Victory Brings Greater Challenges
The images are breathtaking -- Iraqis tearing down a huge statue of Saddam Hussein and celebrating their freedom. They echo nothing less than the fall of the Berlin Wall. As these pictures of liberation flash through the Middle East and Europe, the opportunity for the U.S. to build support for its goal of transforming Iraq into a prosperous democracy is at hand. The stakes for this mission are huge. If the U.S. succeeds at reshaping Iraq, it could transform the Middle East, curb terrorism, and bolster prosperity throughout the world. If it fails, a virulent form of anti-Americanism could undermine the global economy. At issue is the very multilateral economic system upon which business so deeply depends.
The Bush Administration should take this moment of triumph to reach out to those who opposed its policy. This is what global leadership is all about. Bringing in the U.N. and European countries to help rebuild Iraq would go a long way toward diffusing the deep anti-Americanism so prevalent in the Middle East. This is precisely what happened in Afghanistan, to America's benefit. It may be that Washington feels too betrayed by the U.N. to allow it to play a predominant role in postwar Iraq. But the U.N. can, and should, have a significant role in distributing food, training police, rebuilding legal and financial systems. And it would benefit the U.S. if the U.N. played some part in the process of selecting Iraqis for the interim government. The last thing the U.S. needs is for the Middle East to see "Made in the USA" stamped on the Iraqi political system. It would leach away all legitimacy.
France, Germany, and Russia must now also reach out to America and realize that military preemption sometimes has a legitimate place in foreign policy. The U.N. didn't endorse military action in Bosnia or Kosovo either, because of Russia's veto. Yet intervention was a just cause, and Europe followed the U.S. into the Balkans. France itself has taken preemptive steps in Africa many times. Indeed, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said back in 1999 that preemption was necessary to battle genocide and ethnic cleansing. What is needed now is a transatlantic discussion on the rules of preemption. A shared consensus would make it a common, multilateral foreign policy -- when and where it is warranted -- not a divisive unilateral one.
This is also the moment for business to end its silence and make its voice heard in support of healing the transatlantic political rift. Corporate America and Europe Inc. live in a multilateral world. They must now remind their political leaders how important healthy trade relations are for them -- and for millions around the globe. The stakes in Iraq go far behind the country or the region. America's future and the future of the world depend on the outcome.