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[casi] FW: Three price tags on war in Iraq

Foreign - Tuesday 1.4.2003

Three price tags on war in Iraq


By Jaakko Kangasluoma

There are at least three price-tags attached to the
ongoing war in Iraq. They are already large, but still
a long way from being the final cost.

Measured in money terms, the war is expensive, but
then wars always are. An optimistic and provisional
estimate holds that the war itself - in other words
the destruction and the killing - will cost around USD
100 million. In these matters, the word "optimistic"
usually means "wrong", and  "provisional" stands for

After the first week of fighting, the UN put forward
its own estimate, according to which the humanitarian
operation required in Iraq would be the largest ever
carried out, which presumably means it will also be
the most costly.

The impact of the war on the global economy is being
analysed right now, and the forecasts are gloomy.

So much for money. The second price is a political
one. Gauging the size of this may seem somehow
secondary, but it is not. Everyone suffers from the
negative political fall-out that may be coming down.

The political destruction started well before the war
took off, and it gathered momentum as the fighting

The United Nations was put out to grass. Nowadays it
takes part as a critical guest of honour at those
gatherings where the leaders of the new world order
meet to shape the next moves of the new world order.
They nod respectfully at the greying figure of the UN,
but turn a deaf ear to what it might have to say:
"Well, of course, it used to be a heavy-hitter, but it
got stuck in the wrong decade, didn't it?"

Inside the EU, the Iraq crisis put a number of ugly
dents and scratches on the basic principles of the
Union at a time when unanimity of purpose would have
been crucial to meeting the challenges of enlargement.

And what about NATO, whose most significant operation
during the war in Iraq has been its appearance in the
Slovenian referendum on membership, last Sunday?

All this notwithstanding, the greatest political price
is being racked up in the region where the war is
being fought.

It is pointless to claim that the attack on Iraq will
not generate problems in relations between the West
and the Islamic world.

And this price-tag is the most dangerous, since the
final sum and its impact is a question-mark and will
remain so long after the guns have fallen silent.

The third price to be paid is calculated in units of
human suffering. Thousands will die in Iraq, and in
all probability many more than that. Tens of
thousands, probably more, will be wounded or injured.

Homes will be destroyed, the conditions for living
will be laid waste by the razing of infrastructure,
refugees will flow here and there, and the threat of
disease is manifest. Humanitarian catastrophe hovers
in the wings.

After one week of war it would appear that each of the
three price-tags is being hiked upwards, to a level
greater than anyone could estimate beforehand.

And if the aggregate cost becomes so colossal, can any
outcome to the fighting be deemed worth it?

Doubtless the majority of the Iraqi population will
rejoice in the toppling of the Saddam Hussein
dictatorship. But is freedom a turn for the better, if
the liberation takes place in a country that will
require - in the worst case scenario - the work of
generations to put the place into a liveable

I do not know. Perhaps the Iraqis know.

The United States has painted out its great vision
something along these lines:

A liberated Iraq provides an example to others. It
radiates out more freedom and thereby a greater
stability and prosperity for the immediate area. We
witness peaceful transitions to democracy. The vital
oil-rich region becomes more peaceful and the
potential contained in its underground wealth is
harnessed to serve all the inhabitants of the Middle
East. The entire world benefits.

And while all this is happening, the most important
task - that of obliterating the threat of terrorist
attacks - is dealt with almost automatically as the
roots of terrorism wither away. What little threat
remains is eradicated by the actions of the
responsible new leaders.

Oh, and I nearly forgot, into the bargain the Israelis
and the Palestinians finally wake up to reality and
decide to bury the hatchet.

If the above analysis of the war's effects proves to
be an accurate one, then it indicates that the United
States' leadership boasts the most gifted visionaries
in the history of political thought.

It means that the bizarre experiment in "making the
world anew" as evinced in the Iraq goings-on will
succeed at the first time of asking.

The enormous cost would indeed reap an enormous
reward. But then again, nothing less would suffice.

Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 29.3.2003


JAAKKO KANGASLUOMA / Helsingin Sanomat

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