in Politics

Havel on Iraq

The recent New Yorker interview with Václav Havel is interesting for many reasons. Of timely interest is his comment on the Czech support for aggression towards Iraq:


“I think it’s not by chance that the idea of confronting evil may have found more support in [eastern European] countries that have had a recent experience with totalitarian systems compared with other European countries that haven’t had the same sort of recent experience,” he said. “The Czech experience with Munich, with appeasement, with yielding to evil, with demanding more and more evidence that Hitler was truly evil‹that may be one reason that we look at things differently than some others. But that doesn’t mean automatically that a green light is to be given to preventive strikes. I always believed that every case has to be judged individually. The Euro-American world cannot simply declare preëmptive war on all the regimes that it doesn’t like.”


Havel coughed and took a sip of wine. I asked him why he thought a policy of containment could not work in Iraq more or less indefinitely.


He put his glass down and said, “Civilization has changed. Today, any crazy, practically any crazy person can blow up half of New York. That was hardly possible fifteen or twenty years ago. That’s not the only reason. On the whole, the world has changed. There once was a bipolar world, a balance of two great powers, who made agreements on weapons reductions, so that they were capable of destroying the world seven times instead of ten. Now we live in a multi-polar world. . . . Of course, the question is: When is the best time for action? Should it have happened a long time ago? That is a political issue, a diplomatic issue, a sociological issue. But, generally, it’s a matter of the functioning of the world’s immune system, whether the world can deal with such a case of extreme evil before it is too late.”