This article’s headline seemed to hold promise of a hatchet job without historical context but the article itself did a good job of explaining the situation we found ourselves in during the 1980s regarding Iraq. Of course, this is all familiar territory for me (see my summary of the Iran-Iraq War) but for those not paying attention, it may seem a shock. The details are interesting but the key part is:
Opinions differ among Middle East experts and former government officials about the pre-Iraqi tilt, and whether Washington could have done more to stop the flow to Baghdad of technology for building weapons of mass destruction.
"It was a horrible mistake then, but we have got it right now," says Kenneth M. Pollack, a former CIA military analyst and author of "The Threatening Storm," which makes the case for war with Iraq. "My fellow [CIA] analysts and I were warning at the time that Hussein was a very nasty character. We were constantly fighting the State Department."
"Fundamentally, the policy was justified," argues David Newton, a former U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, who runs an anti-Hussein radio station in Prague. "We were concerned that Iraq should not lose the war with Iran, because that would have threatened Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Our long-term hope was that Hussein's government would become less repressive and more responsible."
When deciding what to do, sometimes options are not what one would like. In trying to halt expansionist Iranian Islamism, we ended up siding with Iraq. If we could have calibrated our aid with a level of knowledge about what exactly Iraq needed to do to prevail, we could have strongly resisted Iraqi use of chemical weapons. And would the people who today say we should talk have actually argued for tough measures then? Before Iraq invaded Kuwait? Before Saddam turned on us?
We sided with the Soviets to defeat Nazism and paid for that aid by enabling the Soviets to advance their border to the Elbe River in the heart of Europe. We paid for our aid in defeating Iran’s version of Islamofascism with a powerful, expansionist Iraq. And now we deal with that.
The world is a tough neighborhood. Get over it.
Correction. Please note: I double-counted some equipment being moved from Diego Garcia to Kuwait from globalsecurity.org’s web site, so reduce the number of heavy battalions in the region by six. I was shocked when I thought we had nearly enough equipment for nearly three full heavy divisions. I was surprised for good reason, they ain’t there. This still leaves us at enough for two heavy divisions, the minimum for a good solid offensive punch.
In looking back, I had assumed we would see mobilization and an intense airlift of troops in a flurry of activity before invasion. When that didn’t happen, I began to wonder if we had secretly moved the troops within striking range (perhaps my counting error contributed to this suspicion). Clearly, I was too tied to my target invasion date and toyed with the latter idea too strongly. It is unreasonable to think we could hide that many troops. The airlift surge really must happen, and though I expect war sooner rather than later, I just don’t know if we can start the war without the airlift surge or whether we must wait for those troops to arrive.
Any day now, people. Why are we giving our enemies time to prepare?
On to Baghdad.