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l August 2003 l

The Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

l Vol 2, No 4 l

P E R S P E C T I V E

Iraq: Can Unilateralism work?

Swaraj Singh


It is becoming increasingly clear that the unilateralist policy is not working in Iraq. I had discussions with several Indians, and they felt that India was all set to send 17,000 troops to Iraq. I begged to differ with them; I said, “India is not going to agree to send troops.” The reason for India’s refusal is that India’s fundamental interests are served by following a multilateral rather than unilateral approach to the world’s problems.

It is not just India which did not want to send troops without a mandate from the United Nations but there are many other countries, including France and Germany, among the seventy countries which were asked to send troops but did not agree. Only the impoverished Eastern European countries and countries like Pakistan, which can be easily persuaded by some financial rewards, have agreed to send troops.

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So far, the inability to find any weapons of mass destruction and the veracity of the reports on uranium by the intelligence agencies has become a big embarrassment. But it is the specter of a prolonged guerrilla war which is the most frightening. The longer the foreign troops stay in Iraq, the more they will be perceived as an occupying force by the local population leading to more hostilities against them, making it harder to pull them out. This is called a vicious cycle. The longer the war drags on, the less popular it will become.

 

It is not just Iraq, where initial euphoria about a quick success with minimal casualties is waning away but the war before Iraq--in Afghanistan--is looking gloomier everyday. It is becoming apparent that even after a couple of years of occupation, Afghanistan remains a chaotic and dangerous country. This situation in Afghanistan makes the other countries reluctant to get involved in Iraq.

 

Even more alarming is the prospect of going after the other members of the “Axis of Evil,” North Korea and Iran. The Chinese are very concerned because their intelligence feels that North Korea now has the capability to create a nuclear bomb. The specter of a nuclear war in their backyard is of course making them jittery but it should be a great concern for the rest of the world also.

 

Similarly, Iran can prove much more difficult than Iraq because the Islamic government there is much more firmly entrenched than Saddam Hussein was in Iraq. There is still another aspect which has to be considered: how war with Iran will effect the Shiite population in Iraq who are supposed to be allies against Saddam Hussein.

 

In a complex and interrelated world, no country can afford to follow unilateralist policies. The conventional wisdom states that a multilateral perspective has always more depth than a unilateral perspective.

 

India’s refusal to get involved in Iraq without a mandate from the United Nations is not an isolated step but is a part of the general trend of India’s moving towards Russia and China to form a strategic alliance. Similarly, France and Germany are moving towards a stronger European alliance. All these countries are realizing that the world order needs a multilateral approach in order to function. That is the reason that these countries and a growing number of people all over the world are being won over by the concept of a multipolar world.

 

Even now the only hope of a peaceful solution to the Iraqi crisis may lie in bringing the global community together and evolving a multilateral approach. At present, the United Nations has been practically rendered ineffective by a unilateral action in Iraq. President Bush’s recent trip to Africa and his trying to address global problems such as AIDS might represent a realization that a unilateral approach is running into difficulties. We certainly hope that the prestige of the United Nations is revived and that it is made relevant and effective again before it is too late. If the Iraq crisis is not resolved soon by the multilateral approach of the global community then the crisis may reach the point of no return. Unilateralism cannot solve the crisis



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