Dr Michael Bassett

Dr Michael Bassett

Newspaper Columns


23/12/03 Foreshore and Seabed
09/12/03 Leadership
25/11/03 Legal Aid
11/11/03 CYF and the Government
28/10/03 National Leadership
14/10/03 United States - New Zealand
30/09/03 Child Poverty
16/09/03 The Courts
02/09/03 Racial Distinctions
19/08/03 ARC Rates and the Herald
05/08/03 Maurice Williamson
24/06/03 Maori definitions
10/06/03 Police Priorities
27/05/03 Waitangi Tribunal Troubles
13/05/03 Maori Seats
29/04/03 Child Obesity
15/04/03 Victory in Iraq
01/04/03 The War
18/03/03 New Zealand and the UN
06/03/03 Big Spending
18/02/03 Rural Health
04/02/03 Sir John Turei
21/01/03 Summer Journalism
07/01/03 Future Prospects
24/12/02 Local Government
10/12/02 Reflections on the US
26/11/02 Election aftermath
12/11/02 US mid-term elections
29/10/02 The Washington Sniper
15/10/02 The Democrats
01/10/02 American Elections
17/09/02 The American mood
03/09/02 Unions
20/08/02 The media
06/08/02 Immigration
29/07/02 Whatever Happened To National?
09/07/02 Inflation
26/06/02 MMP
12/06/02 Apologies
29/05/02 Dirty tricks?
15/05/02 Health
04/05/02 Don Brash
01/05/02 Welfare
17/04/02 National's Predicament
03/04/02 Self Help
20/03/02 John Banks
06/03/02 Health is a Killer
23/02/02 Jim Anderton
20/02/02 Luck
06/02/02 Treaty of Waitangi
23/01/02 GE
09/01/02 Floating dollar

Victory in Iraq

Journalist Robert Fisk crying stinky fish, anti-American Keith Locke and war critics everywhere are looking rather foolish following the initial outcome in Iraq. Even Helen Clark made a hash of her wartime conduct. Yet, by the historical standards of warfare, what happened was little short of miraculous. A quick, surgical incision has removed a tumour from the world's body politic with less blood spilled than anyone anticipated. So far, that is. There will be more anarchy and "pockets of resistance" within Iraq, and collateral problems in other capitals. But so far, so good. It's just a pity the United Nations didn't have the guts to do the job.

Saddam menaced his region for a quarter century. Many millions died from his domestic and foreign adventures. Ridding the world of this modern day Hitler - or is a comparison with Stalin more appropriate? - was done with relative ease. The world should be grateful for the Coalition's work, and learn from it.

A few who criticised this war made sense. There was not enough preparatory work in the Middle East, and more trouble in Palestine, Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia - and even Kuwait - will result. Instead of trying to resolve problems on the West Bank before hostilities began, the Americans are only now talking seriously. However, other arguments against the war were suspect. The bleat about weapons inspections not having run their course was code for no intervention at all, since the weather will soon be too hot for military action. The pro-Saddam sentiments from a few, and the downright anti-Americanism from many who marched or delivered lectures from their supposed position of moral superiority, were sickening. A few like John Minto demonstrated as much credibility as that stand-up comic, Saddam's Minister of Information. And when it came to the critics' heroes, what, pray, was so commendable about that old poseur, Jacques Chirac? The man who labelled Saddam in 1975 "a personal friend and a great statesman", and who is reported in the Times to have traded about NZ$35 billion worth of arms with the Iraqi regime, a lot while UN sanctions were in place? The man who was prepared to use France's long-outdated veto power at the Security Council when it so clearly had a conflict of interest? The man who now wants the UN involved in the re-building of Iraq, presumably so he can retrieve the millions still owed to France. Would he use France's veto if things didn't go his way? Rather than the Coalition, it was France, the peace movement, the Greens and Labour - in that order - who lost their moral authority over the last month.

There's a lesson in this for future protestors: make sure you work out precisely what you're against, or you'll be compromised by the friends behind your banner. Questioning the war lest it have uncontrollable flow-on effects was an argument that might yet be shown to possess merit. But simply crying "no" to a war with a just purpose wasn't good enough. Praising the authority of the current UN when it can't even distribute food aid efficiently, was perverse. The UN needs to re-write its constitution so it can intervene within sovereign states where serious moral or human rights issues are involved. Many of our local protestors are washed-up veterans from the Springbok Tour of 1981. Twenty years ago they would have praised the UN - or any nation for that matter - that had summoned the courage to invade apartheid South Africa. I'd have supported them too. Are there no just wars left to fight? Surely they haven't forgotten we need a UN that can intervene in states of proven brutality. Zimbabwe and North Korea require action in my opinion. Today's UN needs a warning system backed with a credible threat of force. It should be beyond reach of the veto, but I realise that won't be easy to achieve.

For the meantime, one can but hope that the Iraqis who emerge as leaders can be guided unobtrusively towards accepting democratic institutions. But if President Bush mentions the "crusade" word again, other Arabs will take fright and the task will become more difficult. And if Bush doesn't speedily push for a solution in Palestine, then that angry wound will help corrupt elites in other Middle Eastern capitals to keep pointing the finger, thus perpetuating their tyrannies and accelerating local anti-Americanism. The price of ultimate victory has to be a redoubling of effort by everyone, including our government.