Václav Klaus: How I See this War

Hospodářské noviny, 21.03.2003

published: 25.03.2003, read: 5466×


In an extensive interview for Hospodářské noviny (on March 21), I was asked what is, in my opinion, the reason behind the current war operation against Iraq. I did not reply, as I knew that an answer couldn’t be condensed into one simple sentence. That is why I want to use the format of this article to express my opinions on that topic a little bit more extensively.

War is a terrible thing. This is not a pacifist or a scared phrase from me, but an expression of my fundamental conviction.And not only mine. We live in a country which has more than long-gone historical experience with war and the suffering which goes hand in hand with it. Although the youngest generations have, fortunately, not experienced a war conflict directly – I myself remember the War only as a little child – it is obvious that the vast majority of our public realises quite well what horrors any war conflict brings both to soldiers and to the civilian population. And [the public realises] that we must therefore measure, not twice, but ten times, before we allow generals to take control of resolving political problems and disputes among states.

But that is only one side of the problem. The second one asks: how strong must be the motive for saying that there was no other solution but the military one? In the case of the attack on Iraq, were the reasons humanistic, ideological, economic, strategic, security, military, or this or that combination of these?

The idea that the Americans are fighting in Iraq because of oil is laughable and naive. The United States is not dependent on Iraqi oil, and if the oil trade needs anything, it is stability and peace in the oil-deposit regions. I therefore think that we must look for reasons elsewhere. I would look for them in a combination of American idealism, new fears after September 11, and the state of the world after the break-up of the bipolar order, when the United States has become the only real power. This combination leads to entirely new processes which, however, raise many questions.

There is no question that Iraq is a dictatorship in all its aspects, which is an arrangement unacceptable and potentially dangerous for today’s Euro-Atlantic civilisation. But the idea of the proponents of the attacks on Iraq, that democracy can be installed by military power, is like from a different universe for me. This is not an anti-American attitude. I am essentially very pro-American, I greatly appreciate American society, its style of life, and its optimistic pragmatism, but even in the United States, the Right leads a fundamental dispute about this war. A significant portion of it does not approve of the military solution and claims that President Bush with this foreign-policy activity breaches and damages the conservative ideals of the free America.

Not to mention the problems into which the international community will get when the war is over, when it attempts to create a new Iraq cut out according to a western pattern. Democracy may be supported and inspired, but we cannot dictate it to anyone, and even less so by military force. And not only that. If this model of exporting democracy is to become the norm, who will be its next object? And who will put together the list of countries? And where is it all going to end? Will it still be that free world for which we strive, and whose ideals are also, or even primarily American ideals?

I cannot evaluate in detail the current danger connected with the possible or probable Iraqi ownership of weapons of mass destruction. Beyond all doubt, there are a number of other countries about which we may rightfully presume something similar, or about which we even already know it. Mechanisms must be created which would prevent anyone – including terrorists – from using those weapons, or which would at least make their use difficult, and minimise its potential consequences. This is a huge and complex undertaking for the entire international community. It is definitely not possible to launch a massive, comprehensive preventive war.

And another personal note. My opinions in this respect are of a permanent and consistent nature. I did not hide them when I held my previous political posts, I have always expressed them publicly, and I have always tried to gain political support for them although it often cost me significant "political points". As the President of the country I repeat that I find the current Czech – not American, not French – attitude of the Government and Parliament balanced. That is something significantly different than just a witticism, as some commentators tried to present this attitude. A politician must be brave and able to "blow against the wind", if he is convinced of it. I know that well, but at the same time, I am honoured that my opinions, feelings and attitudes correlate with the majority attitude of the Czech public. In matters as fatal as matters of war and peace, the need of a fundamental agreement between the political representation and the public is always the principal thing. And, after all, American presidents have always known something about that.


Václav Klaus

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Nubmer of comments: 5, last 01.03.2014 12:37

01.03.2014 12:37 | KevDyWGY (Chase)

27.03.2014 10:30 | UDrPnNLjZrPYAJadZ (Eli)

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21.04.2014 07:44 | yJSPhlPRgJkVdWviubD (James)

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