war in iraq

Looking on the Bright Side

The potential benefits of a war in Iraq

January 26, 2003

By Fareed Zakaria

Yesterday, a discussion on the meaning of love turned -- as did every discussion at Davos this year -- to one subject, America and Iraq. Most European and Middle Eastern participants at the conference think a war with Iraq would be a disaster. You've heard the case. The war could go badly. Saddam could set fire to his oilfields, sending oil prices soaring. War could provoke a major terrorist attack, by Saddam or others. Muslim sentiment around the world could get inflamed. If Iraq implodes, the region could get destabilized.

These are all legitimate concerns. The risks are real. But so are the potential benefits. Consider for a moment the possible results of a successful war in Iraq:

Not all of this will happen. In fact, most of it will probably not happen. But not all of the bad things people predict will likely happen, either. And even if a few of the forces described above are unleashed, they will have lasting positive effects on the region and the whole Muslim world.

Of course, not everyone would be helped by a successful war. The ruling elites in the Middle East -- particularly those that remain stubbornly set in their old ways -- will be challenged, threatened and eventually overturned. For these potentates and their courtiers it would mean the end of one of the richest gravy trains in history. That is why they will fight change as fiercely as they can. But for the people of the Middle East, after the shock of the war fades, it could mean a chance to break out of the terrible stagnancy in which they now sit.

There are always risks involved when things change. But for the past 40 years the fear of these risks has paralyzed Western policy toward the Middle East. And what has come of this caution? Repression, radical Islam and terror. I'll take my chances with change.

Fareed Zakaria Newsweek


war in iraq