Yes, we need a 'regime change' in this rogue state...

Its government has no majority. It refuses arms

monitoring. Its opponents are locked up without trial

Adrian Hamilton

09 August 2002

The idea that a pre-emptive strike could save the

world a heap of trouble isn't entirely idle. Think, if

Genghis Khan could have been taken out when he was

still the leader of just a band and not the whole

Mongol race, Europe and Asia would have been saved

several million dead and the destruction of much of

its civilisation. Remove Napoleon from the scene on

his return from his ill-fated Egyptian foray and

Europe would have been a different place.

The last century doesn't provide such good examples,

of course. To have "changed regime" in Berlin in the

early Thirties would have meant overturning a

democratically elected leader in Hitler. As for the

efforts by the allies to stop the course of the

Russian revolution with troops after 1918, the results

were disastrous despite having well-armed local


Nonetheless George Bush has done something in the last

week to set out the parameters to pre-emptive action.

"We owe it," he put it in Maine last weekend, "to the

future of civilisation not to allow the world's worst

leaders to develop and deploy and therefore blackmail

free countries with the world's worst weapons." And he

went on to define such enemies of the people as

regimes intent on building up weapons of mass

destruction, oblivious of international law and UN

resolutions, governments who imprisoned their

opponents without trial and who could not claim

democratic legitimacy at home.

Significantly, nowhere in the series of speeches he

made this week did Mr Bush actually name these rogue

regimes. But it is pretty clear reading the

descriptions whom he must have meant. The government

which is spending by far the most on weapons of mass

destruction, and is now planning to raise its budget

by an increase greater than the total defence spending

of Europe, is, of course, based in Washington. Not

only is it building an arsenal the like of which the

world has never seen, it has unilaterally withdrawn

from the treaties designed to limit the spread of

nuclear weapons, and has refused to accept any kind of

international monitoring of its chemical or nuclear

weapons facilities.

It has a government in power without the legitimacy of

a democratic majority, in the hands of a coterie from

a single part of the country and clearly aiming at a

dynasty of rule. Its rhetoric is one of violent

aggression against anyone seen as its enemies. It

opponents are locked up without trial or the right to

habeas corpus.

Of course there are those who say the country's

threats are greatly exaggerated and the rhetoric of

world mastery must not be confused with a real

intention of using its weaponry in defiance of

international law. True, it has a has a history of

interfering with and invading its neighbours ? Panama,

Grenada, Haiti et al. But since the long and

debilitating war in Vietnam, it has kept largely to

its own region.

Of course it has a peculiarly obnoxious regime, ready

to poison its own people with corrupt capitalism and

deregulated pollution. But give it time, and pressure

from the outside world, and it will pay up its UN

dues, rejoin the nuclear proliferation pacts and the

Kyoto treaty and start behaving as a responsible

member of the community again.

Against this, the hard men of the right would say that

time is exactly what the world does not have on its

side. Washington has showed itself determined to

enforce its hegemony, come what may. It has shown

itself ready to use weapons of aerial bombardment that

make no discrimination between combatants and

civilians, to show precious little remorse when it is

guilty of "mistakes".

It is no friend of democracy, having announced its

refusal to deal with the only two elected leaders of

the Islamic world ? Khatami in Iran and Yasser Arafat

in Palestine, the latter the only Arab leader ever

elected with western observers checking the process.

The country has armed and succoured state terrorism

and assassination by the Israelis. It has installed

the worst sort of warlord gangsters in Afghanistan

and, according to "intelligence", been party to

upsetting (albeit briefly) the elected president of

Venezuela. The world cannot afford to await its next


The problem remains the practicalities. Whereas in

Afghanistan the allies could rely on a local

opposition force on the ground, no such scenario can

be relied on in this case. The Spanish speaking

minority in the south might be induced to rise up.

There could be assistance from Minutemen in the

mountains. But the democratic opposition is too

defeated and divided to provide much help. The answer

could be an "inside-out" strategy using special forces

to take Washington and a few key nuclear bases.

Provided the rest of the country was left to get on

with its business, there would probably be little

internal opposition to a seizure of the capital.

That leaves the substantial problem of an "exit

strategy". There is no point in a repeat of 1812. But

the experience of America in Japan after the Second

World War could provide a model. A period of

occupation of five to 10 years could provide an

opportunity to inculcate ideas of true democracy, with

a fair electoral system based on absolute majority,

abolition of the death penalty, introduction of unions

into hi-tech industries and a break-up of the

Zaibatsu, the overweening corporations such as

Microsoft, Exxon and General Electric.

Given time, this rogue superstate might then be able

to take its place once again among the family of

peace-loving nations.