The US invasion of Iraq came and went. For the mind peace of the American people it was a fast and furious campaign with a quick victory. The Iraqi capital was taken in 3 weeks with minimum casualties and with a great show of force that demonstrates the amazing superiority of the American war-fighting machine.
Despite the clear victory in the military aspect, the U.S and the world must realize the reality of a new diplomatic and political situation that will also include military consequences. The “hot” war is over but the political dilemma, one that is also going to bring military developments, is just beginning.
The current relationship among countries is very different of the one that existed one year ago. The emerging blocks of positions are creating a new, multi-polar environment on International Relations.
The reality is that the Iraq war had poisoned a lot more than just the relationship between the Socialist government of Germany and the Bush administration. A new world position, a whole different approach was born as result of the war. A new block of world opposition to the US plans was developed, bringing together such different forces as the conservative center-right government of France, Socialists Germany and Belgium, the somewhere want to go Russia, the Communist China and the whole of the Muslim world. This new world panorama is recreating what Nixon did with his visit to China in the early seventies: a multi-polar, multi option, environment.
The basic position of this wide “anti-war” block can be best described by the last Soviet President, Gorvachev, who spoke out against the US action: "They did whatever they wanted, and this is a worrying precedent." The famous ex president also pointed to differences between this war and the Afghan campaign "It was possible to tolerate such an action in Afghanistan, where the situation was clearer; however, in Iraq, the US was deploying its military the moment UN inspectors started working in the field", complained Gorbachev. "They have split the UN Security Council and the world, disregarding global public opinion." He concludes, "Russia should keep on raising its voice to the world's superpower (the USA), which is now alone and has failed politically, diplomatically and morally".
Whatever the reasons of the US, and away of the issue of the legality of the war, the reality is that many countries did the almost impossible: to stand firm against the US policies and intentions. The general world support and solidarity that the September 11 attacks generated towards the US and the “go on” attitude of the world opinion during the obviously just and clear Afghan and anti Bin Laden war, came to disappear and vanish during the Iraqi war. This is evidence that an obvious terrorist organization made of murder fanatics can never be compared with a country that had dozens of diplomatic representations around the world, is member of the United Nations and one of its higher figures just had a recent state interview with Pope John Paul II.
As for US critics the Iraqi war was done for oil, for hegemony in the Middle East and for the family pride of the current US president. The main result is general distrust of the US objectives in the Middle East and a closer approach of Russia to the European countries that were against the US position. In the Middle East, even close allies of the US such as Saudi Arabia want to make space between them and the US and asked for drastic reduction of US forces deployed there. The Egyptian president warned not long ago of “hundreds of Bin Ladens” soon to appear; something that the recent terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia looks to prove right.
The New Axis
Here is the difference with the current situation: one year ago there was only one dominant world position: the one of the US. All other countries just observed and remain quiet. Now there is a separation of viewpoints as the world had not seen in 3 generations. Open split of positions had occurred between the US and the traditional European allies. The most important fact that we can see in world international relations is the born of what we can call a new European Axis Moscow-Berlin-Paris. This new European Axis is a balancing force against the US unilateral behavior on world politics.
As for this new situation, where Russia is closer than ever to the Anti-US European countries, Gorvachev states "Russia is part of European culture and, surely, this new cooperation with France and Germany will lead to a closer collaboration in the near future. Without Russia, Europe would not exist." We can see that Russia is closer Europe as it had never been in the last 80 years. While Russia went in to open support of the US actions in Afghanistan trying to get support for its own actions against the Chechens, they saw themselves alone again after a short period of silence from the world opinion. They tried to back their own actions with the anti terrorist war of the US without clear result. Now that public opinion “cover” had come to an end and again the world is protesting its actions in the Caucasus Russia is once more in opposition to the US war agenda. With the bombing of Yugoslavia, a close friend, fresh in the memory of the hard liners and ex KGB agent Putin, and the Russian interests on Iraq gone, Russia was clear to oppose the US war.
France, in the other hand, has the desire to be recognized as a world power, and be in equal terms with the US; this situation is what brought Russia and France to a closer political position. France also, with old ties to Iraq and with a powerful and influent Arab population in Marseilles and around all its territory, wanted to earn the support of the old Arab colonies.
In addition to this Russian-French alliance, the socialist-green government of Germany remained firm in the old “peace and love” policy of the Schroeder/Fischer coalition government. The very leftist Belgium government was also a natural and little addition to this new Moscow-Paris-Berlin axis. As auxiliary support the new axis had the implicit approval of the ever- exited Chinese government and most of the poor and powerless (non US aid dependent) countries of the world.
