By Shawn Pine

From time to time, the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots. --Thomas Jefferson

As the United States turns its attention towards Iraq a number of critics have publicly militated against U.S. military operations in Iraq. They have offered a number of reasons not to attack the regime of Saddam Hussein. These arguments have included: The unclear link between Saddam Hussein and terrorism; the ambiguity surrounding his development of weapons of mass destruction; the lack of allied support for military operations; and the cost in both human and economic terms. All of these arguments have been proffered for reasons not to undertake a military efforts against the regime of Saddam Hussein. In reality, these arguments are spurious, morally vacuous, and only serves to diminish the credibility of the United States to defend its natural security interests.

No clear link between Hussein and terrorism: This argument was most recently advanced by Brent Scrowcroft, former National Security Advisor to George Bush Senior. Scrowcroft wrote in an August 15, 2002, op-ed in the Wall Street journal, "There is scant evidence to tie Saddam to terrorist organizations, and even less to the September 11 attacks." He further suggested "an attack on Iraq at this time would seriously jeopardize, if not destroy, the global counter-terrorist campaign we have undertaken."

Ironically, Scrowcroft made this claim the same week that it was reported that Abu Nidal, one of the world's quintessential terrorists, had been killed after having secured sanctuary in Iraq. It has been clearly demonstrated that Hussein has provided the families of Palestinian Islamic suicide bombers with over $10 million in payments since the beginning of the intifada. Not only have the Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad been identified as terrorist groups by our State Department, they promote the same Islamic agenda as that of al-Queda. The argument that a clear connection must be established between Hussein and the 9/11 terrorists is vacuous. Hussein has a long history of supporting terrorism and Islamic terrorist groups. Consequently, and contrary to Scrowcroft's assertion, an attack on Iraq is totally in keeping with the global counter-terrorist campaign.

The ambiguity surrounding his development of weapons of mass destruction: The thesis underlying this argument is that the U.S. should not attack Iraq until there is clear evidence that Hussein actually possesses weapons of mass destruction. This position has been articulated most recently by former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger when he stated "I'm prepared to concede, from the beginning, that if the evidence is clear that Saddam Hussein has these weapons of mass destruction at his fingertips and is ready to use them, then we have no choice, we must go. I don't think that evidence is there."

Of all the arguments against attacking Iraq this is the most bizarre. There is a plethora of evidence that Saddam Hussein has been seeking, developing, and fielding non-conventional weapons. Iraq has produced and weaponized a myriad of chemical and biological weapons including sarin, tabun, VX nerve gas, boutlinum and ricin. Not only has Hussein developed these weapons he has used them against his neighbors and his own people. It appears that chemical and biological weapons, and a demonstrated proclivity to use them, are not considered enough to constitute a casus belli for Mr. Eaglebuger. Yet, he implied that if it was clear that Hussein was close to developing a nuclear capability that would be a compelling reason to attack. While it is unknown the exact extent of Hussein's nuclear research, we know that over 64 different factories, and thousands of scientists, are working on the development of such weapons. We know that the U.S. realized that they had vastly underestimated how close Hussein was in obtaining nuclear weapons prior to the Gulf War. A 1991 German intelligence report estimated that, if left unfettered, Iraq would have nuclear weapons within three to five years. More important, that same report estimated that he could develop ballistic missile delivery systems that could reach the U.S. and Europe as early as 2007. The evidence that Hussein is developing, producing, and fielding non-conventional weapons is overwhelming. Consequently, the longer the U.S. waits to confront the threat the greater and more problematic it will be.

Lack of allied support: When the United States led a coalition against Iraq in 1991 it was joined by some 34 countries and had the support of the international community. Thus far, there has been vociferous opposition against U.S. military operations against Iraq. Opposition to U.S. military operations has included both U.S. allies in Europe as well as its Arab allies most directly threatened by Iraq. Opponents of U.S. military operations argue that unless the U.S. can garner the support of the international community it should not proceed.

