|By A. D. Freudenheim||
25 February 2001
The Republic of Iraq. To the United States, and a few of its allies, it is considered a "rogue nation," uncontrollable and unpredictable, aggressive, and without good intentions towards America. Let's put this in perspective: Iraq is a country of about 168,000 square miles and 22 million people, with a gross domestic product of $59.9 billion, and roughly 5.6 million men available for active military duty. Ideologically, Iraq perceives itself as everything the United States is not, and this is true; by its own account, Iraq's ruling Ba'ath Party is "socialist" in belief; in reality, it is a dictatorship ruled by one man and a council of his cronies whose actions serve primarily their own interests. Undemocratic, it suppresses - sometimes brutally - any internal opposition or dissent, whether religious or political. While it has official Islamic components, and it is predominantly a Muslim country, Iraq is not an "Islamic republic" the way neighboring Iran tries to be, and it is not a nation motivated principally by religious fundamentalism (though it is not adverse to using those elements to its own ends).
Iraq's attitude towards its neighbors is expansionistic, even if it does not, for the most part, have the military strength to achieve or maintain any territorial gains. Nonetheless, in the last twenty years, it has waged a lengthy war against Iran, and has attempted to capture other nearby territories, such as Kuwait. Had it a reasonable chance of emerging victorious from the conflict, it would likely attempt to battle America head on.
Victory, however, would seem unlikely. The Iraq of the last decade is significantly weaker than the one that existed before its invasion of Kuwait and its subsequent defeat in the Persian Gulf War. Certainly Iraq continues to attempt to evade the punitive sanctions imposed on it by the United Nations after the Gulf War (which severely restrict its oils sales, controls the funds from the oil it can sell, and limits other imports and exports), and it likely channels much any profit into the development of its armaments programs, particularly those in chemical and biological weapons. However, the U.N. sanctions that have been imposed have been acknowledged by all sides to be devastating in their impact on the economy and the population of Iraq (even if the specific numbers are disputed). The country is also trisected by "no-fly zones" imposed after the Gulf War by the United States and its allies, and now maintained principally by American and British troops; these zones significantly reduce the operational territory of the country, prohibiting airborne military activity under the guise of protecting Iraq's neighbors. All-in-all, between the results of the sanctions, the defeat of its army in the Gulf War, and the continued strong presence of American troops nearby, Iraq does not pose a significant military or economic threat to the United States.
In the decade since the Gulf War, American foreign policy towards Iraq has remained nonsensical: Americans fear extended military engagement, yet taunt the Iraqis to act militarily; America makes statements supporting those who would overthrow Saddam Hussein, but does not follow those statements with supportive actions of any value. America is obsessed with Iraq, and there continues to be overwhelming concern with every little movement or change within Iraq's borders - an outlook started by President Bush Sr., maintained by President Clinton, and now carried on by President Bush Jr. Even just within the last week, the American armed forces (with help from the British) have organized at least two sorties to knock out newly installed radar units that threaten our control over the "no-fly zones" of this otherwise-sovereign country. Now, the situation has been further complicated, as it appears that Iraq's new-and-improved radar units may have been purchased from the People's Republic of China.
China. A rogue nation? China is uncontrollable and unpredictable, aggressive, and without good intentions towards America. Let's put China in perspective, too: a country of roughly 3.7 million square miles (21 times the size of Iraq), 1.2 billion people (54 times the size of Iraq), with a gross domestic product of $4.8 trillion (80 times that of Iraq's), and 363 million men available for active military duty (64 times as many potential soldiers). Ideologically, it perceives itself as everything the United States is not, and this is true; by its own account, China's ruling Communist Party is socialist/communist in belief; in reality, it is an oligarchy, ruled by several aging Party leaders whose actions serve primarily their own interests. Undemocratic, it has a history of suppressing - sometimes brutally - any internal opposition or dissent that does not follow the party line, whether religious or political. While it is officially a nation of atheists, it is also predominantly a country of Taoists and Buddhists, with some Christian and Muslim populations. Religion plays a large role in social custom, but the government's official position bans any religious affiliation, and it is not a nation motivated by religious fundamentalism as it is normally perceived (though it is not adverse to using those elements to its own ends).
China's attitude towards its neighbors is expansionistic but, unlike Iraq, it plainly has the military strength to achieve and maintain any territorial gains. The disappearance of Tibet as an independent country is one example, but China's continued finger-wagging at Taiwan is a clear indicator of the next likely target. In the last thirty years, China has been involved in wars in Viet Nam and Cambodia, and has maintained smaller-scale disputes over various nearby islands and borders (such as with North Korea). Despite being the second-largest economy in the world, China continues to avoid imposing many of the legal rules governing commerce and manufacturing, and it is essentially indifferent to concepts of ownership of intellectual property, which it appears to consider as frivolous and irrelevant "western" notions. Had it a reasonable chance of emerging victorious from the conflict, it would likely attempt to battle America head on.
Despite these facts, China is, if not an outright American ally, then at least a partner - a trading partner, primarily. U.S. policy towards China on territorial issues has vacillated; on Tibet, America has been mostly silent, while towards Taiwan there have been statements of support for its independence, but a policy that seeks to maintain relationships with both countries and express support for Taiwan in doing so. On issues of human rights, the American position has been the subject of much debate; for now, the advocates of free trade have dictated the policy, which believes that as China becomes wealthier, it will become more difficult for the government to maintain a repressive and authoritarian environment. This may or may not be the case, but in the interim, the American view is clear: there is no need to care, so long as trade with China benefits U.S. business.
There is a serious disparity between American foreign policy towards Iraq and the policy towards China. Why does the U.S. seek to maintain repressive sanctions against, and some measure of military control over, a small country the size of one American state - while at the same time actively trading with another country whose ideology is equally troublesome, and which has significantly more means to achieve any goals it sets to disrupt America or American interests? One explanation may be the simple numbers shown above: to battle China would require an all-out war; yet the U.S. easily can bully Iraq without really putting American soldiers in harm's way. Then there's the value of the Chinese market to American businesses - more than one billion potential consumers means a lot of money for American exports. Finally, there are oil issues and the lingering concern that Iraq will once again threaten the flow of oil to America by making trouble in other Persian Gulf countries.
This policy is contradictory, if not downright immoral. By the same capitalist logic used to rationalize trade with China, America should be pushing to make inroads into Iraq - not to alienate the Iraqis and cut them off. If Iraq's internal policies towards its Kurdish minority are the concern, then why does the U.S. do so little to indicate similar concern for the repressed Christian minority or the Tibetan Buddhists in China, or indicate support for the actively targeted members of the Falun Gong movement? That America should choose to seek peaceful relations with China is good, but then it is time for the United States to make a similar reevaluation of its relationship to Iraq. Alternatively, and with an acceptable degree of moral righteousness, America might decide to reconsider its relationship to China instead, and push for the same harsh treatment towards that despotic regime that it seeks to maintain against Iraq.
Sources: Assistance with
basic facts and figures about Iraq and China were
provided by the online edition of The World Factbook 2000, published by
the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States, and from The Columbia
Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, published in 2000 by the Columbia University Press.
|Copyright 2001, by A. D. Freudenheim. May not be used in whole or part without written permission. However, you may link to this page as desired! This page is part of: The Truth As I See It.|