Post-war Iraq must be steered away from Despotism

It may be premature to begin talking about what will happen after coalition forces expel Saddam and his cronies from Iraq, but it is still an issue we need to think about and soon.

Take away the possible use of chemical or biological weapons in Baghdad, the mass civilian casualties from the war itself along with the economic devastation and we still have long way to go in rebuilding Iraq.

As a matter of fact, this rebuilding job will spread throughout the Arab community in the Middle East and throughout the world. After all, it was our mortal enemy, Osama Bin Laden, who claimed the U.S. occupation of Arab land during the first Gulf War was his sick reasoning behind a holy war against the U.S. The last thing we need are hundreds or thousands of Osamas spreading hate throughout the Middle East because of a long-term U.S. occupation of Iraq.

It is more than likely the people of Iraq long to get rid of Saddam. But it is also likely, radicals within the region or Saddam sympathizers will use this moment to recruit and retool either Al Qaeda or similar organizations.

Therefore, we must keep our motives of invading Iraq focused on liberating the people from Saddam and helping to rebuild Iraq allowing the people to choose their own destiny. The problem here is that even the most modest of long-term objectives in Iraq will take a tremendous amount of time and money. But to put it plainly, for a world future, minus mass terrorism, we must make the investment. I am not just talking about rebuilding the oil fields (should they be destroyed) or providing immediate food and medical assistance to the displaced or injured. It will mean building a new way of life very similar to what the U.S. did with the Marshall Plan for Europe after World War II. Like the motives behind the Marshall Plan, the U.S. will need to create a promising alternative for the people of Iraq rather than see them slip into the grips of hateful terrorists looking for social despair to recruit new members (much like the Communist Soviet Union tried to monopolize Europe).

Ironically, it was West Germany and Japan in Asia that became the very symbol of what we wanted the rest of the world to look like as we battled against communism. Similarly, the U.S. has the opportunity to help shape Iraq into the kind of peaceful nation that can fight terrorism at its core.

But of course in order to do all of this, the U.S. will likely need the assistance of the U.N. Like it or not, the U.N. will play a role in any rebuilding process in Iraq. That’s a good thing. We don’t want to be seen as the puppet master just setting up a figurehead government using someone from Saddam’s army who finally saw the light. Chances are that would lead us right back to were we are now. We don’t exactly have a very good track record of picking dictators.

The real test of our will to rebuild Iraq will come when the real price tag is revealed. Undoubtedly there will be those who will want to rethink our role in rebuilding Iraq, which is even more reason to have international input. We must remember, however, the importance of doing this thing right and not short changing it.

America stands at a moment of truth in its foreign policy (especially its relations with the Middle East), or should I say, a “fork in the road.” If we help rebuild Iraq the right way, it could stand for everything we hope to gain by this war and bring new meaning to the words, peace in the Middle East.

Last but certainly not least, I like all of you will keep our men and women serving in the Persian Gulf in my prayers. No matter which side of the debate you stand for or against war it is their efforts which are paving the way to freedom for a very oppressed group of people. Their courage is non debatable.

Davon Gray works as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and resides in Woodbridge. He can be reached at [email protected]

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