Research: Iraq and World order

An interesting paper “Iraq and World order” by John Lloyd had been published by the Foreign policy center in London. It discusses the international dimension of the Iraq war and the prospects of the international order in light of the U.S. action of overthrowing the Iraqi regime and the war on terror.

Important topic and has a little reflection in the literature of international relations. I will quote the introduction and the last section. It is fully downloadable from the Foreign policy center website.


The war on terror has opened up new era in world affairs: but the outlines of the new are hazy. There is not just no new order: there is no agreement on what the order should be, or even if it is possible, or desirable. But an attempt to construct a new order will have to be made.
And it will have to be made at the same time as the confrontation with Iraq is the order of the day: for only if some new general principles can be glimpsed through the tumult which surrounds the particular case will there be longer term assent to a global system which might function justly. It is argued here that the scepticism and cynicism which fuels opposition to any intervention in Iraq is overdone, sometimes grossly so: but some scepticism as to war aims, as well as the never-redundant inquiry as to who benefits, is bound to be expressed and has to be answered.

Most of all, the doubt as to whether a confrontation with Iraq – even if necessary – is no more than a one-off operation with no larger structure of future world relationships in mind must be answered. The largest failure on the part of those states which argue for a last-resort invasion of Iraq – the US and the UK in the lead – would be to recoil from at least a sketch of the architecture they wish to have put in place beyond the struggle with Iraq, however it may go.

There can, however, be no return to the old verities. The international scene is too dynamic and troubled for a reassertion of national sovereignty, or of unilateralism on the part of any state, or of a multilateralism which achieves only stasis. The mix of challenges, dangers and outright horrors now presenting themselves demands new thinking and a willingness for radicalism: conservatism, whether on the part of governments or of electorates, is probably the most dangerous posture there is.

What follows argues a case for intervention in Iraq not based on the narrow arguments from self-defence which are most frequently put forward, but on the broader need for an international architecture capable of bearing the strains placed on it in the modern era. To begin with, it argues that a conservative approach to international affairs is no longer appropriate, because of the challenges that have emerged, or at least become clear, since the end of the partial stability of the Cold War. Firstly, the end of the Cold War both removed the disciplining structures of a binary confrontation and let loose an arsenal of deadly weapons and knowledge of how to make them – just at the time when advances in electronics, biology and chemistry were making weaponry more powerful and more portable. Secondly, the ending of superpower rivalry also removed much of the support which very poor states, especially in Africa, had enjoyed: and this hastened the collapse of the weakest of these, a collapse which carries profound security threats. Within the former Soviet Union itself, states were created from former republics which had neither the experience, nor the elites, nor the resources to succeed, at least in the short term – and some of these remain in a semicollapsed state. Thirdly, the growth of a desire to construct a new order on humanitarian and democratic/civil rights grounds was made possible by the unfreezing of the Cold War, and set a new paradigm for judging the actions, and inactions, of the major states. And finally, the emergence of the US as an unchallenged superpower for the foreseeable future presents a challenge to all – the US itself, its allies, the other major states of the world – to seek to turn that power towards the construction and support of an order in which all can have a stake.

The core of the case deployed here is that there will be a war in Iraq, as the American administration has made clear, but that the central question surrounding that war remains to be answered. That intervention will be judged on whether it is a one-off example designed to assure American imperial interests, or whether it is a police action fought in defence of a world order based on democracy and human rights. It is vital that it should be the latter, and in order to bring that about the Left must recognise the urgency of the case in Iraq and support intervention, but also recognise the urgency of the need for a broader framework on which to base international order and seek to bring that into being.


The United States, spurred on by its position as pre-eminent victim of new global threats, has grasped the dangers inherent in a globalised world. The Bush Administration’s National Security Strategy demonstrated that much.
The United States will act against Iraq, but the important question is what form that action will take. Will it be allowed to be the unilateralist assertion of a right of imperial self-defence, or will it be a creative moment in the history of state relations, similar to the Bretton-Woods agreements following the Second World War.

That question will depend on whether the United States is engaged by the rest of the world, and on whether it can be persuaded to pursue the right response. In order to convince America that multilateral interventionism and the ‘responsibility to protect’ are feasible and effective measures that meet the dangers it sees so clearly, the international community must assure the US that it, too, recognises those dangers by intervening in Iraq if Iraq does not show a willingness to disarm.

The threat, and potential tragedy, of this situation is that if the US isn’t convinced that a multilateral route, and a new world order, are feasible then it will act alone. If it does so, it will be unable to convince the world that it is interested in long-term law rather than simply short-term order. A nationalinterest response to new threats will be insufficient, and will exacerbate existing security dilemmas. For the new order
necessary to effectively respond to current threats to be successful, it must demonstrate its efficacy in Iraq, and to three audiences: to deter future defiant dictators and proliferators, to convince the US that it can enhance its national security through a multi-lateral framework, and to convince Europe and the rest of the world that responding to these threats won’t take the form of the US throwing its weight around, but instead be a sustainable era of activist international law.

In this situation, the pivotal factors for the long-term success or failure of an Iraqi war will be the way that that war is prosecuted, and the actions which accompany and follow it. There is a large chance that a US-led invasion will be successful relatively quickly, and that a regime change will be welcomed by most Iraqis. It is therefore widely accepted that the largest immediate problems are likely to be those of post-war Iraq, where a very extensive engagement and the cooperation of the major states and the UN and other agencies and NGOs will be essential over a long period to hold out a strong hope of success for Iraq as a thriving and stable state. Secondly, it is clear that the effects of the intervention on the rest of the Middle East are crucial: proponents of war see the Iraqi intervention as the harbinger of a more
general democratisation, and as an opening to a further effort to settle the Israel-Palestine issue, this time in more lasting fashion. Many therefore see it as incumbent on the states which do make the intervention – if it is made – to establish a rule in Iraq which is both efficient and just, and to then follow through with a renewed effort to bring agreement between Israelis and Palestinians in order to realise the potential of a transformative moment.
But those who insist upon these two corollaries of war – commitment to reconstruction and to a just settlement in Israel/Palestine – are merely advocating, piecemeal, elements which are a part of a broader agenda. It is in fact necessary to follow up an intervention in Iraq based on the case laid out in this article not just with steps toward democracy and respect for justice, human rights and international law in the Middle East, but with a commitment to a rule-governed order that must apply globally if it is to be a sufficient response to global problems.

By placing this intervention in a broader context, it will be possible to construct a wider coalition for action. As long as the debate is conducted in terms of threats alone, the gulf in perceptions across the Atlantic will mean that many people are left unimpressed by arguments for intervention. The West must set out a positive agenda based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law – and so re-establish a sense of shared goals in the West, and beyond. The bare bones of a future world order should include the following commitments:
Ø to orderly and peaceful relations between states;
Ø to increased efforts to alleviate poverty and disease on the basis of reciprocal pledges: from the donor states, to augment aid, and from the recipients, to use it for the ends for which it is intended;
Ø to protect, on the part of governments, the security of all citizens of a given polity: where that cannot be guaranteed, or is deliberately being flouted because of repression or war conducted by the government against a part of the population,
the issue becomes a cause of concern at the UN and is considered as to whether intervention might be warranted;
Ø to agreement being reached by the major states of the world, East and West, North and South, on the basic principles of a global system of security, and the basic requirements for intervention in the case of its breakdown. This would, in the words of Robert Cooper, “aim to bring order and organisation but rest…on the voluntary principle.”

There is no guarantee of success in any of this: but nor is there any route of retreat to a position of stability in the fastness of our nation states. Our security no longer lies within their borders; though where it does lie will take a journey to discover.

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