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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Iraqi Oil Embargo Is Bad for All




Should Russia unilaterally break the Iraqi oil embargo? Probably not. If nothing else, Russia has argued vehemently that the United Nations - and not NATO - provides the legal authority for international military operations. This is a position in Russia's national interest and so should be stuck with.


But would getting the UN embargo of Iraq lifted be good for Russia? Undoubtedly. It wouldn't bring in the gazillions some claim, but if it brought in a few billion dollars a year that would be honestly earned revenue - the kind that would raise the flagging respectability of free-market capitalism here. And even that would dwarf what Russia gets - as mere loans, that must be repaid with interest - from the IMF.


The Russians, Chinese and French are all on to a good idea when they argue the sanctions ought to go. We have imposed an international economic blockade on Iraq for nearly a decade now, and the American government continues to wage a billion-dollar-a-year air war against Iraq that has gone all but forgotten. Yet Saddam Hussein remains firmly in power.


So, by the way, does Fidel Castro in Cuba; and as winter approaches in Yugoslavia, the West is about to make the same mistake with Slobodan Milosevic: holding back postwar reconstruction aid, and trying to provoke ordinary people into rising up against him.


Good intentions may be behind the UN oil embargo against Iraq, as they were behind the bombing of civilian infrastructure in Yugoslavia. But this is, at heart, an anti-democratic approach.


Is it an encouraging expression of democracy when people are driven to animal-like pogroms and street riots? Because that is the sort of scenario that would constitute success in Belgrade and Baghdad, if you follow the logic to its end.


Then again - witness the latest Chechen adventure - logic goes out the window when we discuss emotionally charged foreign affairs. Consider: Most Western powers would label it illegal and immoral to assassinate another foreign leader - but in Yugoslavia or Iraq it is somehow not illegal or immoral to starve or bomb to death civilians, in hopes that they will then do your dirty work for you and kill or kick out their leaders.


History shows that a rising economic tide tends to make ordinary people more politically assertive. The West should send aid to Serbia now, before the winter sets in, and adopt a policy of re-integrating Iraq into the world economy. This is the best and most pragmatic way of encouraging democracy to sweep out the dictators.