The Bush administrationís plans to attack Iraq are causing considerable disquiet, both within the United States of America and in the international community. There is a growing feeling that a war against Iraq, at this stage, may prove to be counter-productive. The Republican administration has sought to focus international attention on Iraq. In his state-of-the-union speech in January, Mr George W. Bush had targeted Iraq as being part of an axis of evil that was threatening the peace of the world. The American president had then promised to take concrete steps to disarm Iraq along with Iran and North Korea. Plans for an American war have, since the presidentís speech, gained considerable momentum. Although the president has, of recent, displayed less enthusiasm for exercising the military option, the vice-president, Mr Dick Cheney, and the defence secretary, Mr Donald Rumsfeld, have been leading advocates for a war against Iraq. The objective of an attack on Iraq is clearly to ensure a change of the regime in power in the country. The biggest reason, it is argued, for the need to do so is that Mr Hussein has acquired weapons of mass destruction or is very close to acquiring them. And given Mr Husseinís past record, the Iraqi regime will have no qualms in using these weapons in a future conflict. There is, indeed, considerable merit in these arguments. Even those who otherwise have deep reservations about American foreign policy will concede that Mr Hussein is a ruthless dictator who has been determined to acquire the weapons of mass destruction. Iraq was clearly on the road to acquiring nuclear weapons had it not been for the Kuwait War of 1991. Although United Nations inspectors had destroyed the facilities, it has been three years since the last inspection was given access by the Iraqi government. Indeed, an Iraqi civil engineer, who defected recently, has disclosed that a vast network of chemical, nuclear and biological weapons continues to exist in the country.
There is a strong case to be made for action against Mr Hussein. But the scepticism arises out of three factors. First, it is not clear how the use of force will help to remove Mr Hussein. In the past, the Iraqi people have suffered, but the regime in power does not seem to have been affected. Second, the Iraqi government has, of recent, demonstrated a willingness to cooperate with UN inspectors. While this move may be disingenuous, it is important for all avenues to be explored before force is used. Finally, the Bush administration does not seem to have taken the trouble to build a consensus on the issue, either at home or internationally. In the absence of such a consensus, the US action will obviously lack legitimacy and may even create an anti-American backlash, especially in the Arab world.