The new Axis is moving within the US’s limitations of power. Despite the US status as the only superpower it has obvious limitations. The impossibility of the US to pass a new resolution in the Security Council is clear evidence of this. Also the specific cases of Chile, Mexico and Turkey are life proof that the economical and political pressures that the US can have over a country are not all mighty. While is true that aid dependent countries will always back with docility all US positions, it is also true that countries, even poor Latin-American countries, will stand firm against the US war positions when supported with strong ideological convictions. This is clear when we see that despite the twenty plus billions dollars in grants and loans that the US offered Turkey in exchange for the deployment of the 4th Infantry Division there, Turkey finally refused the offer. This happened because of strong ideological motivation from the Turks and because more than 80% of the population were opposed to the US plans. As for Mexico and Chile, they knew very well that their refusal to support the position of the US in the Security Council would most likely bring economical punishments. Despite this high risk, those poor Latin-American countries stand firm in their convictions and refused to back the US.
Despite the economical power of the US countries of the world can opposed it when they have a strong ideological motivation and a high sense of “dignity”. As for the new axis and countries such as France and Germany, the possibility of economical sanctions are almost null. France and Germany are not aid dependent countries, but powerful economies in Europe and the world. Also they are major players of the European Union and as such they can influence the whole of the economical policies of Union. If the US declares open sanctions against France and Germany, those countries have the power to do the same thing to the US and in addition they can move the giant economy of the whole European Union against the US . This is something that a country in an almost recession and with an electoral year ahead cannot afford.
The fact that the European union is expanding also places a challenge to the new European axis. The poor and aid dependent countries of Eastern Europe want to please the US and support its position, obviously motivated by future bilateral treaties and aid donations. The Problem is that countries such as France and Germany see this as a treason from those countries. “Why they want to join the EU (and get our money) if they don’t support our positions and are behind the US money”- think the leaders of the new European Axis. President Chirac, said recently that serious consequences could occur to the new EU members to be, including the delay of their entry. The small countries reacted with rage to the French position, something that Chirac disregards with apathy. Those small countries that had been trying almost in desperation to become member of the EU will face now a cold treatment from two of the main countries of the organization: France and Germany. The European Coal and Steel Community that became the European Economic Community and then the European Union will have now new members that are to be welcome under the coldest conditions.
The internal position of Chirac, who just came from winning in a powerful way the last presidential elections against hard right wing candidate Jean Marie Le Pen, raised to sky levels of popularity among the French population because of firm stand against Bush’s war. Also the anti-French sentiment of the most radical center-right supporters of the war in America, back fired, and the pseudo war against French wine and “French” fries only served to raised the legendary French nationalism and patriotism and transform it in open support to Chirac’s position.
As for the United Kingdom it now faces the hard position of keep supporting the US at all cost or turn around to support Europe. This situation of keep apart from the rest of Europe is particular in Britain, because it involves a philosophical approach. The Geographical separation of the British island had become also a psychological one. The British are away from the European Union as political body, the monetary integration of the Euro and a true integrated and common European policy. Their sense of independence stand strong and firm. Tony Blair political position hasn’t suffer for real despite the massive protest against his involvement in the war. Tony Blair already represents the center left (?) position of British politics. That is the reason of the desertions of close party members and the contrary vote of more than a hundred parliament members of the Blair’s labor party. Despite those little “treasons” of his party members, Blair should not worry too much because the other only big option are the conservatives of the Thatcher line; real gun on hand hawks. Most likely Blair will lost some votes that will ended up in the even more leftist parties but his position will remain stable. As for the British position, it is clear that soon rather than later, Blair will have to make a decision: US or Europe. A possible, but unlikely, change in the White House will leave the UK alone and between two waters
As for Italy and Spain, the first will not get a lot of damage for its support for the US while the second is in real big trouble. Italy will remain faithful to the master of “escape” that Berlusconi is; his superb ability to survive and his capability to change the attention of the media (that in good amount he controls and owns) will keep him in power without big political problems related to the Iraq issue.
Contrary to Italy, Jose Maria Aznar’s Spain is in big trouble. The Spanish population is in frontal opposition to Aznar’s open support to the war. Aznar’s Partido Popular represents the “light” center right-conservative line that just came to power under Democracy by first time only a few years ago. When Aznar became Prime Minister he tried by all means to separate himself from true conservativism and anything that could link him in anyways to the very Catholic and ultra conservative dictatorship of General Franco. As a matter of fact, Aznar never ends a speech, without first praising the glories of democracy and freedom; this with the obvious intention to place himself away from Gen Franco’s legacy. Now Aznar disregarded his tradition by showing himself in open support of a war action and showing signs of real rightist tendencies. As result of this Aznar faces the rage of big amounts of the population-that still have “Fracophobia” -and even desertions of people in his own party, that are following the line of Pope John Paul II. Aznar faces now an obvious defeat in the May 25th local elections. Aznar’s defeat will mean great gains for the Socialist Party (PSOE). Aznar’s only hope is that time saves him, and the war is forgotten at the time of the next general and Prime Minister elections.
