Even if the US wins the peace after war, its attack upon Iraq will give birth to a new cold war and change international relations for ever
Winning a war is always easier than winning the peace that follows victory. The peace that followed World War I produced so much resentment within Germany that Adolf Hitler could fan it and legitimately seize power. The result of Hitler’s rise to power was World War II. The Allied victory in the war and the subsequent sharing of the spoils of peace led directly to the Cold War which gave to the world the peace of the graveyard for about 40 years. The Iraq war launched by the United States of America has been possible because of the unipolar world that was born with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Reports suggest that the US is poised to win the war in Iraq. It might take longer than what the US administrators and the generals had projected and the path of US victory might be strewn with the dead bodies of more civilians than Mr George W. Bush anticipated, but the fall of Baghdad seems imminent. Mr Saddam Hussein’s whereabouts are not known. If he is still alive, he is living on borrowed time. The initial shock and awe and the capture of Baghdad will no doubt be trumpeted as a military triumph by the Bush administration. But all this will not guarantee a winning of the peace.
One reason for this is the fact that the US has lost the diplomatic initiative. Unlike in the war against Osama bin Laden, the war against Mr Hussein does not command a global consensus. Powers like France and Germany, staunch members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and allies of the US in the Cold War, have refused to support the US intervention in Iraq. Other major powers, Russia and China, have also expressed their disapproval. Most Islamic states are smouldering even if they cannot show their resentment. The world’s most important international institution, the United Nations, is poised on the brink of irrelevance after the defiance shown by the US. Even a country like India, in need of US support for its own war against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, has expressed its displeasure at the high-handedness and holier-than-thou attitude of the US. The war that was initiated will be won on the basis of sheer military might, but the winning of the peace will require a little more finesse.
One fallout of the Iraq war and a US victory will be the emergence of a new kind of cold war. In this war, Mr Hussein will be seen in the Islamic world as a latter-day Saladin. A US victory can only strengthen and consolidate the forces of Islamic fundamentalism and, inevitably, terrorism under the green flag. Mr Bush has fulfilled the grim prognostications of Mr Samuel Huntington. In the new cold war, the US will be without some of its traditional partners like France and Germany. The US, willy-nilly, will be pushed back to a kind of isolationism. But even this will be different, since the US and all its citizens will live under the threat of terrorism. With the UN rendered hors de combat, maintaining stability will become even more difficult. The concrete gains of the war still remain obscured by the dust raised by bombs and shells. But, for better or for worse, the face of international relations has changed forever even more than it did on that fateful day in September 2001.