Prolonged rebuilding of Iraq can have debilitating consequences globally

The anxiety that had preoccupied the world in the recent past over a possible confrontation between the US and Iraq ended with the American invasion of that Middle Eastern country. However, this has created an even greater fear about the outcome of the mission and future of international peace.

US expectations of an early Iraqi collapse in the face of its massive onslaught didn’t materialise. Rather, it turned out to be a war that took weeks and a resulting humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of the fall of Saddam’s regime.

The inability to achieve an overnight victory can be attributed to the resistance mounted by the Iraqi forces and absence of the anticipated popular uprising against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

This resulted in a change in American strategy, which resorted to massive bombardment and air strikes on Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, causing widespread destruction to property and loss of life.

It’s possible that this can become a repetition of Vietnam and similar wars where superpowers got bogged down in overseas military operations.

There was never any doubt that the might of the US and its allies would prevail in the end. But the problem is the impact of war on combatants, the international community and humanity at large. Whatever the justification proffered, the invasion of Iraq is intolerable in the prevailing framework of international relations that is overseen by the UN.

The US invaded Iraq in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions. It was a unilateral decision by one state to attack another; and in this case, the United States is a world power and permanent member of the Security Council. Apart from being a crime against humanity, it’s a violation of the Charter of the United Nations to which all states are committed. Therefore, it is a setback to the aspirations of humanity for solidarity among nations as envisaged in the UN Charter.

The invasion amounts to a transgression of international law, and the resultant destruction of human life and property could make this aggression a crime against humanity. At a time when the resources of the world are needed to promote the wellbeing of humankind, this is a tragedy.

A prolonged humanitarian crisis could be a threat to the future of the world; and as such, it merits universal opposition and condemnation by members of the international community. But this has been hardly forthcoming.

The international reaction to the invasion and subsequent war in Iraq merits examination.  US action won scarcely any support from the international community with the exception of the UK, Australia and a few other states. It has been condemned by other leading nations such as Russia, China, France and Germany, apart from Arabian and Asian countries.

There were public demonstrations throughout the world including many in parts of the US. In the Arab world, such protests are probably an expression of comradeship with a fellow Islamic nation.

Public demonstrations are a clear indication of universal outrage though their practical impact is limited except as reactions at a human level. Many countries have expressed their concern over the event officially. At the same time, there is a noticeable absence of a concerted international action to intervene in the conflict.

One would have expected an appropriate reaction from the United Nations, as well as other multilateral bodies in the world such as the Commonwealth, the Non-Aligned Movement and other regional associations that aspire to play a role on the international scene.

It is ironic that American and British leaders have at this juncture invited the leaders of India and Pakistan to resolve their differences over Kashmir peacefully – and suggested that SAARC should take the initiative to this end.

This relative lack of a firm initiative by international bodies, which are normally quick to react to crisis situations in the world, is serious; it could be attributed to a desire not to incur the displeasure of the countries concerned or be accused of interfering.

The proposal that the UN should undertake humanitarian activities sounds like an anticlimax in relation to the key role it should have played by virtue of its position.

Whatever the justification for the invasion of Iraq, it is not acceptable from a nation within the membership of the UN. It amounts to a relapse or return to the mentality of the Cold War when the global powers displayed their armed might short of actual conflict.

One can conclude that the reaction of the international community through its accredited organs has fallen short of expectations.

BY  The late Deshamanya Dr. Vernon L. B. Mendis