Volume 96, Issue 88
Tuesday, March 18, 2003

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Consequences of a "moment of truth"

United States President George W. Bush called Monday, "a moment of truth for the whole world."

With non-existent support for a second United Nations resolution authorizing war on Iraq, Bush put America on war footing last night in a speech to his people, with a message that was felt across the globe.

As it is with most personal moments of truth, yesterday's "truth" will impact every moment thereafter, except, in this case, on an international scale.

Whether you support the war or not is of little consequence. The "truth" of the matter is, the drums war are likely to be heard on Iraqi soil within the next three days.

Everyone has an opinion on the looming conflict – from political pundits to journalists to antiwar protesters to military strategists. However, no one – not even the Bush administration itself – has any real grasp of the short and long-term consequences of this war.

The most dangerous fallout is the immediate and sustained irrelevancy of the United Nations. Never has there been a finer example of being caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. If the UN had caved to American pressure and endorsed the use of force, they would have been seen as spineless and irrelevant by much of the planet – the mere illusion of a national body, beholden to the interests of the world's only remaining superpower. By not giving sanction to the U.S. attack – and having the U.S. swap away the UN's dissent like a insignificant fly – the UN can only be perceived as powerless.

Despite criticism of the UN, living in a volatile international community with no symbolic institution to regulate the conduct between nations is a frightening prospect.

So many other questions remain. For example, the level of America's economic and political commitment to a post-Saddam Iraq – one in which they may face unparalleled hostility as an occupying force.

On the cusp of war, the entire Middle East region remains a bubbling cauldron. Will Iraq launch weapons at Israel? Will Israel retaliate? Will American and potential Israeli military activity in the region lead to civil unrest or active military action in other Middle Eastern nations? Will general distrust among the Arab world in regards to America's motivation in the Middle East lead to a disastrous cultural and political divide? Will the domino effect of all these factors help cement terrorism as a common-day occurrence in the 21st century? Will escalating tensions and the increased threat of terrorism continue to lead to a reduction in our civil rights and freedoms?

Some of these or none of these outcomes may come to fruition. No one has any clue, and that should scare us all.

Yesterday may indeed have been a moment of "truth" – one that we may regret for decades to come.



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