The huge turnout worldwide at the anti-war protests this weekend (which Bush shrugged off, as expected) has captured my attention. The question for Americans has to be how we can interpret the fact that people all over the world (some say as many as 6 million) took to the streets to urge us not to start a war with Iraq? I don’t for a minute believe that those people really care that much about Iraq, nor do I think that they’re supporters of Saddam Hussein. The only interpretation that makes sense is that they are opposed to our agenda rather than being in favor of some alternate agenda.
I think that if you asked every person at those protests how they feel about Saddam Hussein obtaining nuclear weapons, the large majority of them would be against it, or perhaps indifferent. The only people I can imagine being in favor of it are Arabs who feel that there should be an Arab nuclear power to offset Israel. And even they probably don’t like Saddam Hussein, who has without a doubt been responsible for the deaths of more Muslims than the United States and Israel have in their entire respective histories (if that seems unbelievable to you, take a look at the casualties from the Iran/Iraq war during the eighties).
Furthermore, of all the rotten things going on in the world, surely the US deposing a brutal dictator who aspires to obtain nuclear weapons and then use them to provide cover while he takes over neighboring countries isn’t the worst. And yet, that’s what has captured the world’s imagination. What I think is bringing people out into the streets is that the world’s lone remaining great power is massing its troops on the border of a country that they see as being unable to defend itself, and basically looking for an excuse to start a war of aggression.
I think that the bottom line is that scares people. If the US is going to start unilaterally going to war to stop countries from doing things we disapprove of, it changes the world’s political balance, and I think people see that, whether they voice it or not. The thing is that Iraq has not been belligerent, or even defiant. I think that if Iraq challenged the US (the way North Korea has), then people would feel differently. But they’ve brilliantly said that we’re going to do what we’re going to do, and there’s not much that they can do about it either way. People worldwide are buying into that argument, too.
Of course, the real problem is that our government has telegraphed that they prefer war to other alternatives from the very beginning, and so nobody believes us any more when we say that going to war is a last resort. When we had to be buffaloed into accepting the resumption of the inspections regime, it was obvious that war was not a last resort, and anything contradictory we say now comes across as lying. It doesn’t help that we’ve changed our justification for going to war about 15 times, either.
In any case, it seems to me that more and more people around the world hate and fear the US every day. And I blame the problems more on our diplomacy and approach than on our agenda, and that’s purely the fault of the Bush administration. He may shrug off the peace protestors, but when is the last time people all over the world went out on the same day to demonstrate against the same thing in numbers like we saw?