Of course, in many ways, George Bush’s decision to withdraw American troops from around the world makes a lot of sense. With the end of the Cold War it if fairly evident that NATO is pretty much an anachronism, although it is obviously in certain peoples best interests to deny this when the mood suits. So the proposed withdrawal from Germany is just common sense. Many of the other withdrawals can be seen in the same light; changing tactics for a changed world situation.
But what about the removal of troops from South Korea? Isn’t North Korea part of the Axis of Evil? Isn’t North Korea just about the most repressive and repulsive regime in the world today? Doesn’t it claim, with good cause, to already have Nuclear weapons? Unless Bush is about to announce a remarkable piece of diplomacy between the US and North Korea, isn’t it wise to leave some American troops in South Korea, just in case?
Perhaps. But let’s go back a little, to the run up to the Iraq War. The main reason given for going to war was of course Weapons of Mass Destruction, but when this was challenged by the anti-war brigade Blair and Bush would also start talking about Baghdad’s links with terrorists, and also the barbaric nature of the Saddam dictatorship.
I opposed the war, and there were many good arguments against it; that with regard to WMD the UNMOVIC inspectors should be left to do their job, and that Iraq almost certainly had no links to al-qaeda. But there were two issues on which I differed with the many of those against the war.
Firstly, I always felt a little uneasy at the back of my mind, arguing against a war which would at least rid the world of a monster. Of course the humanitarian removal of Saddam was irrelevant to the reason for war, but it was still there, and the few pro-war commentators who I respected (David Aaronovitch, Nick Cohen, Christopher Hitchens, although the latter has lost it big-time in his bizarre criticism of Fahrenheit 911) all made this element key to their support for pre-emptive war. Unfortunately, as far as I could see, they never offered up a framework where future invasions could or could not be justified; in fact as many writers have noted, the idea of pre-emptive war for humanitarian reasons had previously been used by the likes of Hitler in the Sudetenland and Mussolini in Abyssinia. If there is to be humanitarian pre-emption, surely it has to be an instrument of the UN, and not individual Nation States?
Secondly, one thing those who opposed the war often said was “after Iraq, where is next?”. I may well have said the same myself at one time, but soon I began to question this criticism of the war. I have no doubt some of the hawks in the USA would like to invade further countries, as the Project for the New American Century suggested, although mainly for the US self-interest rather than for any altruistic reason. However, the sheer cost of the invasion, with Bush having to go to Congress for a vastly increased defense budget, was something I felt even the United States could not afford to keep doing. With the current situation in Iraq still worsening, the idea of another war seems further away, and the proposed recall of troops from South Korea, surely in the front line against the Axis of Evil, seems to strengthen this theory.
Those who supported the war in the belief that a New World Order of benevolent pre-emption would rid the world of its despots are likely to be dissappointed.That was never going to happen. That wasn’t why we went to war. For them, the fact that there isn’t going to be a “next war” is another reason not to have supported the last one.