Iraq seems to be in the news again.
Unfortunately, even though the Bush administration has publicly declared its intention to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, recent statements from expert military analysts like Eliot Cohen seem to indicate that because of the need to replace ordinance expended in the Afghan campaign, military action against Iraq could not start for at least six months, if not a year. Still, the die has been cast. Next month Ahmad Chalabi, head of the exiled Iraqi National Congress will meet in Washington with our political and military leaders, partly to coordinate anti-Hussein activities, but also to make a case in the court of public opinion that a new regime in Iraq is just what the doctor ordered.
This means that until at least next fall (when the desert cools down from its summer highs and makes an invasion possible) there is going to be a raging debate in this country between the hawks in the Defense Department and the doves over at the State Department as well as in the international community. One side will argue that Saddam Hussein must be removed at all costs. The other will argue for some minor modifications to the status quo, basically our strategy for the last decade. A third argument of unilateral withdrawal will come from the peace activists still smarting from their public ass-whoopin' in the wake of the Afghan conflict who will probably attempt to stage a public comeback using the Iraq issue. Personally, I can't wait to see the "How Many Lives for a Barrel of Oil" signs start popping up again. In any case, the sooner we start an honest debate about the coming war, the better we can avoid a repeat of the mistakes of 1991, when we had absolutely no plan for dealing with Iraq in the wake of the Gulf War.
It is also important to know that this will not be a war of liberation like the Gulf War, but a war of conquest. Unlike in 1991, the Hussein regime has not physically crossed any "line in the sand," but rather has become so potentially dangerous that it would be safer to take him out now rather than wait for him to initiate hostilities. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is better to have a discussion about Iraq sooner rather than later. There is a strong case for conquering Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein. Here are some of the main points that our government will probably use:
1: An invasion will deter other nations from acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). We have made a lot of bellicose statements about this, but an actual takeover of Iraq because of their non-compliance with U.N. WMD treaties would cause all the other rogue states to sit up and take notice, especially fellow "axis of evil" members Iran and North Korea. Iraq is a pariah state because its government is attempting to illegally acquire WMDs (chemical, biological, and nuclear) in violation of various arms-control treaties that Iraq signed in the past, as well as the cease-fire agreement that ended the Gulf War.
The past use of chemical weapons by Iraq against the Iranians and the Kurds is not the first times those weapons have been used since World War I there is some evidence that the Italians used mustard gas during their 1935 invasion of Ethiopia but their previous use by the regime does not bode well in case the Iraqis acquire long-range ballistic missiles or a nuclear weapon. This leads directly to the second point.
2. "Anticipatory self-defense." This means that if we don't do something about Iraq now, then the Iraqis will attack us at some indeterminate future date (obviously this means within the next few years, as opposed to an open-ended statement). Though there is currently no proven link between Saddam and Al Qaeda, apart from a possible meeting between September 11 ringleader Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence operative in Prague, there are plenty of other hostile actions taken by the Iraqi regime against America. There was the attempted assassination in 1993 of former President George Bush Sr., as well as the regular attacks on our warplanes over the no fly zones. There is also Saddam Hussein's pathological hatred for the United States to consider. This writer thinks that any regime that publicly declares itself an enemy of the United States is a legitimate target.
3: Occupying Iraq will end the humanitarian nightmare. It is undeniable that the U.N.-U.S. enforced sanctions following the Gulf War have left the Iraqi civilian population in desperate need of food and modern medical supplies. Though the current sanctions are supposed to make allowances for these, there is a widespread perception that they are not. There is a large amount of hostility directed towards our country that stems from the alleged one million deaths that have occurred because of sanctions; in any case, the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Iraq has been noted by groups as diverse as the European Union, the Human Rights Watch, and Al Qaeda. An occupation will allow relief agencies total unfettered access to the country, as well as give the Iraqi civilians access to one of the greatest logistical systems in the world, much the same as our forces did in Afghanistan. This does not even take into account the large amounts of cash our nation will probably spend rebuilding and improving any destroyed Iraqi infrastructure.
Alas, Saddam Hussein is not a stupid man. Though his military abilities are certainly worse than most freshman cadets at West Point, he has an incredibility acute political ear. He normally knows what he can get away with and what he can't. Indeed, it is hard to imagine any other man who could have suffered one of the most lopsided defeats in modern military history and still be a serious threat to the region 10 years later. We have told him that we are coming for him, and that his head will be on a platter. The smart money would be on increased Iraqi diplomacy in Europe and the United Nations to try an avert hostilities. Failing that, Saddam may conclude that the best defense is a good offense, and attack our staging areas in the Gulf States.
Justin Palmer is a third-year in the College, concentrating in history and political science.