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Western Press Review: Washington's 'Massive' Undertaking In Iraq And 'Orwell' Awards For The World's Dictatorships

Prague, 3 July 2003 (RFE/RL) -- A review of analysis in the Western press today finds a discussion of Washington's acknowledgment yesterday that rebuilding Iraq will be a "massive" and long-term undertaking. We also hear from a Russian writer who ranks the civic freedoms of nations by awarding "Orwell" points, in honor of George Orwell's vision of the ultimate totalitarian regime in his classic novel, "1984." Anti-Americanism in the Muslim world and beyond is also considered, as is the notion of a "superpower Europe."


The British daily says U.S. President George W. Bush warned the American public yesterday that the country faces a "massive and long-term" occupation in Iraq. The paper says while this "reality check" is welcome, it falls short of recognizing that the Anglo-American occupation "has failed to deliver what it promised and is deeply unpopular among large numbers of Iraqis."

The "overwhelming message" on the ground in Iraq is that "hostility to the occupying forces is growing for the most simple and compelling reasons. In the latest of many examples, Amnesty International has documented the inhumane treatment handed out to young Iraqis picked up by U.S. forces." The editorial says it is also "most disturbing" that Britain has failed to account for nearly 4,000 prisoners of war "who are entitled to the protection of the Geneva conventions."

Simply sending more forces to Iraq "will not solve the problem of the coalition's tainted identity," the paper says. "A different sort of international presence is needed now which can command the trust of the Iraqi people.

"It is relatively easy to win wars with overwhelming firepower and by unilateral action, but it requires a genuinely international effort to restore the peace."


In a contribution to the international daily, Russian writer Viktor Erofeyev sets out to "scientifically" rank the level of totalitarianism of the world's dictatorships by awarding "Orwell" points in honor of George Orwell's vision of the ultimate totalitarian regime in his classic novel, "1984."

Erofeyev says under this system, he would have to give "mature Stalinism the maximum value of 100 Orwells." North Korea would also merit "at least" that many, he says. "Cuba would get perhaps 70 or 80 Orwells. Turkmenistan might earn an even higher ranking."

But Western countries can also "earn high Orwellian ratings," particularly when they "arrogantly claim to speak in the name of truth, put out a politically correct spin, act hypocritically or let pro-fascist elements into their domestic politics." Erofeyev's own Russia, for its part, vacillates "at rather high levels" of Orwellianism, "although, fortunately, not as high as in Soviet times."

Erofeyev goes on to say that the world celebrated the centenary of George Orwell's birth last week "largely because, more vividly than other writers of the 20th century, he showed the logic with which revolutionary pathos degenerates into totalitarianism."

Orwell's vision of a totalitarian nightmare "is a final accounting," Erofeyev says. "From a literary point of view, his brightest concept is 'newspeak' -- the deliberate creation by a totalitarian state of a new language that precludes the very possibility of dissent. The goal of totalitarianism, according to Orwell's logic, was not fear as such but its transformation into sincere love for Big Brother -- the Leader of the Nation."


In a piece printed in "The Wall Street Journal Europe" and "The Washington Post" today, the Washington daily's columnist Jim Hoagland says a "fundamental rethinking" is needed "of the highly fluid international scene created by overwhelming U.S. military power" and the U.S. administration's "unilateralist style of diplomacy."

Hoagland says France, Germany, and Russia -- all vocal opponents of the war in Iraq -- have yet to communicate "either what outcome they now want to see in that country, or what they are prepared to contribute," if the United States were to seek greater international cooperation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, there is "a continuing ambivalence -- if not an eagerness" in some nations to see the United States fail in Iraq rather than achieve a success that would strengthen its global superpower status. But these attitudes must be overcome if greater international cooperation is to be achieved, says Hoagland.

"This ambivalence is already undercutting tentative efforts in Washington to expand the roles of other nations in the pacification and reconstruction of Iraq," he says. The fates "of big power relations and alliances in global politics, and of the United Nations as an effective international organization, [are] tied [to] the ambitious but stumbling U.S. efforts to stabilize the Middle East and the Persian Gulf regions."

