From the Media: Notes and Matters Arising

The Winners and the Losers

The Editorial of The Globe and Mail, February 28 (‘Tallying up the war’s winners and losers’) lists those nations who will profit from the result of the war with Iraq and those who will not. The ‘winners’ :-

  1. ‘The United States is the ultimate victor. Certainly President George Bush has won the admiration of many for his resolve, not only in refusing to be swayed from his objectives but in maintaining the breadth of international support the action enjoyed.’
  2. Kuwait. It is liberated.
  3. Egypt. ‘…President Hosni Mubarak (has gained) the strong and lucrative support of the United States and Saudi Arabia. With Suddam Hussein vanquished, the mantle of Arab leadership will be the Egyptian leader’s alone.’
  4. Saudi Arabia, ‘to the point that Riyadh may now attempt to use its economic clout to influence thinking in other Arab capitals.’
  5. Syria. ‘…the United States has already signalled its hope that Syria’s demand for the return of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights will soon be put on the negotiating table.’
  6. Iran, for which ‘Arab and Western leaders already forsee a new regional security arrangement that views Tehran more as an ally than a threat.’
  7. Turkey, which ‘has not enjoyed such favourable international attention since the demise of the Ottoman Empire.’
  8. Israel, whose ‘policy of restraint (and its role as victim) won it considerable stature and empathy.’
  9. Britain, France and Canada, who ‘emerge as the most loyal of the coalition’s Western members. Prime Minister John Major and Brian Mulroney … should experience increased popular support.’
  10. The Soviet Union. ‘Its attempts to broker a peace agreement appear … to have been genuinely intended to force Iraq’s compliance with UN resolutions while triggering as little instability in the region as possible.’
  11. ‘The World economy will be a big winner of the peace. Not only will business confidence be buttressed and oil prices stabilized, but the massive resuscitation program required in Kuwait, Iraq and the horribly contaminated waters of the Persian Gulf will mean tremendous gains for Western contractors and for millions of the workers in the regions who have been displaced by the war.’
  12. The UN Security Council. ‘Throughout the crisis, the UN provided an invaluable forum for modulating its response. Its resolutions, representing broad international concerns (albeit driven by US convictions), became the goals of the war. Because of that, soldiers knew what they were fighting for and how to tell when the war was over.’

The ‘losers’:-

  1. Iraq
  2. The PLO — because of ‘Arafat’s support for Saddam Hussein.’ At the same time … Palestinians can take satisfaction in knowing that their legitimate grievances have been elevated in international prominence.’
  3. Jordan, because King Hussein attempted ‘the role of mediator, but paid the price of losing the confidence of … the winning side.’
  4. Kuwait! Not only because of the devastation and brutality experienced but because their ‘privacy has now been surrendered, and the world will have much to say about the nature of their government, for example, for years to come.’

A cold-minded accounting indeed. How realistic is it? Perhaps quite realistic in the short run, in a world now seemingly ready to be driven by a military-powered political and economic hegemonic bloc headed by the USA. But it also implies a perspective which cynically assumes that the Gulf War has served to begin a process that has eluded the Middle East for 50 years — sorting out its chaotic political relationships.

It is true, of course, that the rich and powerful Western members of the coalition may now be more inclined to ‘help’ less powerful coalition members in terms of arms, loans, technical training, etc. Some of this ‘help’ could actually prove useful to the recipients. But The Globe and Mail list is simple and categorical, and suggests a continuation of the simple-minded, patronizing attitude towards the people of the region that has bedevilled dealings with them for so long.

The people of the Middle East are probably as varied and distinct in their life styles and aspirations as any other large collection of human beings inhabiting a geographically identifiable region of the globe. The best way the coalition’s leaders could help them would be to take a serious and really long-term interest in their societal aims, respecting even those that run counter to their own. If money is to help them it should be used in peace to aid the struggles for self-sufficiency and self-determination that are everywhere apparent. If the great powers expect to use their influence in more games of ‘divide and conquer’ and other passtimes of ‘balances of power’ they will simply continue to feed the massive injustices, inequalities and thwarted nationalist struggles that have so long tormented the region.