Gulf War II, as already many signs indicate it, will mark the end of the era opened after WW II and ends up the ‘era of superpowers’.
Written shortly before the second war in Iraq this article warns US, but especially Europe on its consequences, durable and dangerous... Just looking at the world situation today, 13 years later, and we can only deplore the accuracy of Franck Biancheri. The ashes of Baghdad have not finished falling, we live nothing but a terrible chaos but especially the great collapse of the United States (not just the moral credibility, patiently built up by generations of Americans…, as Trump knows, and Clinton wants to ignore). Today, 13 years later, we are still stucked in Iraq and its region… Just let us remember what Franck Biancheri wrote…
Upon whom will the ashes of Baghdad fall down?
Three major scenarios for the post Gulf War II world disorder
Let’s get a bigger picture and look at consequences on the Transatlantic relations as well as on each side of the Atlantic Ocean. The growing complexity of EU/US relations will enter into a process of simplification in the coming months with coming Gulf War II. This war will only leave three main gates to enter our common future.
The Gate to Heaven? The US administration’s perfect war
Gulf War II is ‘the perfect war’ as planned by US and UK officials. A few weeks of combat with limited military casualties on the US/UK side and limited civilian casualties on Iraqi side. Then, in a matter of six months, the stabilization of Iraq allows a peaceful process of transmission of powers to a new civilian democratic Iraqi regime, while a renewed peace process in the Middle East opens a new era of stability and peace for the whole region and the world.
If this scenario becomes reality, then the consequences are pretty obvious:
- US leadership on world affairs will be even bigger than now
- internally Americans will give long lasting support to the three groups defining Bush’s vision of the US (faith addicts, business opportunists and ideologists)
- externally Washington will move fast to reshuffle the UN system and will most probably try to get rid of France as a permanent member of the UN Security Council (knowing that any reshuffling of the UN Security Council will lead to the suppression of both French and UK seats, to be replaced by a European one).
- European Unions attempt to build a Foreign Policy of its own will be totally stopped
- Nato will be reshaped as a ‘coalition of the willing’ supporting US objectives
- European points on world agendas will be almost all skipped in favour of US ones. But, as a matter of fact, it is important to keep in mind that this ‘perfect scenario’ is already impossible to achieve as for months, the Bush administration has repeatedly failed to convince most of its closest allies to support the coming war. In terms of strategy, the drift away from the perfect scenario is already very significant.
The Gate to Hell? The US Administration war nightmare
Gulf war II is the “mother of all nightmares” as expected by Saddam and feared by many around the world (including in the US and Europe). This is the exact opposite outcome compared to the previous one. The war has to last more than a few weeks as Iraq is not rapidly secured by US forces. Months after the invasion, the country is still split in chaos with various groups (Saddam loyalists, religious or ethnic groups, …) fighting among each other and with the US/UK forces. Death toll of Iraqi civilians goes up by thousands every month; while hundreds of US and UK soldiers get killed or wounded. Neighbouring countries enter the game in order to take their share of Iraq or to prevent chaos to enter their own borders. Oil prices rocket to the sky and trigger a worldwide deep recession. Terrorists attacks are perpetrated against US and Western interests in the world. Israel/Palestine relations move towards an even greater level of conflict. Only half of these possibilities do represent a nightmare scenario. Not only for the US but for the whole international community.
International consequences are numerous:
- UN has to come at the rescue of US/UK and will impose conditions to both countries regarding the war outcome; most of Bush’s global agenda is turned upside down and the US administration is obliged to comply with the very multilateral processes it intended to free itself from.
- US weakness creates a big vacuum in world order and weakens the whole UN and ability to enforce international law; meanwhile it loses all the moral credibility accumulated in past decades.
- EU’s will to create a foreign policy of its own is considerably strengthened and accelerated with UK being sidelined as a credible player, while the French-German alliance is setting major goals . Prime Ministers Blair and Aznar are obliged to resign
- in the US a major political crisis is started with two sides getting more and more at odds: the Bush side complaining of lack of support from allies and Democrats; while Democrats call for a ‘regime change’ in the US. The coming presidential election in 2004 sees an extremely polarized campaign.
