Miller : What happens After the War?

David Miller Online:

What happens After the War?

It is interesting to see that even after the onset of hostilities in Iraq, many people are still protesting about the war, even in Christchurch. I am not surprised that there is opposition to the conflict here rather that there is something more important than the possibility that the Crusaders will not be in the Super 12 final for people to worry about.

Just last Friday I was accosted by a rather ethereal looking chap while at University offering me a protest pamphlet and calling on me to attend some of the rallies that are being held around Christchurch. I politely declined.

My reason for doing so is not that I am in favour of war. I have maintained that Saddam Hussein must be disarmed throughout my columns and I have always believed that if the coalition had taken the opportunity to topple him in 1991, then the problems of the past twelve years and this war would not have taken place.

I still believe that Saddam is a threat to the stability of the Middle East region, most specifically neighbouring states and his own people, for example the Kurds and the Shi’ites. Any leader who is prepared to use chemical weapons once is certainly a man who will do it again given the capabilities and the excuse to do so.

However, my principle reason for not joining the peace cause is that public opinion, both in New Zealand and around the world, counts for little when it comes to influencing world leaders and was never going to be powerful enough to prevent a war.

Given the constant US and British military presence in the Persian Gulf and the fact that Saddam’s term in office had outlasted that of two previous President’s and Prime Minister’s then this war was a forgone conclusion. It was going to happen sooner or later and September 11 was the catalyst that brought the timetable forward.

Given that the war in Iraq has started, and there will be no withdrawal of US and British forces until they are in control of Baghdad, attention should be focused now on what will happen once the fighting stops and not complaining about a campaign that has started. What will happen to Iraq and its people once Saddam is defeated?

If there is no stable government that can replace Saddam then the vacuum could be filled by factional chaos and ethnic and religious division. Already there is concern that the Kurdish dominated northern area of Iraq will seek greater autonomy and even independence and this has prompted Turkey to deploy forces.

The United States and Britain must ensure that in rebuilding Iraq, there is not a repeat of 1991 when they encouraged the Kurds and the Shi’ites to rise against the Baghdad government only to abandon them and leave them to be crushed by Saddam’s forces.

Although many countries around the world, including New Zealand have pledged aid to help the humanitarian effort and to rebuild Iraq, it is unlikely that many companies and organisations outside of the US and Britain will be granted any opportunity to invest in the reconstruction of the Iraqi economy.

This has lead to accusations of cronyism on the part of the Allies and there will be claims that the war was waged only to serve US and British business interests but it is an important point. Successful contractors have the potential to reap billions of dollars especially as oil is involved and this will surely lead to a scramble on the part of many countries and firms to stake a claim of this lucrative market.

Despite the ground campaign still being in its early stages, questions concerning the government and rebuilding of Iraq have already been raised and will increase as this war continues. Given that so many nations openly opposed the invasion and some used diplomatic powers to prevent a resolution being passed in the United Nations then it is likely that they will miss out on any spoils of war.

Had this campaign taken place under UN auspices then their claim would have been greatly enhanced. In this case, the Bush Administration will determine who the beneficiaries are and British companies are already knocking at his door.

Establishing a post-Saddam government will prove a greater challenge as the first priority for the US and Britain will be to keep the country together. I suspect that the Iraqi National Congress, which has been portrayed as a government in exile waiting to return, will be ones the US turn to first.

However there are doubts as to the unity of this organisation and whether it can hold together if it assumes power. There are also other dissident Iraqi groups around the world who will feel that they also must be included in any new government.

Rebuilding Iraq will be a monumental task and one that could prove to be a greater challenge for the US and Britain than overpowering Saddam. The Allies are responsible for the collapse of the current regime and they must carry the burden for the stability and progress of its successor. This will require the ongoing deployment of Allied forces but is certainly an issue that those who claim to be concerned for the plight of the Iraqi people should focus on.


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