some random thoughts on iraq and the nature of leadership
NOTE: It should be mentioned that I am remarkably uninformed on this subject
The general opinion of a large number of people I know is that the War on Iraq (or whatever the most popular euphemism of the day is) was/is a mistake and that the troops should be withdrawn post-haste.
One of the few things I clearly recall from my course in Internation Relations is that, while democratic societies are exceptionally stable (and apparently almost never go to war against each other), democratizing states are exceptionally unstable as various parties jostle for position. Iraq, I believe, is a country in the process of democratizing. Therefore it does indeed seem necessary for an external force to present in case everything goes shit-wise. That external force in this case is (essentially) the U.S.
And therein lies the problem.
The problem is not necessarily that it is the U.S. specifically that is guarding the democratizing process (though that certainly carries its own baggage) but that it is predominantly only one country that is providing the guiding hand.
I would argue that any external country involved in another country's democratizing process is bound to end up wanting to protect itself, and to try to influence the process so that it comes out of it well. You could argue all day over whether this is the right thing to do (a country's government is surely supposed to protect it's own people, and yet shouldn't the people of primary importance here be the people of Iraq?) but it is going to happen whether it is morally wrong or right. (After all, who would re-elect a government that actively endangered him/her).
However, the more countries involved in guding the democratizing the more the individual desires of each nation would be blunted, and eventually, with enough people involved, the forces democratizing a nation would be molded into something as close to a win-win-situation for all as possible.
Basically, what I am saying is that the US going into Iraq (essentially) unilaterally was a mistake.
However, I do believe that removing Sadam Hussein from power was the right thing to do. The morally right thing to do. WMD or no (and I think no) I believe that Saddam Husseub is a vile human being who was doing vile things to a large number of people. It was a good thing for a large number of people that he was removed from power.
My question though, is whether Sadam Hussein would have been removed from power had the US waited for the international community to assist? There certainly is a chance that the international community would have said, yes, this man must be stopped. However, it would have taken a long time and more people would have been hurt. And there is also the chance that the international community would have said, no, we don't think it is within our purview to take this action, Sadam Hussein is not threatening any of us. Essentially the people of Iraq would have been abandonned to the whims of a madman, as long as that madman didn't threaten anyone outside of his own borders.
I have phrased this so it sounds like a Satanic position to hold, which belies my own feelings, but it is an understandable stance. Why should a country endanger its own people (a large number of people) for anothers?
Essentially, for it to be certain that the war on Iraq should take place, a leader had to emerge. It is predictable that the US would take this role (oil, the threat of terrorism, world hegemony, etc. the reasons are plentiful, some more pertinent than others).
So, for ensured action, a unilateral approach was almost required in this scenario, but it was also the worst way the action could be performed.
It also seems to me that this general type of situation is not limited to the war on Iraq. When rapid action is required then either a mass consensus is needed, or a leader. But who are the leaders? It seems to me that in order to believe you can/should be a leader you also have to believe that you would be a better leader than the majority of other people. In other words, in order to desire to be a leader, I would suggest that you have to lack a certain faith in the rest of humanity. A certain level of ego-ism is required. Generalizing slightly (and I hope only slightly) I would suggest that leaders (at least those who have actively sought power) have a stronger belief in the individual than in society.
And, considering we entrust the safety of society to these leaders then this strikes me as being a fundamental problem in the structure of society.
I certainly thing it is this problem which leads to people like Sadam Hussein, and to the US unilaterally attacking him.
But, like I said, I believe removing him from power was a good thing. All the other baggage associated with Iraq comes from the (essentially) unilateral nature of the action. But a unilateral action if not the only option, was the only sure option to remove Sadam Hussein.
And round and round it goes.
I see no neat solution to this problem. I think I heard or read somewhere that the only people who should be allowed to lead are those who don't want to (or possibly that people who want to lead are the very people who should never be given a position of power) and I have to say I agree. This is, of course, impossible.
Leaders are a fact of life but they do not come out of nowhere. And the Bush administration could not have started the war on Iraq without the mass consensus of its the US population. So maybe it is we followers who should be the most careful.