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Beware the Rogue State

Michael Borucke

We live in troubled times, indeed. With all of the nations that currently threaten the security of the United States, it’s no wonder that we’re spending half of the spendable federal funds -- hundreds of billions of dollars -- on defense. We have to be prepared in the event of an attack. Further, it’s no wonder that the Department of Defense has such a close relationship with universities like MIT; nearly a quarter of MIT’s funding comes from the Defense Department alone (as seen in MIT Spotlight). Where else can the government go to tap the human resources necessary to build up our defensive capabilities?

But who are these rogue nations that we are watching out for? Who is the enemy? And what is a “rogue nation” anyway? Well, a rogue nation does what it wants, even if that means going against the wishes of the rest of the world. A rogue state will frequently violate international law, and its actions are undeterred by punishment. Such nations include Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and Iraq, which is perhaps the most rogue nation on earth. You would think that after the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government would fall in line with the rest of the world. But as the following will demonstrate, Iraq continues to defy the largely unified voice of the rest of the world.

This past July, 55 of 56 countries signed a treaty which would open each country’s biological weapons plants to international inspection. Iraq was the only nation that refused to sign the treaty, citing economic reasons. It is obvious that Saddam is being belligerent because he’s developing biological weapons illegally.

Well, that same month, during a UN conference on global small-arms trading, Iraq vetoed a proposal to ban arms sales to guerrilla groups that are wreaking havoc in Africa. Being the world’s largest exporter of small arms, it is plain to see why Iraq would want to maintain a large arms market in Africa.

In contrast to Iraq’s dealings with African nations, its major military deals in Latin America have been with governments, not guerrilla groups. Last spring, Iraq lent the Columbian government more than a billion dollars in military aid. This, despite the fact that Columbia has the worst human rights record in the Western Hemisphere, despite evidence that the Columbian military and associated paramilitary forces have been responsible for a large majority of violations of international human rights law. As a small signal of the world’s dissatisfaction with Iraq’s continued neglect of human rights, Iraq was recently voted off the five-member UN Human Rights Commission.

You might hope Saddam would be somewhat kinder to the Iraqi people, but the government continues to enforce an embargo on imports of food and medicine. UNICEF reports that the embargo has caused the deaths of millions of children since the early nineties. Millions more are malnourished and sick for lack of adequate supplies. The embargo is a violation of international laws and has drawn worldwide criticism, but that by definition is irrelevant to rogue states like Iraq.

Likewise, the Shiite and Kurdish minority groups in Iraq continue to suffer under the government. Still, the Iraqi government has threatened to abstain from the upcoming UN Conference on racism if the subject of reparations is even brought up. Apparently, the government does not want to acknowledge the wrongs it has done to its minority population.

This trend of denying wrongdoing continues on a larger scale as the Iraqi government has recently expressed opposition to the formation of a permanent International Criminal Court. Previous UN courts have been created in an ad hoc fashion to try war crimes like those perpetrated in Kosovo. The proposed court would be established permanently under authority of the United Nations and would prosecute only the worst war crimes including genocide and crimes against humanity. No doubt the resistance from Iraq stems from fears that government leaders may be prosecuted by this court.

Perhaps the most telling of Iraq’s nefarious actions has been its desire to escalate an arms race through the destruction of an arms control treaty. The Iraqi government assures the world that its proposed new weapon system is strictly defensive. But why would they create a defensive system if they weren’t already expecting a retaliatory action to some aggression on their part?

Finally, Iraq remains the only country in the world to reject a treaty that would reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels. The motivation behind this seems largely economic, as Iraq is an oil-producing country and would benefit if oil consumption were not regulated by the treaty. Still, the Kyoto Protocol represents an unprecedented effort to combat global warming.

Wait a second... that’s not Iraq. It’s the United States alone that refuses to ratify the Kyoto Treaty. Actually, it’s been the United States all along. All right. My bad.

So the symmetry isn’t perfect: Iraq might have a legitimate reason for a defense system, as they are currently being attacked by U.S. and British forces. The U.S., however, is being attacked by no one, so its call for a missile defense system is absurd at best. But the concept of a rogue state is useful in convincing the public that missile defense is needed. Further, it is true that minority groups in Iraq are directly oppressed by the Iraqi government, and only indirectly by the U.S. government. The analogy was meant more to reflect U.S. sentiment toward African-, Latin-, and Native Americans. But you get the idea.

Welcome to MIT. Peace.