Our core purpose

Joan F. Marques - MBA, Doctoral Student
Burbank, California - February, 2003

On Wednesday, February 4, 2003, the U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, reemphasized his superior qualities as a public speaker to the United Nation's Security Council and an audience of billions around the globe. Powell is definitely an eloquent orator who does not use any sugarcoating to convey his message in a clear and direct way.

However, Powell's speech did not manage to bring about an overwhelming change in overall perspectives. CNN reports that in a poll, held right after the speech among 601 U.S. adults who followed Powell's account, the percentage of proponents for military action against Iraq merely increased from 50 to 57 percent. The numbers of people who are against or unsure about action did not significantly change either.

Reviewing CNN excerpts from U.N. Security Council statements made after Powell's presentation, we also notice an almost unchanged perspective. Chinaís representative urged the Council to allow the U.N. inspectors to continue their work, and called for greater compliance from Iraq's side, while his French, German, Pakistani, Russian Federation, and Syrian colleagues more or less agreed with this point of view, thereby stressing that war is an inappropriate solution at the moment. The Russian Federation's foreign minister even questioned the often-used statement "time is running out" when it comes to the Iraq issue. He was basically wondering who had set the time limits and where, as Resolution 1441 does not seem to indicate such.

Although I am one of Powell's biggest fans in the world, I could not escape the opinion that he was stating the obvious in his otherwise professionally executed multimedia presentation. It is, in my opinion, not the issue whether Iraq really has those weapons or not. By now, the world has more than a suspicion that such is the case. However, my biggest concern--and apparently also the one from those who are against or unsure about action in this matter--is, whether any country or institution has the right to intervene in anotherís internal affairs, and demand withdrawal from an action that the main opponent has been practicing itself for years on end!

If there is any reason for direct condemnation and action to be taken against Iraq it should be with regards to the alleged cruelties toward citizens of that country. And this, too, can only be done after sufficient proof has been obtained. However, if Iraq's leader is really having his biological and chemical weapons tested out on local convicts, then this calls for immediate international humanistic intervention. But war can, in my opinion, only be an option if there is proof of clear and present danger to one or more countries. And one having similar weapons as another does not necessarily indicate this danger.

All that being said, it seems that combat will still just be a matter of time. The reasons for this conclusion can be found in the interesting perspective recently posted by Time.com regarding the real motives behind Powell's presentation. This source states that Powell's presentation may have been "less an attempt at direct persuasion of reluctant allies than a PR exercise aimed at rallying international and American public opinion behind Washington's case for war." Time.com further asserts, that Iraq's continued lack of follow up to the call for compliance in the U.N. investigation may ultimately force even the most reluctant Security Council members to accept moving to the next phase: the "serious consequences" (Time.com: What Powell Achieved). The reason is simple: if the war opponents in the Council continue to disagree with further action once Iraq's persisting non-compliance is proven, they risk falling from grace within the coalition they are currently part of. And who wants to be isolated?

Overall, this whole issue has a saddening undertone to it, perceived from a pure humane perspective: There is so much real desperate need for intervention in the world. As Jack Straw, foreign secretary for the United Kingdom so aptly stated, "Our world faces many threats, from poverty and disease to civil war and terrorism. Working through this great institution, we have the capacity to tackle these challenges together." So, thinking of all the suffering and dying fellow human beings in the more unfortunate parts of the world, shouldn't we rather focus our attention to the resolution of those squeezing problems if we really consider ourselves competent to intervene in others' internal matters? After all, isn't the core purpose of our journey here to live and let live? What you?