Hoagland says: "An American retreat in failure from Iraq [would] be disastrous for every country and international organization that has significant political and economic interaction with the United States. Ambivalence in this case is a self-defeating luxury."


In speaking of the Global Attitudes Project, an international survey of attitudes toward America by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, Fouad Ajami says the poll revealed that "America is unloved in the alleyways of Nablus and Karachi, and in the cafes of Paris." The survey indicates that support for America in the Arab world is at an all-time low while divisions have deepened between the U.S. and Europe. But what does all this mean? Ajami asks.

In some cases, he says, anti-Americanism is an outcrop of a nation's domestic politics. In Egypt, "you can't rail against [President] Hosni Mubarak; so anti-Americanism is the permissible politics. Where the dream of modernism atrophies, as it has in Egypt, people are easy prey to any doctrine that absolves them of responsibility for their own world. Anti-Americanism is the placebo," Ajami says.

Rising anti-American sentiment in Turkey is "odd," says Ajami. "In their modern history, the Turks have been serious and empirical...[Mustafa] Kemal Ataturk pointed Turkey westward, [and] gave it a dream of renewal and self-help." But today, the "secular, modernist dream in Turkey has cracked; and anti-Americanism blows Turkey's way from the Arab lands, and from Brussels and Berlin."

But actually, Ajami says, such polls are using "an old literary trick." It is not foreign attitudes that are being gauged but America's own. "It is our American pollsters we hear speaking to us through those Turks and Arabs and Frenchmen who, on cue, were ready to speak of America's alienation from the rest of the world."


Writing in the "International Herald Tribune," William Pfaff says the trans-Atlantic dispute over the Iraq war was in part caused by "differences of political principle and different visions of the world." He says within the United States there has been "considerable" debate following the war "over unilateralist foreign policy, the Bush administration's hostility [to] international institutions, its repudiation of previously accepted treaty obligations, and the legitimacy of the hegemonic ambitions increasingly expressed in Washington." Yet few have recognized that divergent worldviews are also at the root of the trans-Atlantic conflict.

At issue across the Atlantic is also the issue of European security policy vis-a-vis the United States. "There have already been independent European Union, or EU-led, crisis-management operations in Bosnia, Macedonia and the Congo. Is there to be an independent security policy, outside NATO?" Pfaff asks.

He says most of Europe's policymakers recognize that Washington opposes an independent EU security policy and is now formulating policy in order to divide EU members over prickly issues. But Europe has not yet decided what to do about these maneuverings.

Pfaff says, "A prominent theme of [American] neoconservative writing and television talk is that a Franco-German-dominated European Union, rebuilt according to the new [draft] constitution currently under debate, threatens to become 'superpower Europe' and a mortal danger to the United States." Some such thinkers warn that Britain, Spain, Italy, and others who sided with the U.S. in the Iraq debate might in the future "be dragged into the Franco-German orbit by economic integration and [inter]dependence."


Writing in "The Guardian," Brian Whitaker says, "During the invasion there was much talk about the battle for Iraqi hearts and minds." And today, amid growing complaints and skirmishes between Iraqis and Anglo-American forces, "it's easy to see now which way the battle is going. It doesn't make much difference how the occupation forces actually behave; what counts is the overall perception," Whitaker says.

"Many Iraqis, of course, are pleased that Saddam Hussein has gone. They are willing to give the occupiers a chance to restore order and leave with dignity, but so far they can't point to any concrete benefits. The longer they wait, the more those negative perceptions will harden."

Some Iraqis and other observers have an "unduly rosy picture of American life, with all its wealth and technology -- which leads to a belief that the U.S. could get Iraq's electricity and water supplies, and everything else, running perfectly at the flick of a switch if it wanted to. Never mind the complexities and the practicalities," says Whitaker. They believe that "if the Americans haven't done it, it must be because they're only interested in Iraqi oil."

Meanwhile, he says, U.S. officials "seem unsure what they are really up against in Iraq. Or perhaps they do realize it but can't yet bring themselves to admit it."