The moral fog of war
There is one segment of the American population that is staunchly antiwar. Those Americans are quite noticeable as they protest in large cities and carry signs supporting France and Germany while calling for an end to hostilities.
There is also a segment of the population that is pro-war and supports President George W. Bush. They eat their “freedom” fries and “freedom” toast, and their protests have become larger and more noticeable.
The rest of the population, however, finds itself lost in a moral fog groping for an answer. Most people agree that Saddam Hussein is an evil man who deserves to go, and the Iraqi people will be fine without him. But does the end justify the means?
The answer to the question is multifaceted and far from black and white. All sides involved have pointed at others and claimed ulterior motives. But who is right? Does one side completely hold the upper ground?
Maybe leaders of all the involved countries truly believe they are doing the right thing. But, in the course of history, decisions were usually made for two reasons: power and money. Is this the case in Iraq?
The best place to start when dissecting that answer is France, which has been extremely vocal in its opposition to war. Some have praised France for standing up to the United States, while others have said the country has a Napoleon complex when it comes to world politics and will do anything to go against Washington.
Economically, France would benefit if the current Iraqi regime stayed in power. The BBC reports that France exports $3.5 billion worth of products to Iraq each year. That stands to change greatly when American companies enter Iraq for rebuilding.
Germany has joined France in vocally opposing war, to the political benefit of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. The German people, still deeply scarred by two world wars, made it clear they do not want to be involved in the war. Schroeder, who was struggling to gain re-election last summer, jumped on the antiwar bandwagon and rode it back into office.
But Schroeder may have had economics, as well as re-election, on his mind. German exports have risen steadily during the past four years. According to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Germany exported more than $300 million in machines, technology, medicine, automobiles and other goods to Iraq in 2001.
Russia, another prominent antiwar country, had interests in Iraq that will probably now be affected.
France, Germany and Russia all have substantial footholds in the Iraqi economy. The United States and Britain will work their way into the Middle East.
Several reports in the United Kingdom have indicated that its economy will slow down this year. Iraqi business would help, and oil is always a concern for the British, who have routinely paid up to four times as much as Americans for gas.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the sluggish American economy stands to gain substantially from the war. Critics have argued that it is the economy, and not an alleged threat from weapons of mass destruction, that motivated an American attack.
The Bush administration has, maybe unintentionally, fed fuel to that fire. Halliburton, a company for which Vice President Dick Cheney formerly served as chief executive, will reportedly be involved in rebuilding Iraqi oil fields after the conflict.
The company had come under harsh criticism when it was announced as a candidate for a $600-million contract to rebuild Iraq. The Washington Post reported Sunday that the company will no longer be considered for that contract.
But the United States will only consider American companies for the project. European companies have responded with the expected level of anger. Some Americans have also responded with anger, saying that such exclusion will lead to similar behavior from European countries in the future.
After rebuilding, the United States will likely be firmly implanted as an economic power in Iraq, possibly at the exclusion of European nations. So does the entire argument to the war boil down to nothing more than political wrangling and economics?
It’s a possibility. And another possibility is that the balance of power in the Middle East will be greatly upset, the results of which are unknown.
Lost in all of the political jostling is the United Nations. The group, which has put a lot of time and effort into Iraq during the last decade to avoid the current conflict, seems to be hopelessly caught in the middle. Critics say the United States stepped over the United Nations to get what it wanted in the region. Supporters of the Bush administration say the United Nations was not acting strongly enough, and that France and Germany were playing the organization in their favor.
Determining who is right leads directly back into that moral fog.
But one result may be that the United Nations may never be again what it was. Only time will tell whether it will be a puppet group or resume its former role as global watchdog.