World: Uneasy calm after the Gulf storm.

World: Uneasy calm after the Gulf storm. - Management Today comments:

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Management Today comments:

Never again. This must be the watchword of the western democracies which have so painfully and yet so necessarily dismantled Saddam Hussein's war machine, at such a cost in lives and scarce resources.

Never again, because Iraq's military might was built with the active encouragement of some western powers, while many others turned a conveniently blind eye to their arms merchants' activities.

Never again, because in sheer economic terms it is lunacy to spend upwards of £80 billion to knock out a war machine that actually only provided some £20 billion worth of contracts for western industry. A pretty poor rate of return indeed.

Never again, because those resources, now being consumed at vast speed in the Gulf, should have been used to stave off world recession, build new infrastructure, encourage better education and training - at least that is where Britain's £3 billion or more share of the total cost could have gone.

Perhaps the only heartening aspect of the whole Gulf conflict has been the way that in the post cold war age there has been a sustainable coalition of western and eastern states determined to prevent Saddam profiting from his attack on Kuwait. This coalition must hold together in the post-war settlement and resist the siren voices calling for a huge re-arming of the region. Every arms merchant worth his salt is now ready to re-arm the Gulf after the war, and never has there been a greater abundance of lethal hardware to choose from.

There will be those saying that of course the UK must help this or that ruler to protect himself, and anyway, it is a little naive to ignore the markets. The French or Americans will do it if we don't, and what about the jobs in Preston, Chelmsford or Rochester?

But this is exactly the sort of attitude that has forced RAF pilots to take on the most terrifying assignments and to attack runways and hardened aircraft shelters (built with British expertise), to be fired on by Soviet missiles or Soviet anti-aircraft guns, or face the threat of German-developed chemical warfare or French Exocet missiles. Never again.

Clearly an array of export prohibitions by one country will not work in isolation. It will require the sort of active co-operation in peace which has been displayed in the war by the United Nations coalition.

Fortunately the recent freeing of the UN from its ideological rancour, which crippled its effectiveness for so long, has now largely ended. If the new-look UN is to move forward after the war, it must use its newly discovered teeth and confidence to slap some form of strict embargo on weapon supplies to the area to complement a long-standing Middle East peace. A first step must be to restrict any military hardware sales to defensive weapons.

If the arms race is not stopped in the Middle East, any hope of the long-sought peace dividend will simply disappear, crippling even further the British and American economies. More importantly in the long term, continuing military tensions in the Middle East will divert the West from the much more important task of helping to build democracy east of the Oder.

One of the particularly tragic consequences of the war has been the way in which it has distracted attention from events in the USSR and Eastern Europe, just when it was needed most.

Never again.

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