Summary: In spite of its diffculties in Iraq, the United States was not wrong to have removed Saddam Hussein. The outcome of the Iraqi enterprise will be crucial to the course of the "war on terror." And success is still possible -- if Washington takes a page out of its Cold War playbook.
Lee Kuan Yew is Minister Mentor of Singapore. He was Prime Minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990. This piece was adapted from a speech he delivered when accepting the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service in October 2006.
"A Singaporean Perspective
The basic feature of U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War was inclusiveness -- a willingness to embrace any country that opposed communism, whatever its type of government. The United States contested the Soviet system and held the line militarily, and its consistent and comprehensive approach eventually led to the Soviet Union's implosion.
After the Cold War came the "war on terror." Islamist terrorists tried to bring down the World Trade Center in 1993 and bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Then came the attacks of September 11, 2001. In response, the United States attacked Afghanistan and routed the Taliban. Then, in 2003, the United States invaded Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein and establish democracy there.
During the war on terror, however, the United States has not been as inclusive as it was in its war against communism. Aside from those in the "coalition of the willing," even most European countries have distanced themselves from Washington.
The United States did not realize, moreover, the depth of the fault lines in Iraqi society -- between Kurds and Arabs, Sunnis and Shiites, and the members of different tribes and local religious groups. These tensions were contained during four centuries of Ottoman rule, and the British, who took over from the Ottomans in 1920, put Iraq under strong Sunni control, centered on Baghdad. Now, because of the destruction of the old Iraqi society, for the first time in centuries, power is in the hands of the Iraqi Shiites.
With Sunni control of Iraq removed, Shiite Iran is no longer checked from extending its influence westward. And by allowing the emergence of the first Shiite-dominated Arab state, the United States has stirred the political aspirations of the 150 million or so Shiites living in Sunni countries elsewhere in the region.
The United States has long relied on its traditional Sunni Arab allies, such as Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, to keep the Arab-Israeli conflict in check. Now the power of the Sunni bloc may no longer be able to counter an Iran that supports militias such as Hezbollah and Hamas against Israel. The new Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, found it necessary to publicly support the Shiite Hezbollah in Lebanon during the fighting this past summer.
I am not among those who say that it was wrong to have gone into Iraq to remove Saddam and who now advocate that the United States cut its losses and pull out. This will not solve the problem. If the United States leaves Iraq prematurely, jihadists everywhere will be emboldened to take the battle to Washington and its friends and allies. Having defeated the Russians in Afghanistan and the United States in Iraq, they will believe that they can change the world. Even worse, if civil war breaks out in Iraq, the conflict will destabilize the whole Middle East, as it will draw in Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey."
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It's an excellent article.