More than just a new political situation in the world the Iraq war also represented a true exposition of what is to be the new doctrine for War during this new century. The extremely fast and furious victory of the US had created implications for military doctrinal analyst and organizations around the world.
The new military doctrine of the US, born during the first Gulf War had evolved into an extremely efficient 21st century version of the famous Blitzkrieg of the Third Reich. An amazing superiority of air power destroys all that is in front of the American ground forces, and then the mighty M1A3s and Bradleys come to do the final “cleaning” of the already devastated enemy. In the original Blitzkrieg the Stukas and the German air power were in support of the ground forces, in this new version the ground forces are in support of the “all mighty” air power that is the real killer in the battles. This new strategy in the key point to understand how a very little ground force could face and actually defeated forces fives times bigger. Instead of wait for a month for the air forces to wipe out the enemy forces and then advance as during the first gulf war, this time we saw the action of the ground forces from the beginning. A few hours before the engagement of the ground forces with the enemy, the “all mighty” air power came to massacre the enemy forces; at the time the tanks and Bradley arrived to the enemy almost nothing was left of them, and only a final cleaning was needed.
This war strategy had some little help form the Iraqi inefficiency; the Iraq decision to get their heavy divisions and Republican guards units out of the Capital in order to resist the advance of the US troops in the desert was a terrible mistake. The temptation of placing their tanks in the outside of Baghdad to fight the Americans tanks was the key point that destroyed the only true defenses of the Iraqi capital. Out in the open desert the Iraqis were noting else but perfect targets for the amazing US Air Force. With no heavy tanks left, the urban war never took place for real. This was the main factor for a powerful victory and a non real number of casualties from the coalition. The desert of Iraq was, contrary to the hills of Korea, the perfect terrain to execute this devastating war strategy.
The direct and indirect military consequences of the Iraq war are taking place without delay. After a few consecutive examples of the almost incredible power and over use of Air Force from the US, the Russian military doctrine is moving to place special attention to the air defenses and land-air missiles. The Russians are rewriting their doctrine and placing their efforts towards weapons that can counter the extreme American air power. Despite the fact the decadent state of the Russian military, all available resources are being placed towards the modernization of its air defense capabilities.
As reported by the newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the Russian armed forces are preparing an extraordinary exercise for late May 2003 based on the lessons learned from the war on Iraq; the exercise is to include Tu-160 and Tu-95MC strategic bombers, long-range Tu-22M3 bombers and Il-78 refueling ships. The main training aim is to target fictional US' orbital surveillance satellites to include the NAVSTAR global positioning system, optoelectronic surveillance Keyhole and LaCross satellites. Without any doubt Russia is moving itself to a position of awareness due to what they had seeing from the American extraordinary demonstration of power.
The new axis is moving also rapidly into the military field. Because most of the Western European countries are members of NATO and because NATO is obviously guided by the US policies and views, the members of the new axis are moving rapidly to create their own council of military affairs. This extraordinary measure is something Europe has not seen in several decades and is a sign of how deep rooted is the balancing desire of the new axis towards the US unilateral approach. Under the coverage of an exclusively “European” body of military cooperation, the actors of the axis are beginning to develop a mini NATO composed of Belgium, Luxemburg, France and Germany. The obvious objective is to belong to a military organization in which the US has no vote nor is even member of. Despite the hard critics from the US and UK to this measure, Germany, Belgium and France are pushing hard this new mini NATO to be.
What Nixon did with success in the seventies, open a third front of balance with China, in order to push the former Soviet Union into treaties, is happening again with a new position of European powers that are saying no to unconditional support of the US. Europe is standing up again with its own voice and dignity. With the beginning of this new century we will see a pseudo return to the past, when Europe was also a key role player in to the design of International Relations. What ever the route to take by the self inflated France and rebel Germany, supported by the big question mark of Russia, the main issue is that the “easy” and unopposed world for the US, where there was no opposition to its policies is over.
During the last decade and after the disappearance of the Soviet Union and decadence of Russia, we had seen a unilateral world ruled by the US policies. With the extraordinary solidarity and support after September 11, that unilateral approach and open agreement with the US positions was even more evident. Now, after a war that will divide world opinion for decades to come, and with a resurrected spirit of greatness and power to look for, “old Europe” is looking for a relevant place on the international stage. Europe will stand against the US when they think it is necessary and in accordance with its convictions. The lonely world for the US is over. Europe is there …once more.
Captain Roniel Aledo,
Especially for “PRAVDA.Ru”