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Monday, Jul. 08, 2013 - 12:37 a.m.

(an old letter to the Straits Times Forum, circa 2003)

Not In Singapore’s Interest To Back US Action In Iraq

I refer to Mark Hong’s commentary, “Pragmatism means backing the right horse” (Straits Times, 26 March 03).

As a young Singaporean, it is disconcerting to see my country supporting a unilateral and unnecessary invasion of Iraq – support, which is inconsistent with Singapore’s principled foreign policy. Even when seen with the pragmatic eyes of realpolitik, backing the United States is incompatible with Singapore’s medium-to long-term security and economic interests.

Firstly, a US invasion of Iraq presents religious extremists a gift by expanding their political base of support. It makes their anti-American rhetoric respectable, and most tragically, it makes extremists sound rational to moderates.

This analysis does not pit placating religious extremists. Rather, by taking a just and principles stand, Singapore takes itself off the target map of extremists or, at the very least, reduces its exposure, as it will be seen acting fairly in its own interests.

Pragmatists have argues that alignment with America will safeguard Singapore’s economic links with the world’s largest economy, but I fail to see how this is the case. When US President George W. Bush has little control over the world’s largest ailing economy.

His lack of influence was shown recently when senate democrats halved his US$726billion tax cut plan, at a time when support for a wartime president is support for a wartime president is supposed to be questionable.

Moreover, his economic track record has shown him to be insular, favoring the domestic economy and protectionism (for example, steel tariffs) over globalization. Even the much-anticipated Singapore-US Free Trade Agreement is being considered by the congressional House, and not the presidency.

It is quite inconceivable how Singapore’s support will be reciprocated in concrete economic terms. Furthermore, any goodwill that comes from this support will be eroded quickly in the uncertainty of the presidential elections next year.

Thirdly, as a small nation, Singapore is dependent on international law to guarantee both its contracts and sovereignty. It intends to use international law to settle its territorial contentions with Malaysia, and does itself a disservice when it supports the breaking of these laws.

It is indisputable that an American invasion of Iraq is a flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter article 2(4) and Article51; even the preparation for war is illegal under Article 6 of the Nuremberg Principles, instituted by America itself.

Un resolution 1441 has been used as justification by the Bush administration for invading Iraq. However, it outlines only the international Atomic energy Agency and UN monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission’s inspection regimes; not a single word validates or even suggests military consequence for Iraqi non-compliance, and by acting outside the auspices of the UN, America lacks both legal and moral authority.

But what can Singapore do when even Russia and China cannot sway the mind of a US President? However, if Singapore’s opposition is inconsequential, then so is its support. So why does it continue to back the US when it is not in its interests to do so?

Justin Ruixin Ker, Pittsburgh


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