Sunday, February 02, 2003


These two professors argue for continued containment of Iraq. Their arguments are simply wrong.

First, they seem to think two invasions by Iraq in a thirty-year rule is unremarkable. Nor is a thirty-year dictatorship itself disturbing, apparently.

They then excuse the Iran invasion by Saddam as a reasonable response to Iranian provocation and threats to Iraq yet fail to give us the same benefit of the doubt as we consider what to do. They also note the war did blunt Iran's regional ambitions. This certainly excuses our reluctant aid to Iraq in the 1980s, but fails to note that the war was also meant to cement Iraq's leadership of the Arab world with Egypt still a pariah; cement its role as paramount power in the Gulf with Iran in chaos; and cement Iraq's leadership of the Third World with Baghdad's hosting of the Nonaligned Movement's conference in Iraq in 1982 only two years away. Iraq also hoped to snatch Iran's oil province of Khuzestan. Iraq had ambitions completely separate from advancing our interest in halting Iran or their worry about regime survival in the face of Khomeini's Islamic appeal. Saddam had clear visions of glory and territory motivating him when he invaded Iran.

The invasion of Kuwait seems to be excused as the reasonable response to a dispute over oil prices and war debts, ignoring that Kuwait loaned Iraq money for the war and that driving down oil prices had been effective in drying up Iranian revenue, which helped Iraq win in the first place. And the authors say that we "signaled" Iraq that the invasion would be fine with us? Our ambassador made some ill-advised comments and Saddam took that as a green light? Did Saddam think our reflagging of Kuwaiti tankers in the Iran-Iraq War indicated out lack of interest in Kuwait? Did our last minute naval exercise indicate nothing? Did the parade of Arab leaders urging Saddam to back off mean nothing? The words of one minor ambassador convinced Iraq that they could take over? Saddam clearly needed little persuasion from anybody else that he could get away with taking over Kuwait. That seems to undermine their argument for containment.

So in claiming that we never tried to contain Iraq in 1990, and noting that Iraq only invaded Iran because Iran appeared weak, the authors are saying that at the first sign of weakness, Iraq will strike. If an enemy/target ever lets down their guard for a moment, Saddam would attack. Well, that is comforting. Our presence in Saudi Arabia is annoying enough to the Islamists and we are to keep our forces present there to deter Iraq for how long?

And the authors dismiss the threat of Iraq's poison gas and potential nukes and bio weapons. They argue that Iraq's past use of chemicals against their enemies, foreign and domestic, "tells us nothing" about whether they would use them against us. Wow. Past use may not prove they will use them but it sure as heck tells us they are willing to use them if they think they can get away with it and it will help them. Somehow, the notion that he would only use chemicals against those helpless to retaliate in kind is reassuring to the authors. It is not. And the notion is false. Iran used chemical weapons too, although not in the same volume. The professors should note that the Iraqis used chemicals to counter Iran's ground advantage in numbers and fervor. I dare say Saddam feels he needs something to counter our ground superiority.

And Saddam's belief that we are far less able to accept casualties argues that he would accept limited American retaliation in order to kill a lot of Americans. This reasoning also shows that blackmail really could work against us. Also, if the fingerprints of a strike on one of our cities weren't clear, would we really retaliate against Iraq? And if the Iraqis struck our military forces in the area-needed to contain Iraq-how would we retaliate? We would clearly want to strike a military target in response. But what if the Iraqis hugged their cities to make us kill civilians in order to nuke a military target? Would we still do it? I'd rather not place us in the position of needing to slaughter civilians to maintain deterrence. And if we did not strike, who would ever be deterred again? How is wanting to pre-empt such an outcome an inferior strategy?

As for the comparison with North Korea, why does treating two states differently offend them? Even though they quote Rice from some years ago saying Iraq could not blackmail us, that doesn't mean she was right then; and she certainly doesn't think so now. Nor should public statements by the Bush administration that North Korea cannot blackmail us be taken at face value. What would the authors expect us to say? With our humanitarian interests, we are blackmailable. Shoot, we have difficulty even killing too many of the enemy when we fight! Do the authors really think we can't be blackmailed when we care more for Iraq's civilians than Saddam does?

They also belittle the Iraq-al Qaeda connection, bringing up the old argument that a secular regime could not cooperate with an Islamic movement. I guess I only thought America and Saudi Arabia have joined forces for decades. The authors ignore what has gone on and the power of a common enemy-America-to unite our enemies. They also think Iraq would be deterred if they think we might respond should we think Saddam gave bio weapons to terrorists to use against us. Given Saddam's track record in 1990, do the authors really think that he rationally calculates? If he believes his will to win is stronger, he will believe we won't retaliate against an indirect attack. Or he may think he is untraceable-as he might be.

Their arguments that Saddam is farther away from nukes now than in the past may or may not be true. What is undeniable, however, is that Saddam has considered it worthwhile to endure crippling sanctions that make his people suffer to keep the nuclear path going-no matter how slowly. And we can't ignore the breakout option if he can buy or steal nuclear materials. I won't take that chance.

The authors argue that negotiating with North Korea while obliterating Saddam sends the signal that states must get nukes. Reality Alert! They already believe this. And we are only in the early stages of confronting North Korea's nukes. I should think that the proper lesson of "containing" North Korea since at least the 1994 agreement should be that even slowing North Korea down did not stop them from getting nukes.

Their argument that war will be expensive is not an argument. Given that so many against the war decry the lack of "sacrifice" by the American people, you'd think they'd welcome a real cost. What will the cost of a nuclear strike on New York be? Or "just" a chemical or bio strike? Far greater than the cost of 9-11, I dare say.

As for our being isolated. Hogwash. Again, if destroying Saddam is in our national interest, why should we care? No doubt thug regimes the world over who wish us ill will continue to oppose us, but I can live with their opposition. And the world is coming over to us. In fact, we will have plenty of support.

Their final argument that destroying Iraq will divert us from defeating terrorism is so ridiculous that I don't even really feel up to it. But just this shall suffice. Even if it has taken intelligence resources from the terrorism fight, and I doubt it, that "diversion" will end after we nail Baghdad. And if we contain Iraq for decades more, won't we need to commit our intelligence assets to watching Iraq? Now that is a long term diversion, if you ask me. All the more reason to take care of Iraq fast. Our conventional power, which is barely engaged in the war on terror, is hardly being diverted. The authors also bring up the strange notion that victory will encourage our enemies when we can see from the past that victory encourages collaboration with the victors. Pinpricks that do not defeat will encourage enemies. Decimating enemies creates people who have been with us all along. I dare say the lesson to states that support of terrorists can earn you the attention of our conventional forces will have a cleansing effect on terror sponsors the world over.

The authors' faith in our allies' willingness to contain Iraq given their quick exit from containment over the past decade is based on ignoring evidence and counting on wishes. Their faith in our ability to contain Iraq with the evidence of North Korea's willingness to starve millions of their own people to death in order to finance nukes is amazing. Saddam will endure the feeble sanctions to fund nuke work. He will get them if he lives, or if his sons live (another lesson from North Korea), and he will use them. I will draw little comfort if we then kill millions of Iraqis in retaliation.

In the end, only regime change can effectively disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and end Saddam's threat to us. Iraq under Saddam even with no WMD is a threat to us and a continuing death sentence to Iraqis. Even France with nukes is no threat to us or its own people.

On to Baghdad.