US right to consider oil, Israel

Des Moore argues there’s a case for the US, aided by
its allies, to get rid of Saddam

Australian Financial Review, 2 October 2002.

Is getting rid of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Australia’s national interest? Even if that means, as it almost certainly does, getting rid of Saddam’s regime by force? Should Australia support a United States perceived by some as acting imperially?

Yes, for three main reasons.

First, if Saddam is left in power there is a high risk he will revive his ambitions to bend the whole Arabian region to his manage — either by intimidation or by conquest.

He would also pressure other Arab powers, and particularly Palestine, not to reach a land-for-peace accord with Israel; for Saddam, like Hamas and others, does not accept the survival of Israel whatever its borders.

An Arab world "controlled" by Iraq would mean a hostile state controlling most of the world’s oil. That would be intolerable, for Australia and for others. Nor could Israel stand idly by; it would inevitably start a preemptive war, with incalculable harmful consequences.

Israel is a UN member, a democracy, and recognised and accepted by the overwhelming majority of states. To effectively connive at its demise would be to cut one’s own throat -Australia’s not least, since Australia like Israel is in a sense an imposed state.

Second, a Saddam left in power would not be the only evil leader, now or in the future, to conclude that possessing WMDs is a wonderful thing. What better means to overawe or if necessary overcome neighbours and others, and also to preserve the WMD-wielding regime from outside overthrow?

For such conclusions to become entrenched would be intolerable, for Australia as for everybody else - other than future Saddams.

Third, the US’ leadership in the Iraq context is not imperial, nor designed to achieve even greater power for itself, either territorially or economically: it has no territorial ambitions and its citizens would live better with less military spending. The US is prepared to act because it rightly sees that evil-doers with WMDs and the new international terrorism constitute major threats not only to itself but to Western civilization generally.

That does not mean the driving aim of the US is, as some naively suggest, to democratize the Arab world. Rather, it is acting in defence of democracy and, as such, Australia should offer military and moral support.

Perhaps for the foregoing reasons, somewhat dimly discerned, many Australians are ready to see Saddam’s overthrow accomplished by force if necessary.

But a few - some past eminences, some grey - would do that only if the UN Security Council agrees.

A curious view. Consider. Several states conclude that Saddam’s forcible overthrow is in their national interests. But you must desist if a Council, with each of its members applying its own national interests, decides you must abandon yours.

This from a Council comprising fifteen states, five permanent, 10 elected for two-year stints, ranging in power and principle and purpose from the USA to Guinea; from members encompassing democracies and autocracies - and worse; and definitely not from a full bench of morally superior, wise and learned judges, high-mindedly applying widely accepted general principles.

And, preeminently, from members prepared to acquiesce in Saddam’s escape in order to tie down Gulliver with Lilliputian threads, to get the USA to accept that it won’t ever act without permission.

Whatever one thinks of that view, it won’t work. For two reasons. First, the USA will not allow itself to be tied down by others; it would like their support but will act without it in dire circumstances — just as others have done.

Second, if in the end the other Council members are convinced the USA will indeed act without Council authorization, they will not vote it down. For that would be to remove all strings, and to acknowledge the irrelevance of the Security Council when serious issues are at stake.

So Bush will get more or less what he wants from the Security Council, and what our eminences have been demanding; but odds on to a gooseberry they still will not be happy.

Des Moore is a councillor of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and director of the free-market think tank the Institute for Private Enterprise. The views expressed are his own.