While this might disappoint the Free Press and others, I want to clarify that this response to Matt Gutman’s article and Professor McAllister’s March 4 speech is not a defense of Saddam Hussein. Rather, in claiming that the problem is not with Saddam Hussein per se but with American foreign policy and its larger geopolitical structure, I might dare to be more patriotic than the Free Press.
Matt marvels at Saddam Hussein’s Machiavellian political skills; however, in his condemnation of the ruthless dictator, Matt fails to look at the history of American policy that has to a large extent contributed to the crisis. While Matt is correct in pointing out Iraq’s use of chemical weapons, he fails to note that in 1988 the U.S. was Iraq’s ally and that in 1991, out of fear of creating a power vacuum in the Middle East, the U.S. tacitly supported the use of Iraqi chemical weapons.
This makes the U.S.’s sudden concern with Iraq’s historical use of chemical weapons a little suspect; not to mention, the only country to use atomic weapons against its enemy, to the best of my knowledge, is the United States. As an aside, contrary to Matt’s statement, the Kurds are not Saddam’s people; although they are under his sovereignty, Saddam is not a Kurd.
Furthermore, in reference to Hussein’s two invasions, the U.S. supported his invasion of Iran, thus making it seem as if it would treat the Kuwaiti case as an inter-Arab dispute. It was not until after the act that America came to the defense of Kuwaiti sovereignty.
In his speech, however, McAllister stated that past U.S. mistakes should not immobilize us in future actions. This is a very compelling argument and would have some force if American hypocrisy in the international world was not continuing unabated. For instance, there is the now famous East Timor situation.
American hypocrisy does not end there. America supports many other Middle Eastern dictatorships that suppress their dissidents just as ruthlessly as Hussein, i.e., Turkey, Saudi Arabia, etc.
Furthermore, the historic unconditional American support of Israel, a country that has been in violation of U.N. resolutions from its creation (U.N. Resolution 181 guarantees the right of refugees to return or be compensated), makes America’s position less viable.
Just as relevant is America’s tacit support of Israel’s illegal 30-year military occupation and its illegal development of nuclear weapons. In fact, Israel has signed no nuclear nonproliferation treaties.
McAllister claims that these comparisons are irrelevant and harmful, but can we really pretend that these double standards are meaningless? If we do make this claim, what moral ground will we be standing on?
So what am I getting at? I would say that both McAllister and Matt Gutman are wrong in claiming the sole problem is Saddam Hussein and the way to approach this problem is through realist policies that callously see human life as just another variable.
The anti-Hobbesian principle of treating people as ends in themselves is one of the core ideas of the Enlightenment and, therefore, of our country. Our greatest successes as a country have come when we have been loyal to this ideal and our greatest sins and tragedies have occurred when we have violated it. Our failure in foreign affairs has largely come about due to our subscription to the realist school of thought which violates this Kantian principle. If we did apply this principle to the rest of the world, we would avoid more situations like the one we currently face, as the status quo will just create another dictator. The status quo, after all, helped produce a Kabila in the place of Muboto. Furthermore, less hypocrisy and fewer double standards will enable us to handle such situations with greater ease. While McAllister and Gutman will probably call me a Chamberlain, I say that we should not be stupid and maybe we must oppose Saddam Hussein now; however, rather than simply replacing Hussein, we must change our fundamental way of looking at our foreign policy and make it more humane if we want to ensure peace in the long run. While this will not be a panacea, it will be a start and it will be more moral. After all, as the father of realism, E.H. Carr, admitted, there must be a purpose to international relations other than power politics.