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   Please--Use Wisdom and Use Statesmanship

An Open Letter to George W. Bush:

Please—Use Wisdom and Use Statesmanship

Dear Mr. President:

For the third time in recent memory we have come to a pivotal point in world history where bold moves toward establishing an institution that can conclusively decide international geopolitical disputes are possible. With your father after the first gulf war and again with your own administration after the attacks of September 11, this country stood in a position of such moral leadership that we could have unilaterally established procedures for resolving conclusively international geopolitical disputes, such as the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Korean nuclear crisis, Kosovo and the current Iraqi situation simply by proposing and then supporting the such an international institution. This would have involved our country lending its support to either the current world court or a similar (but less unweildy) institution by submitting our own disputes to its jurisdiction and then throwing our vast military power and prestige behind its ultimate decision, even (and ESPECIALLY) in disputes involving our own country. An examination of the current Iraqi situation is a good example of why this method is the wisest and most statesmanlike course:

Because of the interconnectedness of modern world commerce, travel and communications, it is essential that the stability of institutions that operate and assist these individual and institutional transactions be stable. That is, it is important that the continuity of the existing world infrastructure, such as communications systems, markets, travel and trade roads, airports, shipping lanes and the like be assured. These are, of course, threatened by individual or government-supported terrorist cells which often randomly destroy or threaten people at points and areas in the existing world system, and also by rogue nations who refuse to abide by established international agreements which support the smooth operation of these world systems. When there is a threat to the operation of the existing world infrastructure, it is in the interest of all the world that such a threat be met and dealt with expeditiously, for both the threat and the actual disruption of the existing world infrastructure can have equal and disastrous effects on the operation of this world system.

Given this situation, it is obvious that the primary actors in assuring and supporting the existing world infrastructure are the individual governments that build, maintain, connect and support the communications systems, markets, roads, airports and airways, ports and sea lanes and any actions which destabilize the existing governments that support this infrastructure can be disastrous. This is why the aggression of Saddam Hussein against Kuwait in 1990 could not be tolerated. An outside threat to the continuity of an existing government responsible for the operation and maintenance of part of the world infrastructure should never be allowed to occur, and it is in the interest of all the people and institutions of the world who benefit from the current infrastructure to assure that existing governments are changed in gradual and well-recognized patterns that do not disrupt that world infrastructure. Individual acts of terrorism also disrupt this infrastructure, as well as destabilizing by fear the smooth working of these systems, but are ultimately less destabilizing than the territorial aggression of another country against an existing government.

From the foregoing discussion it becomes clear that the individual action of any one country in violating the territorial integrity of another country which supports part of the world infrastructure is the most destabilizing of events, more destabilizing even than isolated actions of terrorists in attacking points of the world infrastructure. This is because terrorist actions by their nature can operate only by destabilizing specific points in the world infrastructure while actions against existing countries may destabilize entire regions and, in fact, knock out vital communications links, sea or air lanes, or product markets which affect the entire world. For this reason your father was correct in not allowing the aggression of Saddaam Hussein against Kuwait "to stand". For the same reason you cannot unilaterally threaten the continuity of Mr. Hussein's government without causing far more instability in the world infrastructure than any terrorists, be they Al-Qaeda or otherwise.

There is, of course, an alternative. There is a World Court in The Hague, although its institutions are cumbersome. Submitting the current dispute to the decision of this court under current (or more streamlined) rules, could not only resolve this current dispute (if the court determines that Saddam has violated existing agreements it could enter an order for his ouster or enter other appropriate relief, such as the removal of control of his military or nuclear technology from the current government), but future disputes as well. Of course, it probably still would require our military to enforce these decrees, but a precedent could be set that would set the stage for the resolution of other geopolitical disputes down the line. I can think of two right now that might be ripe for resolution by such a court—the Israeli-Palestinian problem and the Korean nuclear dilemma.

Deferring to a World Court would also remove the onus on each American president to be the ultimate arbiter of all world disputes, which practice has become impractical, ineffective, unpopular and nationally egocentric.

I hope you will consider this alternative when evaluating your ultimate decision in regard to Iraq. Remember to ask yourself this question: "Is the decision that I make in this matter going to make the next decision easier, or harder?" Trust me, you do not have to make such a decision! You have only to set up the mechanism by which such decisions can be made in a considered and lawful manner, and then support such decisions as they are made. Isn't that easier than making every one yourself?

Thank you for listening.
Paul Armstrong

Mr. Armstrong writes from Carmel, Indiana.

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This story was published on February 10, 2003.
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