Re "U.S. Finds Allies in Repressive Arab Regimes," Commentary, March 10: Shibley Telhami gives us yet another reason to oppose our administration's war plans. Even our allies -- Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan -- often take "our side" in direct opposition to the expressed desires of their own citizens. Our claim that we are encouraging democracy by removing a repressive ruler in Iraq rings false, and our alliances contribute to instability in the Arab world.
Telhami insists that democracy has to grow from within. Funny, but I don't recall any great clamor for democracy from the citizens of Japan and Germany during World War II, and the democracies there seem to have worked out fairly well.
It is because of the brutal, coercive, controlling regimes of the Middle East that the populations are so anti-American. The anti-American attitudes Telhami refers to were honed over decades by these governments to deflect attention away from their own problems. It would only be by changing their systems to more open societies that "public opinion" would actually mean something.
It makes you wonder, doesn't it? The deaths of a million people during the Iran-Iraq War were not a matter of sufficient concern to make us oust Saddam Hussein during Desert Storm, but now, 12 years later, they are given as a reason for going to war again with Iraq. Do we have a credibility problem? Meantime, the contrived crisis is already reflected in gas prices, elevated by 75 cents and more per gallon. So say goodbye to your tax cut, baby.
I would like to suggest a solution. I propose that the U.S. offer to avoid war, for the time being, if Iraq agrees to permit United Nations inspection teams to remain in the country for two to five years to continue watching for the manufacture or importation of forbidden chemical and biological weapons. The U.N. teams would have no role in governing the country. In this way, we could hold off on further war threats and reestablish our global alliance.
I have lived in the U.S. for 75 years under the impression that only an emperor or "president for life" can start a war all by himself -- or a cabal of four. Is this really happening?
The U.S. is the preeminent world leader economically, politically, militarily and culturally. Not since the Roman Empire has any society held such world domination. This Pax Americana may last for decades or centuries. It all depends on how we use our tremendous power.
We can apply the principles that brought us to power -- democracy, the rule of law, the sanctity of the individual -- and nurture these values throughout the world. We can work through the U.N. to manifest our great power. We can apply our principles of democracy -- governing by checks and balances -- in our dealings with other states. We can promulgate American ideals through international agencies. We can mold but also adhere to international law and the rulings of world courts. Our strength can come from a sensitive flexing of our staggering military and economic muscle. We can keep in focus the importance of the individual.
On the other hand, we can go it alone. We can ignore the U.N., international law, the world courts and all the little people. We can institute a double standard under which democracy, law and individual rights are always respected on American soil but overlooked when inconvenient in international relations. This double standard would invariably erode our internal values.