America has chosen to play a vital leadership role
Stabroek News
February 28, 2002

Dear Editor,

You concluded your Sunday February 24th editorial, "Unilateralism," with a February 16th quote from US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, that, "This (military intervention in Iraq) isn't unilateralism, this is principled leadership." To which, you responded, "Principled or not, it is only leadership if there are followers. If there aren't any followers, it remains unilateralism."

In the opening of the same editorial, however, you mentioned the call by a former British Foreign Secretary, Lord David Owen, for Britain to support the United States in any military move against Iraq. Given this man's prominence and influence in his homeland, and the possibility that his thinking may be reflective of the Tony Blair administration, then could it still be considered unilateralism if Britain joins America in attacking Iraq?

I am not of the view that 'might is right', nor do I subscribe to the notion that because George Bush labeled Iraq as a component of the "axis of evil" it automatically defines America as righteous and therefore right in everything it ventures to do.

However, given the ongoing arrests and discoveries in various nations of terrorists' surreptitious plots and ploys that could adversely affect innocent world citizens, backed by the already reported activities of the so called "axis of evil" trio, it is virtually impossible for the community of nations to interminably wallow in consensus about what actually is happening or what to do?

The United States, as a superpower and leader among nations, has to assume some kind of leadership role, at this critical juncture of world history, not only to safeguard its vital and strategic interests at home and abroad, but also to ensure global peace and stability are not threatened by widespread terrorist activities, either through fear or actual attacks.

To borrow some words of former chairman of Chrysler Corporation, Lee Iaacoca, America has to make a choice: "Lead, follow, or get out of the way," and this is what America is doing, providing leadership. Should it not be a good listener if it is to be a good leader? Yes, and that is what it has been doing with the Asian tour. What about its European allies? Their voices have been heard. Just about everyone is talking, so it is impossible for America not to hear. Still, America sees itself as having to lead despite all the prattling and posturing, good, bad, or indifferent.

America's strategies may not be perfect, but like true managers, who usually distinguish themselves as leaders when they have to make hard and tough decisions, in crisis situations, they go right ahead, taking either compliments or criticisms as they go along. America has chosen to lead, rather than follow the lead of the 'accommodating' Europeans, or get out of the way as the terrorists would prefer.

Like a true leader, America is taking some flak for the "axis of evil" remark in stride, showing it can tolerate disagreement even among its allies, and showing it can be flexible if its allies feel it steps out of bounds, as President Bush and his team have demonstrated during the just concluded Asian tour.

Indeed, Asian leaders were worried about the impact Bush's rhetoric could have on stability in the region, so he and his team did everything they had to to calm the fears of the region's leaders. Call it damage control, if you wish. But at the end of the tou, US officials, when asked, said Bush did not seek backing from those leaders for any future military action against Iraq, as this may be premature at this time.

Iraq is now the center of attention because Saddam Hussein, having bared his hands by experimenting with chemical warfare against the Kurds, having invaded Kuwait under the guise of reclaiming old land, having signaled ambitious intentions by amassing troops along the Saudi border once in Kuwait, having repeatedly refused to completely open up his country for UN weapons inspectors, having openly made known his desire to annihilate Israel, and having become involved in the nuke business, has emerged as a potential threat to the oil rich region which can then translate into a threat to global peace and stability.

In other words, Saddam Hussein's track record is not one that the world should ever feel comfortable with, and that is why from among the community of nations, America has seen it fit to bring to the world's attention the potential for trouble should the present Iraqi leadership continue to rule unchecked.

Does this mean a military attack on Iraq is imminent or will resolve the issue? I do not think so. Nor do I think America sees this as the first go to option. Two Sundays ago, on NBC Meet the Press, Mr. Powell, when pressed about the possibility of an American led military attack on Iraq, did not rule it out, but predicated such a move on the outcome of Saddam Hussein's decision, by this summer, to let the UN inspectors have full and free access to all sites where weapons of mass destruction could be produced.

The bigger question is: if Saddam Hussein is engaging in activities which he said a week ago were designed to better humanity, why is he so cagey about those activities? Even North Korea, despite its own irresponsible sale of military hardware to anyone with cash, is said to be complying with international rules on its nuke programme. What is Saddam Hussein afraid of? The truth?

Moreover, if he truly wants to emerge as the strongman of the Arab world, does he need military might to do so? Can he, who has no regard for international law, be allowed this prized position? If he truly cares about stability in the region, why couldn't he, like Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, offer a plan that calls for Israel to swap land for peace? Not that the offer, likely to be proposed at the Arab summit in Lebanon on March 28, would guarantee lasting peace, but the idea that peace might come other than through possession of mass destruction weapons makes more sense than trying to bully or intimidate your neighbors to achieve personal goals.

As a superpower, America sees part of its responsibility and role as protecting humanity against lawlessness, and the fact that the majority of our world continues to wake up or go to sleep in the midst of peace and stability, the small pockets of fighting, famines and follies notwithstanding, is testimony to the continuing need for responsible leadership.

In closing, contrary to popular American opinion that George Bush, Sr., erred by not ousting Saddam Hussein, it was responsible leadership that allowed Hussein to remain in power because ousting him back then could have upset the balance of power in the region, creating a problem bigger than the Kuwaiti invasion. Leadership decisions may not always be popular, but somebody has to make them, or else the world will be full of people who have no idea where they are going.

Yours faithfully,

Emile Mervin