Saturday, March 22, 2003[posted by jaed at 5:35 PM]
I have a bad feeling about this:
The UN's move to reinstate the oil-for-food sanctions program, that is.
When I first heard this, I thought it was just a symptom of denial. But my paranoid side has now piped up and is wondering whether this is a move to take away whatever gains for the US and for Iraq come out of this war. Think about it:
- The oil-for-food program is part of the sanctions regime. Reinstalling it indicates Iraq is still under economic sanctions. I had assumed that these sanctions would end when the original cause for them ended... but what if the UNSC decides that being under temporary US occupation is enough cause to continue blockading Iraq?
- That would certainly damage US efforts to construct a reasonable Iraqi governance for the future by damaging Iraq's economy.
- It would also "withhold legitimacy" (whatever legitimacy the UNSC can still claim) from the war. This factor alone might attract anti-American support, regardless of the harm to Iraqis. (If the harm-to-Iraqis argument were going to be persuasive with these people, the decision on removing Saddam Hussein would have gone differently in the first place. Much of the world has already decided that harming the US is more important than relieving the suffering of Iraqis.)
- And of course, there's the money angle. The UN takes in a huge amount of money in administration costs for the oil-for-food program.
- Speaking of money, I'm sure the French and Russians are eager to have their current contracts, with their favorable ROI, imposed on Iraq in perpetuity.
- Continuing the program is a good way to keep Iraqis dependent - the statistic I've heard is that 60% of Iraqis are dependent on the rations issued by the program. Keeping people dependent is a good way of keeping them down in general - the permanently economically-dependent person may rant and riot but is unlikely to act independently, and this is a scenario where introducing democracy is less likely to succeed. It could be seen as another way of blocking US hopes for the country.
- And even if it's not, taking food handouts is no way to live long-term.
- Finally, of course, the assumption embedded in all this is that the UN will govern Iraq after we've done the hard work of freeing it from the octopus-like grip of the Ba'athists. The UN will sadly accept its responsibility for healing the damage wrought by the cowboy Americans, etc. There will be no de-Ba'athization, no democracy, no economic reform, no general ownership of oil interests for the Iraqi people. After having seen what happens when the US does this (Japan, Germany) and what happens when the UN does it (55-year-old refugee camps), if I were Iraqi I'd damn well hope not to be left to the tender mercies of the UN.
There've been indications via Ari Fleischer that the administration might actually accept this state of affairs. I hope not. The world doesn't need another UN-administered festering sore - one it will never let go, given the amounts of money involved - and Iraqis have suffered more than enough without being subjected to this sort of kindly tyranny.
Update: Bite the Wax Tadpole suggests that this is a move by Chirac to drive a wedge between the US and the UK, since the British public can be expected to welcome the idea of the UN taking charge of Iraq. I'm not so sure, myself - mostly because this was also the popular analysis regarding going to war without the approval of France, that doing so would bring Blair down - but it's definitely a possibility I'll be thinking about.
Update: On the other hand, this story makes me feel a little better.