[VIEWPOINT]U.S. must halt its pursuit of war

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[VIEWPOINT]U.S. must halt its pursuit of war

On Sept. 12, United States President George W. Bush delivered an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq, in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly.

Mr. Bush declared that he would take military action if Saddam fails to immediately carry out five demands: the elimination of weapons of mass murder, the end of Saddam's support for terrorists, the end of suppression of ethnic minorities, an accounting of prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action from the Gulf War, and transparent dealings regarding aid from the international community.

The U.S. Defense Department is already girding up for war, which seems imminent, deploying much of its command post to Qatar, a Persian Gulf country near Iraq. While it is uncertain whe-ther Iraq will accept the five conditions, the second Gulf War is delayed only by the approval of an attack from the UN Security Council and the U.S. Congress.

But the rationale for the war is questionable, with Mr. Bush trying to justify hostilities as a battle between civilized nations and a tyrant. But why should innocent people sacrifice their lives to get rid of Saddam the dictator?

The immediate threat from Iraq, in relation to the global expansion of weapons of mass destruction or terrorism, is not yet fully supported by concrete evidence. If the United States pursues its current plans to attack Iraq against this backdrop, the most powerful nation on earth might have difficulty winning support at home and from the rest of the world.

In war, what is just as important as cause is practical interest. But American gains from the war seem doubtful. This war will not be a blitz. Because the United States' goal is to eradicate Saddam, it will inevitably involve the mobilization of ground troops to search houses and conduct street fighting.

If the United States engages in street battles while attempting to minimize the loss of its ground forces, it cannot help but drag out the conflict. Considering the anti-American sentiment of the Iraqi people, which has swelled since the Gulf War, the war could grow into a second Vietnam War.

I am also concerned about the domino effect. Saddam has been considered an enemy of Islam because he follows a secular Baath ideology. But a war with the United States can make him a hero of Islam and trigger a pan-Arab Islamic resistance against the United States.

That will harm the United States' own war against international terrorism. Arab countries which have been supporting the United States will also be under huge political pressure, and this could precipitate the overthrow of their current pro-American governments. The conflict between civilized nations and the tyrant will then lead to a war between the Islamic world against the rest of civilization.

Even though the United States may win the war, strategic stability within this region will be difficult to achieve. If Saddam's regime collapses after the United States' victory, it will only increase internal fragmentation in Iraq by precipitating secessionist movements in Mosul and Basra. Turkey and Iran may attempt to intervene and expand their influence, capitalizing on the ethnic division, which could in turn prompt resistance from other Arabic countries, turning the region into a second Balkans.

In this regard, a U.S. strike against Iraq to violently unseat Saddam's regime could be tantamount to the opening of Pandora's box.

One interesting element, however, is that while a second Gulf War could bring about negative impact, such as a rise in oil prices, it could be beneficial for security in the Korean Peninsula.

Because the United States cannot engage in two wars at the same time, namely on the Persian Gulf and in Northeast Asia, it could provide an opportunity to dilute the recently raised theory of a 2003 security crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

In the context of the U.S. and global interests, the war cannot be justified in terms of cause nor practical interests. No matter how beneficial the war may be -- or politics, oil interests, or the military industrial complex -- the United States must not force a war that will not serve universal interests. The United States must instead address Iraq through diplomatic and related means to exclude the possibility of war.


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The writer is a professor of international relations at Yonsei University.

by Moon Chung-in

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