Most unpopular war in history
Why did the leaders of the international community choose the Azores islands, almost midway between Europe and America for a summit? In order to underline the importance they attach to trans-Atlantic solidarity? No. The choice was made in order to escape from anti-war demonstrators. Even as the leading lights of the ‘coalition of the willing', the chiefs of government of United States of America, United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal were meeting and taking the world perilously close to a big war, Jose Saramago, the Nobel laureate Portuguese writer taking part in one of the many demonstrations throughout the world said: "We are marching against the law of the jungle that the United States and its acolytes old and new want to impose." The decision taken at the Azores was to have a showdown at the Security Council and then start the bombing depending on the weather. Did Bush have any alternative? No. Once the deployment is started, there is a certain inevitability about the march towards war. All talk of diplomacy backed by force is utterly illogical and cynical, especially on the part of those who were determined all along to use force. To say that Saddam Hussein can still avert war by going into exile, and that therefore the ultimate responsibility for starting the war is on him, as the Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and others who want war are saying, is to insult the intelligence of the global citizen. The war will change the face of the earth. From a military point of view, there might be no serious fighting except at the gates of Baghdad. In August 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, there was no fighting, the Kuwaitis just ran away. In January 1991, again there was no war. Iraq was bombed and bombed, and Iraq ran away from Kuwait. This time around, there might be some limited fighting, but after American bombing has destroyed the central nervous system of the Iraqi war machine, the only significant fighting in military terms will be around the capital city. That there might be rebellion against an occupying force should not be ruled out. That America would need to keep more than a hundred thousand troops in Iraq and that a certain number of them will get killed is almost certain. Apart from the destruction of the regime in Iraq, and a good part of the country, and the attendant "collateral damage" resulting in tens of thousands of dead and the prolonged regional chaos in the redrawing of the map of Iraq and the region, the United Nations will not survive this war. President Bush was right in warning the world body of the risk of joining the League of Nations into irrelevance. He did not want to be transparent and admit that it was his action that was going to achieve this. In retrospect, it is clear that the Anglo-American victory in getting the Security Council Resolution 1441 passed with unanimity marked the peak of their domination of the Security Council. Reflecting the nature of the world, that body too had become unipolar, and on Iraq, the US and UK had called the shots ever since Resolution 660 asking Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait was passed on August 2, 1990. Little did they know that post-1441, France, Germany, and Russia had decided not to be doormats. The rift between ‘‘Old Europe'' and US will take time to heal. Perhaps, it will not heal until there is a regime change in Washington. It will also be worth watching whether there will be an ‘‘unintended regime change'' in London. It is difficult to precisely date the demise of an institution. In 1931, Japan annexed Manchuria. In 1933, Japan withdrew from the League of Nations. In 1935, Italy under Mussolini attacked Abyssinia. In 1936, Italy annexed Abyssinia. At some point of time between 1931 and 1936, the League of Nations was taken to the intensive care unit. It's demise was formally announced only when its successor the United Nations was formed in 1945. The UN will continue to meet and debate in the imposing building in Manhattan. But, the institution that was meant to be the Parliament of Man, founded by "the peoples of the united nations to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war" is terminally ill.