Smaller and greater history around the Iraqi crisis

The Iraqi crisis has been a concern on several « fronts » : Iraq and its leaders, the Security Council, the Atlantic Alliance and Europe, which has been divided into two conflicting sides. On the one hand, there was France and Germany, and on the other hand, Great Britain and Spain, supported, notably, by Italy and Poland. The causes for that crisis have themselves been multiple and form-changing: terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and regime change in Baghdad have been the three ingredients which have served, each in their turn, the cause of the American and British leaders against Saddam Hussein. Indeed, was it the eradication of the threat of the said-to-be possessed weapons of mass destruction that was at stake ? Or was it the continuation of the fight against terrorism? Or again, was it to proceed by force to a regime change ? The theme of regime change in order to implement ‘democracy’ in Baghdad eventually prevailed over all other considerations. For President Bush and for the British Prime Minister, regime change was first and foremost justified by the risk of a collusion, which had to be avoided at all cost given the experience of 9/11, between a ‘rogue’ State that supposedly owned weapons of mass destruction, and terrorist groups. Actually, if this crisis had a disquieting quality, it is not so much due to the mayhem engendered by the multiplicity and the confusion of its aspects, than to its illustration of the extraordinary difficulty for political leaders to master a complex situation. The dynamics of this crisis largely escaped them, constraining them at best to improvise brilliantly and at worst, to govern by manipulation. This crisis can be identified as the return of history, where, at all times, nations have seemed to follow their course according to history’s haphazard, more than following the rational decisions of leaders, whatever their origin – be it democratic, dictatorial, or dynastic. In this cacophony, the French-German model imposed itself strongly. Paris could not have adopted its firm position to give a chance to the peace logic by a pacific disarmament in Baghdad, without being in accordance with Berlin, and the converse is true. Paris and Berlin had a shared feeling that the American attempt to overthrow a political leader, as disreputable as he is, within the context of a UN mandate requiring the control and destruction of weapons of mass destruction, was contrary to a sane practice of international relations, and pregnant with dangers for the future. – Summary AFRI-2004