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Après le 11 sept. 01


The Daily Telegraph (17 February 2003)
What if the march succeeds?

It is no small achievement to persuade the British people to march peacefully in their hundreds of thousands, and the organisers of Saturday's anti-war rally deserve congratulations. Some of the marchers, of course, were serial demonstrators - CND veterans, hard-Left agitators, Muslim activists - and many seemed to be more concerned about Palestine than Iraq.

Yet the usual suspects could not have accounted for numbers on this scale. It seems statistically likely that, as Armando Iannucci predicted in these pages last week, several Daily Telegraph readers, too, took to the streets. The marchers, by any measure, have earned the right to be taken seriously.

Let us, then, do precisely this. Let us imagine that the protesters get their way. Suppose that Tony Blair decides it would be morally wrong - or electorally unwise - to commit British troops to a war that lacks home support; that other world leaders, observing the rallies in their own capitals, make the same calculation; and that George Bush, seeing the international coalition fall away, and worried about the enthusiasm of American voters, backs down. What would happen then? Who would be the winners and who the losers?

The biggest winner would obviously be Saddam Hussein. His position, both in Iraq and across the Arab world, would become virtually unassailable. Having seen off both the United Nations and the United States, he would understandably feel that no force could stand in his way.

For which reason, the biggest losers would be Iraqi dissidents, a category that now effectively includes the entire Kurdish and Shi'ite populations - in other words, a majority of Saddam's subjects. On them would fall the vindictive wrath of a tyrant who regards them as agents of a foreign power, and who would no longer have cause to fear that power.

The UN weapons inspectors would also be immediate losers. After repeatedly being denied access to sensitive areas, they eventually left Iraq in despair four years ago. The only thing that persuaded Saddam to readmit them was the obvious readiness of the Americans and British to invade him again.

Take away that pressure and even the grudging and partial acceptance that Baghdad has offered UN officials would vanish. Secure in the knowledge that he would not be attacked, Saddam would soon exclude the inspectors again and return to building up his illegal arsenals.

Saddam's victory would not be confined to Iraq. Across the Middle East, strongmen would be heartened, reformers weakened. Since the Gulf War, Saddam has appeared isolated, a relic from a more brutal era. Were he successfully to face down the West, however, things would look very different. Any sense that there was an inexorable movement towards freedom and democracy in the Islamic world would evaporate. What Tony Blair might call "the forces of conservatism" in the Middle East would have won.

Indeed, the balance of power would be tilted on every continent. Dictators from Harare to Ashkhabad would feel that little bit freer to oppress their peoples. This may appear to be of little direct concern to the West (although it ought to concern the marchers, who claim to be passionately interested in the welfare of the Third World).

But some of these states have the capacity to threaten us, either directly or indirectly. What possible lesson could Kim Jong-il draw from an American climbdown, except that he will be able to build up his nuclear programme unmolested?

If North Korea would be a winner, Israel would be a loser. A state that has already fired missiles at Israeli cities, and which is the chief sponsor of terrorism against Israeli civilians, would have won itself time to manufacture deadlier poisons. One of the arguments against striking at Saddam is that, even if he has chemical and biological weapons, he poses no immediate threat to the United Kingdom.

This argument is almost certainly wrong; but even if it were true, there can be no doubt that he does pose an immediate threat to Israel. Those on Saturday's march who think of themselves as internationalists might usefully ask whether it is right to stand by and risk the second holocaust that would result from Iraq acquiring the ability to rain death at a distance.

In reality, of course, some of the marchers might secretly - or not so secretly - support the destruction of the Jewish state. But, even from their point of view, it is hard to see what is gained from keeping Saddam in power. "Freedom for Palestine," proclaimed their banners. But there is not the remotest prospect of Israelis agreeing to create a Palestinian state while Saddam is on their horizon, paying suicide bombers and brewing new poison gases.

If Israel and Palestine would number among the losers, so would the United States. Again, many of the marchers might heartily applaud such an outcome. But it is worth standing back and asking who, in the absence of America and her allies, would uphold the law among nations.

Again and again, when tyrants threaten world peace, it has been the free English-speaking peoples - the "Anglosphere", in the current phrase - who have acted to check them. Sometimes this has involved a major conflagration - the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War - sometimes it has been more localised, as in the Gulf War, or the recent Afghan campaign. The alternative to this hegemony of law-based, free nations is not rule by the UN, or by some benign international co-operative.

If nothing else, the current crisis has demonstrated that, without Anglo-Saxon readiness to deploy proportionate force, the UN would devolve into League of Nations-style feebleness. Monsters of the Saddam mould might curb their misbehaviour because they fear America; they do not fear Belgium.

One other winner must be reckoned: an Anglo-Saxon climbdown would be a delicious victory for France and Germany. The way of doing business in the world would change. To Old Europe, the American approach to international relations is crude and simplistic. But what EU diplomats think of as subtlety might equally be called compromised morality.

What "constructive engagement" and "targeted sanctions" actually mean is that Europeans are reluctant to crack down on regimes that attack their neighbours. A world in which America withdrew into herself and the old Continent took over her role would be a dirtier and more dangerous one.

Finally, the victory of Old Europe would be a catastrophe for Mr Blair. Instead of bestriding the Atlantic, he would have left Britain simultaneously distrusted in Washington and Brussels. (This would be especially true if, somehow, America were to go to war without Britain.) Domestically, too, Mr Blair would be terribly weakened, and the Labour Left conversely rampant.

Saddam stronger, Blair weaker; dictators jubilant, democrats despondent; more weapons, fewer inspections - is this really what hundreds of thousands were marching for? One of the ethical arguments used against the war, especially by churchmen, is that ends do not justify means, and that removing a tyrant does not warrant killing innocent people.

Yet this argument has a flip-side, namely that it is not enough to be well-intentioned if you have not worked out the results of your actions. Opponents of the war have a duty to think through the consequences of a Western retreat in the face of terror. There is little sign that they have done so.



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Dernière mise à jour: 17.02.2003

François Brutsch - Genève (Suisse) & London (UK)