A world tries to make up its mind about Iraq

When one looks at current political strategies around the world, it seems that thoughts about traumas guide motives and actions. "Never again 9/11," say many Americans. "Never again defenseless," say Israelis. And in the countries of Europe, "Never again war" is what is on most minds.

Responses to the idea of war with Iraq stem from recent events in the case of the US, and from horrifying events in the past in the case of Israel and Europe. In the question of national identity, the Holocaust presents a paramount trauma for the government of Israel, leading to a hardline stance against the Palestinians. The Second World War, with its tens of millions of lives lost, is still present in the hearts and minds of people who experienced it—and also with younger people who have learned about the difficult past in nations such as Germany. And it is present tangibly, for example, in that "dead bombs" are still occasionally found in France, Germany, and Great Britain. So you could say that the US, Israel, and the European Union represent individual units, all guided by history and experience.

Like other dictatorial governments of the world, Iraq has been a direct threat to its neighbors and an indirect threat to the world for years. Also, Iraq is strategically of paramount importance when it comes to securing relative peace in the Middle East and to ensuring access to oil in the Gulf region. And Western leaders—European and even more so American—have dealt with Iraq over the years in different ways. It's not surprising that ways of dealing with this threat differ now, too. Whereas US officials have pushed toward military action against Saddam Hussein, France and Germany have been preparing an alternative plan to bring thousands of blue-helmeted United Nations soldiers into Iraq to support the work of weapons inspectors and promote reform of the country from within. They want to transform Iraq into a UN protectorate, without war.

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March 3, 2003

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