OPINION

Persistent politics

In the spring of 2003, the peoples of the affluent West have every reason to worry about their prosperity, safety and future. The incredible persistence of the USA in its aim of razing the already war-ravaged Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein may be interpreted according to realpolitik, but it is generally regarded as a threat to all that the growing middle class achieved over the second half of the 20th century. This middle class believed in enduring peace, never-ending progress and continuing prosperity. And on the basis of these beliefs, it rebuilt Europe, established institutions along with the welfare state and a culture of abundance and tolerance. Moreover, it transpired that neither the collapse of old-style colonialism nor the tension of the Cold War halted prosperity or dented peoples’ optimism. While previous military offensives have been branded as humanitarian, this has not been the case with the threatened war in Iraq, as the monolithic propaganda of war has lost the power to convince. Even before it has begun, this war has been branded unfair, incomprehensible and a destabilizing risk for the entire planet – a conviction which has provoked even more commotion. Where are we going? Whose turn is it next? Iran’s? Syria’s? Saudi Arabia’s? What significance do the UN and the international community have now? And, if international law no longer applies, on the basis of what rules are we to progress?