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Such excitement has been made since the discovery of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein hiding in a “spider hole,” his arrest, and eventual incarceration. Ironically, the brutal despot was reportedly taken without a single shot fired, and then with a rather dishevelled appearance, subjected to a medical examination that was later broadcast to the world—both powerful statements and imagery that will speak volumes to those he terrified, and to those who follow in his footsteps.
Yet, many questions now arise, or at the very least, come to the fore. Attempts were made to answer some, but others were ignored or not even thought of. Consider the following:
The insurgency and Iraqi self-governance. Despite the accomplishment, the attacks against U.S. and coalition troops, as well as Iraqi police, are expected to continue. Some feel they are largely driven by the U.S. occupation alone, and have little to do with the former regime. In any case, they make any sort of re-building efforts difficult at best. In addition, the U.S. President, looking at an election in 2004, is feeling the political pressure of still having 100,000+ servicemen in Iraq—and this pressure will only increase as attacks continue. Yet, Iraq is still a long way from a stable, semi-democratic government by the Iraqi people, and accepted by the Iraqi people—which is really what the Americans are there for. Even this will be difficult and possibly even more so, if events dictate further hostilities between the three main ethnic groups—the Kurds, the Sunni-Arabs, and the Shia-Arabs.
Who's next in the War on Terror? Despite Saddam Hussein being hated even by most of his Arab neighbors (but particularly, and maybe even exclusively by the political leaders who feared his instable tendencies, while the general Arab populace seemed to admire his anti-American stance, and his support of the Palestinians), their style of governance, their dislike for the U.S. and Israel, and their relative condoning of radical Islam and terrorism are similar.
Iran, Syria and even Saudi Arabia have been mentioned as possible targets in a “Stage 3,” as indicated in a report from the U.S. Institute for Peace, a body under the auspices of Congress containing leading U.S. analysts. Progressing with a “Stage 3,” at least one with a campaign that is similar to the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq, will prove to be more difficult. International opinion will certainly not condone the invasion of any of these three relatively “quiet” Arab dictatorships. In addition, any one of those three, and especially Iran, will be more of a military challenge. Is the American public ready, willing and able for a “Stage 3”? There certainly is a danger at this point, of a sense of finale—“we got him”—so why carry on?
General Arab resentment. This is unlikely to diminish, despite the removal of Hussein, and even with a mostly successful outcome in Iraq. The Iran nuclear issue still festers; the Israeli-Palestinian remains in a explosive lurch; both Egypt and Saudi Arabia appear to be moving toward political change; Osama bin Laden remains at large; and America continues to appear as the world's only superpower—something guaranteed to keep most Arabs unhappy.
The bigger geo-strategic picture. The “War on Terror” is doing an outstanding job at keeping the world's, but primarily America's, eyes off of three areas of geo-strategic significance—Europe, Russia and China. Granted, Europe appears to still be in the midst of growing pains.
However, is it only coincidence that the European Union's constitutional failure was completely overshadowed in the media by the capture of Saddam Hussein? A two-speed or split Europe will almost guarantee a dangerous and dramatic outcome. Russia, under the leadership of President Putin, appears to be more and more headed toward its former “glory.” And China continues to antagonize the U.S. as it supplies America's enemies and others with military technology, all the while slowly and steadily increasing its own economic and military might.