Think tanks wrap-up II

April 10, 2003 at 6:09 PM
share with facebook
share with twitter

WASHINGTON, April 10 (UPI) -- The UPI think tank wrap-up is a daily digest covering opinion pieces, reactions to recent news events and position statements released by various think tanks. This is the second of three wrap-ups for April 10.

The Brookings Institution

WASHINGTON -- Give NATO a role in post-war Iraq

By Philip H. Gordon, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies

As we contemplate the tremendous challenges of maintaining order and beginning reconstruction in Iraq, it is worth thinking about how the United States can avoid the burdens and risks of what may come to be seen as unilateral occupation. Wouldn't it be nice, for example, if we had at our disposal a multilateral organization to which we could turn for help, a body more effective and efficient than the United Nations but that would still confer legitimacy on the operation and help spread some of the costs?

Imagine, in fact, a grouping composed of over two dozen democracies, including our most prosperous European allies, that had interoperable military forces, experience with peacekeeping and disarmament tasks, an available pool of troops, and existing command arrangements. Imagine further, while we're really fantasizing, that this organization had close institutional links with several dozen partner countries and a proven track record of promoting defense reform and civil-military relations in former authoritarian states.

If such an organization did not exist, we would certainly want to invent it. Fortunately, such an organization does exist. NATO has all these attributes and there would be many advantages to giving it a key role in post-war Iraq.

First, nowhere else is there a large group of available and experienced peacekeepers who could gradually replace the thousands of exhausted American and British soldiers currently deployed in Iraq. The United States should not wish to keep (or pay for) a substantial part of its army in Iraq for the foreseeable future, especially given other military challenges that could suddenly appear somewhere else around the world.

And it is implausible that we will be able to quickly draw down our current force presence, given the political vacuum in Iraq and the potential for ethnic strife, retributions, looting, or outside meddling in the country. Fresh troops will have to come from somewhere, and no organization is better placed to provide them than NATO.

Involving NATO in post-war Iraq would also help to legitimize the reconstruction process in the eyes of many around the world -- making a U.N. mandate more likely and clearing the way for EU reconstruction funds. Having launched the war without explicit U.N. authority and against the will of much of world opinion, there is already much skepticism about American motives and little trust that Washington will take any but its own interests into account.

Putting the Pentagon in sole charge of maintaining security, hunting weapons of mass destruction, and reconstituting an Iraqi army would only heighten that global skepticism, no matter how much confidence Americans might have in their own judgment or fairness. Putting the United Nations directly in charge of security in Iraq might be reassuring around the world, but as it showed in the Balkans, the United Nations is ill-prepared to play an effective security role in a potentially hostile environment.

Giving a role to NATO -- some of whose members have recently proven their willingness to stand up to Washington -- would prove that Iraq was not a mere American protectorate, while still giving us confidence that security would be ensured.

Finally, involving NATO in post-war Iraq's security arrangements would be a vital step toward giving our European allies -- including Russia -- a stake in the successful reconstruction of Iraq. One of the most negative consequences of having to fight this war without support from France, Germany, Russia and most of European public opinion was that those countries and many individuals overseas now see the creation of a democratic, stable and prosperous Iraq as our project, not theirs.

Although they would never say so, they even have an almost subconscious stake in our failure, if only to prove the merit of their opposition to the war. To reverse that destructive dynamic, the United States has a strong interest in involving as many European allies as possible in the effort to make a new Iraq; a collective NATO commitment to that goal would be an important first step.

There is, of course, no guarantee that even if Washington seeks to involve NATO in Iraq -- and many in the Pentagon will fight the idea of relinquishing any control, especially to French and the Germans -- the project will succeed. France, in particular, has long opposed efforts to endow NATO with a global security role, given Washington's dominant role in the Alliance and Paris's preference for the United Nations or EU.

But it was interesting that when the issue of NATO in Iraq was quietly broached at the time of Secretary of State Colin Powell's April 3 trip to NATO headquarters, several allies strongly supported the idea, and no ally -- not even France -- flatly opposed the idea. France also has been quietly lowering its opposition to a NATO role in Afghanistan beginning next summer, when the current Dutch-German force in Kabul is scheduled to leave.

While it would be premature to see these moves as a major opening, it would also be a mistake not to explore that possibility. Getting NATO involved in Iraq would not only help share the burden of what could be a difficult and costly occupation, but it could be a first step toward repairing a vital transatlantic relationship currently in tatters.

(Philip H. Gordon is a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution.)

The Cato Institute

WASHINGTON -- Where are the human rights groups?

By Richard Pollock

When a team of special operations forces conducted that daring rescue mission and freed Pfc. Jessica Lynch, they found more at the Saddam Hussein Hospital than a scared, 19-year-old POW. They found weapons and munitions, and some sort of torture chamber.

Coalition forces have found such things in other "neutral" places, which Iraqi forces have also used as military staging areas or even command posts. In addition, embedded reporters have filed stories of Iraqi soldiers shooting civilians and forcing teenagers at gunpoint to fight the war. Also, there are published reports of Iraqi women and children being executed by the Saddam-loyal fedayeen.

Such evidence (and more) reveals Iraq's human rights violations and continual breach of international laws that govern warfare. But you wouldn't know it if you listened to the "mainstream" human rights groups. They apparently can find abuses everywhere except in Iraq.

And that's why I'm feeling a sense of déjà vu. I was a committed anti-war activist during the Vietnam War. In 1969 I served on the steering committee of one of the major anti-war groups, the People's Coalition for Peace and Justice. This group, among other things, argued that the United States and the Saigon government were guilty of war crimes.

