There are two links I’ve seen on the net in the last couple of days that fill me with terror and foreboding. And I mean this literally – lying in bed awake at three in the morning worrying about what the world will be like in five years time. Time and time again I run through the various arguments for and against a war in Iraq – and time and again I find myself unable to take a position on the events themselves. But what is increasingly obvious to me is the terrible nature of the rhetoric and reasoning emerging from some quarters of the States at the moment. For this war – if it is coming – to have any legitimacy, then these arguments need to end straight away. Any war – if it comes – must be seen to be happening for the right reasons and to be seen to be being done for the right reasons as well.
The first link was on the site that I’ve spent the last few months building at UpMyStreet. On the community part of the site there was a conversation started called Selective Memory Loss: Germany & France. In this piece an American citizen argued a case I’ve heard quite frequently recently – that because of their action in the Second World War, Europe (particularly Britain and France) owe the United States a favour and should therefore support their war against Iraq.
The horror of this argument must surely be clear to everyone? Wars must not be entered into because of pressure from other countries or debts from the past. They must surely be entered into only because the war seems to be the unpleasant responsibility of the people concerned – that not to enter into war would be itself unethical. If the French and the German people – and their leaders – genuinely believe that a conflict in Iraq is not a moral enterprise, then they have no choice but to refuse to engage in it – even to try and stop such a war happening. And if America or Britain objects to such resistance, then it is their responsibility to persuade, to convince, to make the case.
The other article is even more terrifying. A representative of the Pentagon declares France to be ‘no longer [an] ally’ of the United States. Here’s a quote from the article in question:
Perle went on to question whether the United States should ever again seek the endorsement of the U.N. Security Council on a major issue of policy, stressing that “Iraq is going to be liberated, by the United States and whoever wants to join us, whether we get the approbation of the U.N. or any other institution.”
I would think this quotation would speak for itself. Unilateral action on the basis of overwhelming superiority of power rather than a certain degree of international consensus is the very model of a dictatorship. And the idea that the most powerful country in the world essentially gets to do what it wants unchecked in the world is terrifying beyond measure. It may seem ridiculous to Americans, but I think quite a lot of Europeans are beginning to wonder what would happen if America turned its attention our way… It almost makes you pine for the Cold War…