The Gate to tomorrow’s world? The US landing painfully into history, with the UN to rebuild
Gulf War II, as already many signs indicate it, will mark the end of the era opened after WW II and ends up the ‘era of superpowers’. Globalization shows the limits of any power, even the biggest one.
Probably, history will follow a path somewhere in between the two previous scenarios, combining elements of both. But even in that case, some major consequences may be identified:
- the US will loose most of its moral credibility, patiently built up by generations of Americans. In terms of global public opinion, it already has lost the war. Only a very unlikely “perfect war” scenario could limit (not even prevent) the damages. Many in the Administration today will say that this is not very important, or that success will bring it back. Both assumptions are wrong: first, when you are in a dominant position, your domination is far more acceptable when it is rooted in some recognition of moral (which also means cultural) domination. Without it, domination rapidly becomes difficult to accept, if it does not generate negative reactions, making the domination even more complex to manage. Second, it cannot be rapidly brought back, and it can never be fully brought back, as it is like a capital which has been wasted. And this international loss will also be felt internally, creating a growing discomfort among American citizens, increasingly dubious of their own country moral standards. Let’s be extremely clear on that issue: today the US Army is the only ‘American pillar’ still intact in US citizens’ mind. In recent years, Church, Corporate America, Hi-Tech Pioneering America (NASA) and the Presidency itself have been torn down with failures and scandals. A serious military set-back would generate an extremely strong wave of doubts throughout the US.
- the cost of the war (which will not be paid by the allies) will drag US deficits of all kinds towards deeper negative trends, enhancing already existing tensions within the US in terms of funds for education, for social protection, for environmental protection, … and for job creation. The US is indeed an empire (as a political power), but contrarily to current wellshared conviction, it is already a decaying empire. The turning point took place somewhere in the 70s and was massively overshadowed by the collapse of USSR and the Internet bubble. Till the 70s, the sheer size of US economy and its political as well as intellectual (education, research, media, ..) advance compared to the rest of the world allowed it to truly be ‘above history’, not seriously affected by the rest of the world’s evolutions. Today, and for about at least 2 decades, this is not true anymore and we are the witnesses of the US landing into history, discovering that it still is the biggest one, but not anymore big enough to ignore constraints coming from the rest of the world. Therefore whatever are the expectations put in Washington behind Gulf War II, they will only be met with limited and short-lived results because reality has definitely changed and will not come back to the 50s.
- Europeans will move forward to forge a European Foreign and Security policy. Maybe not all Europeans at once, but a core group of Europeans, those who lived extremely negatively the whole Gulf War II preparation phase. France and Germany will definitely be core to this group. But Spain will most certainly join as soon as the current government will leave the place to a new one. Eastern Europeans’ support to US positions will fade away in a matter of 4/5 years, the required time to pave the way for a new generation of leaders over there. One thing has to be said: Europe’s young generations (all through Europe) do not feel positive towards the current US power (and they do not remember WW II!). The current game played by the US with a few mercenary-governments, trying to jeopardize even more the weak emerging EU foreign policy, has left extremely bitter feelings among young Europeans who are in large majority pro-European integration. Imagine tomorrow Europe trying to play California or New Mexico against Washington? What would US feelings be in that case? Bad tricks have been played on both sides and they will require a lot of healing.
Franck Biancheri (1961/2012)
(Illustration of the article by Franck Biancheri 2003)
The French version of this article by Franck Biancheri (Sur qui retomberont les cendres de Bagdad?) was published in the letter of Club 2020 – February 2003, a monthly publication by the think-tank Europe2020 (now LEAP2020) distributed to national and European policy makers -the ancestor of the GEAB somehow. In the English version written later, in March 2003, Franck Biancheri built his proactive analysis of the consequences of the second Iraq war in the form of the three scenarios above.
Download pdf file: Upon whom will the ashes of Baghdad fall down? (Franck Biancheri, 2003)
En français: Sur qui retomberont les cendres de Bagdad? (Franck Biancheri, 2003)
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