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The Minnesota Daily

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Allies urge caution

FBy Robin S. Gendron former Secretary of State Dean Acheson once described Canada as the “stern daughter of the voice of God,” referring to the Canadian government’s self-righteous habit – as he saw it – of criticizing U.S. foreign policy during the early years of the Cold War. This description reflected U.S. officials’ tendencies to dismiss their friends’ concerns about the international behavior of the United States – either as pie-in-the-sky moralism or as motivated by the basest self-interest at a time when the United States was grappling with global threats.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s recent dismissal of Germany and France as “Old Europe” is a recent manifestation of this tendency. For Rumsfeld and many others within the U.S. government, Germany and France’s rejection of war against Iraq reflects a combination of post-World War II pacifism, anti-Americanism among the elite in both countries and the desire to preserve their own economic interests in Iraq. “New Europe,” in contrast, supports the need to disarm Saddam Hussein even if it requires war.

Britain, Spain, Italy and the Czech Republic have publicly supported the use of force to disarm Hussein, but this support belies deep divisions within their societies. Similarly, Turkey agreed to allow U.S. forces to launch an attack on Iraq from its territory, but the prospect of war on its borders remains intensely troubling to the most important U.S. ally in the region.

These misgivings should not be dismissed as out of hand. They do not reflect knee-jerk anti-Americanism, pacific idealism, or narrow self-interest, but rather a different understanding about the possibility of containing an Iraqi threat, the potential consequences of war in the Middle East, the relevance of multilateral institutions within the international community or the degree to which war against Iraq would distract the world’s attention from more imminent threats. The German government is not pacifist; it is deeply involved in fighting the global war on terror and has troops in Afghanistan and is justifiably concerned a post-Hussein conflict over the status of Kurds in the Middle East might lead to violence between the large Turkish and Kurdish communities in Germany.

There is no country closer to the United States – geographically, politically or economically – than Canada, and there are no greater friends to Americans than Canadians. What does it say, therefore, when the Canadian government, backed by a majority of the Canadian people, indicates it will participate in a U.N.-sanctioned war against Iraq but not a U.S.-sanctioned war? This position stems not only from concerns about the effects of instability in the Middle East or renewed terrorist attacks against North American targets, but also from an unwavering belief that despite its many flaws, the United Nations offers the best prospect for the peaceful evolution of the international community and that a pre-emptive U.S. war against Iraq would do more harm than good to international stability.

The legitimate concerns of its friends and allies convinced the U.S. government to proceed more cautiously against Iraq than it seemingly would have liked last fall. There was wisdom in this. Similar wisdom is needed now, on the brink of a war for which consequences cannot be foreseen.

Robin S. Gendron is a University instructor in the history

department. Send letters to the editor to [email protected]

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