Iraq Poses Long-Term Questions
01 April 2003

By the time you read this, some of our countries may well be at war.

Few issues have caused such division in recent times as Saddam Hussein's despotic regime. The Bush and Blair governments argue that such a regime must not be allowed to use weapons of mass destruction. Other governments - and millions of peace marchers - feel that war is too costly a solution. Both sides claim the moral high ground. The fall-out has included a split in NATO, the UN Security Council at loggerheads and bad blood between European 'partners'.

How wonderful it would be if there was just one 'right solution'. As David Swann points out in Gordon Legge's profile in this issue, ordinary Iraqis are suffering dreadfully - and will suffer more if war breaks out. Others, including the British prime minister, argue that war is the only way to stop their suffering.

One may question our leaders' motives. But the truth is that Bush, Blair, Chirac, Putin and co have to steer their various courses knowing that whatever they do or don't do, there will be a great deal of danger and suffering. Even those with the most ardent desire to do what is best for humanity cannot know with certainty how the cost of a war with Saddam compares with the danger of giving him room to manoeuvre.

Whatever the outcome, some things seem clear:

1) A massive programme of reconstruction and rehabilitation will be needed in Iraq, just as it is in Afghanistan.

2) Whatever the West's virtues, we need to be equally realistic about our vices and mistakes, past and present, and the effect they have on the rest of the world's perception of us.

3) Wickedness has its roots in individual human hearts. Anyone who purges his own soul of hatred is doing his bit for peace, and may inspire others to examine their own approach.

4) Whatever happens, the need to strengthen relations between cultures, religions and countries will remain. This will require acts of statesmanship, generosity, humility and open-heartedness on all sides - especially difficult in times such as these.

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