You break it, you buy it

By Yousef Munayyer

Two days ago, Hamid Karzai, Prime Minister of Afghanistan (or mayor of Kabul as he has been called), appeared before the Foreign Relations Committee and pleaded that they not forget to aid Afghanistan if a war with Iraq begins. Well, unfortunately for him, the forgetting process has already begun.

When the bombs began to fall on Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001 and we began to free them from the Taliban, we did so with the promise that we would aid the reconstruction of the country. Afghanistan, a nation of many ethnic peoples like Pashtos, Uzbeks, and Tajiks, desperately needed help to stabilize. They feared that without stabilization the country would fall back into the constant faction wars that have plagued the nation since the end of the Soviet invasion in the early 1980s. And since this process takes time, constant support would be necessary, or so one would think.

So you would assume President Bush’s proposed budget for 2004 would include a good chunk of aid to Afghanistan. Unfortunately it didn’t. When the budget reached Congress, the Bush administration had forgotten (yes, forgotten) to put that in as an item on the budget. Embarrassed members of Congress had to pencil in $300 million to cover up this blunder.

In the world of international relations today it seems that there is this common understanding among nations. It’s very similar to policies in pottery shops: if you break it, you buy it. This is probably because there is some sort of international order right now and no one wants to disrupt it. If a nation decided to attack another nation or change the regime there it becomes responsible for fixing it, especially if it acts unilaterally.

So this has to be considered in what seems to be an inevitable war on Iraq. Are we prepared to pay for Iraq’s reconstruction once we break it? I’m doubtful. Some might point to post-WWII Germany and say that it was successful after we broke and fixed it. However, we cannot neglect the fact that Iraq is drastically different because it is much more like Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia in that it is much more divided ethnically, religiously, and ideologically. Sure, Germany was an instant success but you can’t expect to take a broken Iraq, add democracy, and watch it grow the same way.

I have heard these arguments about going in to help the oppressed Iraqi people. But I ask, in the long run will they be any better off? Not if we plan on walking away and leaving them in a broken, destabilized, sorry excuse for a nation.

What we have begun to forget to do in Afghanistan cannot happen in a post-Saddam Iraq especially if there is no strong central government.

Today Iraq has within its badly drawn borders Kurds and Arabs, Shi’ites and Sunnis (not to mention a small group of Christians), Ba’athist Socialists and Islamic fundamentalists. There has also been inter-group fighting, especially between the Kurds who are looking for autonomy, in northern Iraq.

The Kurdish issue continues to be a big problem. Turkey has already said that it will not accept an autonomous Kurdish state. Since the Kurds span from eastern Turkey to the south Caspian Sea they cross many internationally recognized borders, and an autonomous Kurdish state in this area would undoubtedly spark a conflict far greater than any war to oust Saddam Hussein.

The Shi’ites in the south, once freed, may invite Iran to restart the bloody border war of the 1980s and may lead to an even larger regional conflict tearing the Middle East apart on denominational lines, leaving Christians and Israel in between this horrific possibility.

So are we prepared to take on this responsibility? If this administration ignores Afghanistan while they still have thousands of troops there, how can we trust that they will not forget Iraq?

To all those people in America out there who are still gung-ho about this war, take some time to think about the responsibilities and long-term investment we will have to put into rebuilding Iraq. Many countries do not want to get involved because of this reason. Right now our allies seem to be the United Kingdom, Bulgaria and um…um….Cheneystan and Rumsfeldia. We are not going to walk out of Iraq in a year or two or 10 even if Saddam is gone on the first day of war. Many experts have said that we may never leave Iraq because of how potentially instable it will become. Are you prepared to pass on that debt to future generations?

This needs to be part of the thinking process on this war because it has not been talked about enough and is definitely crucial. If we continue to make decisions that only look good in the short term, we will be dealing with conflict forever. Reconstructing a nation we destroy cannot be neglected before war and should not be forgotten afterwards.

Yousef Munayyer is a Collegian Columnist.