Campus & Community

Reconstruction of Iraq holds key to future terrorism fight

4 min read

The outcome of efforts to both reconstruct Iraq and to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will influence the level of worldwide terrorist activity in the years to come, the German ambassador to the United Nations said Wednesday (May 7).

Ambassador Gunter Pleuger, permanent representative of Germany to the United Nations, said he doesn’t believe a “domino effect” of democracy in the Middle East will start in Iraq, as some hope. Germany, which opposed U.S. intervention in Iraq, did so because it didn’t believe there would be positive outcomes to the conflict, either in Iraq or in the surrounding region, Pleuger said.

“We hope that we’re wrong, but we don’t believe this has a positive outcome on that [Israeli-Palestinian] situation,” Pleuger said. “Whether we get more terrorism largely depends on resolution of the problems in post-conflict Iraq. But if both don’t succeed, the Arab and Islamic world would feel humiliated, which would breed more terrorism.”

Pleuger was joined during a talk at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies (CES) by Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, permanent representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations, who also expressed skepticism that democracy will take hold in Iraq.

Greenstock did not rule out a positive outcome for the area, however, saying it is impossible to tell how the Iraqi situation will affect the region and the world until reconstruction is under way.

Greenstock and Pleuger were the focus of a five-person panel at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies. They were joined by Center Director and Krupp Foundation Professor of European Studies Peter Hall, Andrew Moravcsik, professor of government and director of the European Program on the EU at Harvard, and Renee Haferkamp, former director general of the European Commission and a senior associate at the center.

The event filled the CES’ lower level conference room to capacity, drawing between 75 and 100 people.

The two ambassadors, whose nations were on opposite sides on the use of military force in Iraq, sounded similar notes of reconciliation, saying future international cooperation is critical for international stability.

Greenstock said the Iraq War provided a glimpse of foreign policy in the 21st century and laid bare international forces and tensions well beyond Iraq that have grown since the end of the Cold War.

The international debate over Iraq was as much about the role of a lone superpower in a globalized world, about the United Nation’s place in that world, about nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and about relations between the United States and Europe, as it was about Iraq, he said.

“You have to draw lessons, if you’re wise, from all of that,” Greenstock said.

The crisis highlighted the need for strong international institutions, Greenstock said, adding that Britain would not again join the United States in a go-it-alone venture. In fact, Greenstock said, it would be unwise for the United States to go it alone again, because so many problems being faced today – from international terrorism to humanitarian crises to reconstruction in Afghanistan – require international cooperation to solve.

“The lesson that will and must be drawn by the U.S. is that you cannot go it alone,” Greenstock said. “You may be the greatest power in history, but you cannot go it alone.”

Pleuger said the U.N. Security Council has put the dispute over the war behind it and is looking ahead to other issues, including issues of pre-emptive war, humanitarian aid, and how to deal with weapons of mass destruction, that were raised by the crisis. Most pressing, he said, is the pending expiration of the Iraqi Oil for Food Program, which provides a large percentage of the nation’s food supply.

“If that is stopped without some phasing out,” Pleuger said, “we’ll have a humanitarian disaster.”