It was interesting to see how that issue was handled while I sat in the group's closed-door committee meetings in Washington. I was surprised that no one raised or denounced the idea that the Vietcong or North Vietnamese were committing atrocities. It simply was a non-starter. It was part of a culture to focus only on U.S. attacks on civilians.

One of the most passionate persons on this point was a soft-spoken, grandfatherly gentleman named Abe Bloom. Everyone loved Abe. He was kind and warm. He was also one of the official committee representatives of the Communist Party/USA. He strictly followed the line of the party's Central Committee. And among the pastors, lawyers, and activists on the steering committee, Abe's proposition was accepted: Only evil America was capable of committing atrocities.

I remember when American B-52 bombers had inadvertently hit the Bach Mai hospital near Hanoi. In righteous indignation, leading anti-war organizers from PCPJ and other organizations described the Bach Mai attack as a "war crime." Later, American anti-war activists who traveled to Hanoi for wartime visits made an obligatory solemn trek to Bach Mai. It became a North Vietnamese pillar, a shrine to American "crimes against humanity."

So, 30 years later, I feel as if I've been here before. This time around it's clear to me and to most Americans that war crimes are being committed. But it is Baghdad, not Washington, that is the culprit. The Iraqi government's war crimes are transparent and numerous.

In a perfect world, one might expect anti-war and especially human rights advocates to be on top of these dreadful stories. After all, they do claim the "high ground," asserting they care about Iraqi civilians and Iraqi human rights. Wouldn't it be grand, for example, for human rights groups to demand that Baghdad end its use of civilian hospitals for military purposes? Wouldn't it be wonderful to hear the firm voice of the human rights community assail Saddam for forcing the conscription of children, and by turning his guns against its own civilians?

Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world. We get the real thing. It is so dispiriting to find silence from the human rights groups. For instance, if you search the Web Site for International ANSWER, one of today's anti-war organizations, the group has nothing to say about any of the shocking human rights violations committed by Iraqi officials. Yet at every breath, they assail the United States.

The International Action Center, a part of ANSWER headed by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, publishes updates on the war on its Web Site. Yet there are no reports or repudiations of Iraqi actions against their own people. Clark publishes "Report from Baghdad." However, many of these "reports" are not written from Baghdad, but from Havana. Clark reported on day four of the war: Coalition bombing hit the Al Qadisiya district in Baghdad, "very near the University Hospital at Yarmuk."

The track record of major human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch is even more disheartening. Like the anti-war groups, neither group has criticized Iraq. In fact, on March 30 Amnesty International delivered a petition to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, calling on the British and American governments to make more information public about Iraqi civilian deaths and warning both governments to abide by international law.

During the week that reports of Iraqi atrocities came in Amnesty International released a human rights protest. It found evidence of human rights abuses in 14 countries, including the United States and Britain -- but not Iraq. The crimes committed? America and Britain are hindering anti-war protests.

Similarly, Human Rights Watch doesn't really talk about any Iraqi transgressions. The group made a passing reference to Iraq and the Geneva Conventions, but used it as an opportunity instead to bash the United States. They said: "The United States is right to insist that Iraq honor the Geneva Conventions. But its position is weakened by failure to practice what it preaches in holding 641 prisoners without charges at the U.S. military facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba."

The failure of anti-war and human rights organizations to hold Baghdad responsible for its crimes may cripple their credibility and legitimacy. When self-appointed watchdogs remain silent in the face of killing, terror, and mayhem against innocent civilians, the watchdogs are not only useless, they make a mockery of human rights and liberty.

(Richard Pollock is vice president of communications at the Cato Institute.)

The Institute for Public Accuracy

(The IPA is a nationwide consortium of policy researchers that seeks to broaden public discourse by gaining media access for experts whose perspectives are often overshadowed by major think tanks and other influential institutions.)

WASHINGTON -- After Saddam, Garner and Chalabi, Rachel Corrie's legacy

-- Andy Shallal, founder of Iraqi-Americans for Peaceful Alternatives.

"People are happy not just because Saddam is out, but also because they anticipate the end of 12 years of economic sanctions and the bombing ... When I was a kid in Iraq, we had coups and I would go out and jump in the street because it was the coolest thing. It's like D.C. when the Redskins win the Super Bowl. The problem is what comes after."

-- Danny Muller, is a coordinator of the Iraq Peace Team.

"For 12 years, the U.S. government has repeatedly moved the goal posts for lifting the economic sanctions, maintaining a situation of crushing poverty no matter what Iraq did. These sanctions impoverished the people and laid siege to the country, killing hundreds of thousands of innocents and setting the stage for the current invasion. The United States declared the end of the Gulf War in 1991, but that war never ended. The economic strangulation of Iraq for 12 years has now facilitated, after three weeks of bombing, the cessation of Iraqi economic activity, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and a hostile situation where even the Red Cross has had to shut down, causing further devastation to the Iraqi people. We cannot allow the goal posts to continually be moved in order to secure a U.S. occupation in the name of democracy."

-- Cindy and Craig Corrie are the parents of Rachel Corrie, who on March 16 was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer while she was trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip. Rachel was a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement, a group of Palestinian and international activists who use nonviolent, direct-action methods of resistance to confront the Israeli occupation. A bill has been introduced in Congress regarding her death.

"Rachel wanted to bring attention to the plight of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories, a people she felt were largely invisible to most Americans ... We continue to have grave concern for the safety of Palestinians and for the international volunteers in the Gaza Strip and West Bank."

Related UPI Stories
Trending Stories