It’s a favourite saying among politicians that whoever has vision is best off going to see a psychiatrist. We don’t have to subscribe to this view but, one year after the liberation of Baghdad, we should be asking ourselves if George W. Bush’s visionary foreign policy really has made our world a better place. Weapons of mass destruction have not been found and with this the widespread feeling in the Arab world has intensified that the USA and Great Britain are leading a colonial war against Iraq. Rather than combating terrorist groups, the war has actually given them the opportunity to become active in Iraq.
A difficult peace process
And what has happened to the noble aims of democracy? The fierce fighting that is currently taking place between the coalition and both Sunni and Shiite extremists shows that Iraq is still a long way from becoming a stable democracy. But is this really so surprising? Because, as experience in Somalia, Cambodia, and, last but not least, Kosovo shows, peace building, setting up stable democratic structures in previously violent and under-developed countries is a long and difficult process that is only rarely successful. Did they honestly believe in Washington that, using military intervention, a country whose political history throughout the twentieth century was shaped solely by dictatorship and violence could be democratised in such a short space of time? Unfortunately, this is a far cry from reality. Even if sums far in excess of those given to Somalia and the Balkans combined were pumped into Iraq, it would still take many years, possibly dozens, before there could finally be peace in this country.
The US initiative entitled a “Great Middle East” also suffers from this same visionary naivety. The Arab world is expected to endure having a model of society forced upon it that the majority of people in these countries don’t want. Alongside Iraq, if free elections took place in Egypt, it certainly wouldn‘t be someone who was suitable in Western eyes who would win, but most likely someone from an Islamic movement. Should they win an election such a person wouldn’t necessarily set up a dictatorship, but neither would they set up a democracy that would please the Americans conforming to the Western design.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem George Bush has profited from his Easter holidays to get over his visionary ideals. During his press conference on Tuesday, when he spoke about sticking to the original timetable, i.e. for the handover of power on 30th June and free elections by January 2005 at the latest, he seemed to have lost all grip on reality. Europe should help her American ally by getting over there quickly and giving him something to cure his neo-conservative illusions. In the face of the current situation, free elections must be postponed and the UN must play a greater role. The “Great Middle East” initiative must be discussed with Arab nations.
But perhaps this problem of reorganising American foreign policy will sort itself out. After the November presidential elections that is.