This argument is without merit for a number of reasons. The international community is a conglomeration of nation states all pursuing their own self-interests. In this respect, it is clear that the European countries, Russia, and Arab States are pursuing their short-term, myopic self-interests. The European countries have extensive financial interests in Iraq, and the Russian economic interest in Iraq was underscored by its recent $40 billion economic deal with that country. When addressing European concerns over attacking Iraq, the President should remember that it was these same countries that plunged the world into two world wars and are largely responsible for the current geopolitical morass in the Middle East and Africa. The same greed that prompted these countries to colonize most of the world are now arguing restraint so that they can continue pursuing their myopic, economic self-interest. The U.S. should tell these 21st century Neville Chamberlain's that their failure to support U.S. operations would result in an American withdrawal from Bosnia and Kosovo, a reassessment of the U.S. role in NATO, and the exclusion of these countries in the formulation of any post-Saddam regime.

The Arab "allies" oppose the war because they fear the destabilizing effect on the region. However, these fears are not based upon a fear of chaos. Rather, it is a fear of the possibility of having an Arab democratic regime in the region. A pro-US regime, possessing the oil resources of Iraq, would stabilize oil prices and insure a constant supply of oil to the United States. More important, the U.S. could promote stability into the region by reducing the amount of weapons that are finding their way into the region. The Middle East has led the world in weapons imports every year for the last decade, largely based upon the perceived threat from Iraq. A pro-Western regime in Iraq would remove the rational for such weapons imports as Iraq would serve as a buffer between Iran and the GCC States.

While international support is preferable, it is not a prerequisite for military operations. As the leader of the free world, the United States has an obligation to lead the international community. In this respect, the Bush administration would do well to remember that the international community, including the United States, universally condemned the Israeli daring 1981 attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor complex in Osarik. Yet Israel's attack greatly retarded Iraqi attempts to develop nuclear weapons. If not for the success of the Israeli attack the dynamics of the 1991 Persian Gulf War would have been greatly different. Finally, it is likely, once our allies realize that we have the determination and resolve to carry the mission through until the end, there will be a bandwagon effect as no one will want to be left out to divide the "spoils."

It would cost too much in both human and economic terms: A basic premise in military strategic planning is never to underestimate your enemy. However, it is hard to envision a scenario in which Iraq would pose a greater conventional military threat than it did in the first Persian Gulf War. Iraqi forces are a fraction of what they were on the eve of the Persian Gulf War. Operationally, the Iraqi ground forces are ill prepared for conventional war. Their equipment is in disarray and they have conducted very few significant military exercises since the Gulf War. Conversely, the United States is in a much better position militarily. U.S. forces have flown missions over Iraq for the last decade and know the area extremely well. Moreover, U.S. forces do not need to invade and occupy Iraqi cities, They only need to isolate the command, control, and communications capabilities of the regime. In the 1991 conflict, the United States suffered 148 battle casualties, one-third of which came from friendly fire. A U.S. strategy based upon capturing the country, isolating the regime, and turning the Iraqi people against the regime should minimize casualties. The economic cost of the war can more than be offset by reduced oil prices following the aftermath of military operations and bringing a pro-Western Iraq to full production capacity.

While Iran and North Korea potentially present a more substantial long-term threat, it is sound foreign policy to go after Iraq first. Out of the three countries identified as the "Axis of Evil," Iraq presents the most immediate threat. It is Iraq that has attacked two of its neighbors in the last two decades. It is Iraq that has used non-conventional weapons against another country and its own citizens. North Korea is geographically contained and the ayatollahs of Iran are trying to keep the lid on an explosive democratic backlash from its young citizenry. Taking out Iraq will create a credible deterrent and may prompt both North Korea and Iran to reassess their own policies of proliferation and supporting terrorism. Replacing the regime of Saddam Hussein with a pro-Western government would create a potential axis between Iraq, Turkey, and Israel. Such a dynamic could also prompt Syrian President Bashir Assad to reassess his support for Hizballah.

By articulating a policy goal of removing the regime of Saddam Hussein, the President has crossed the Rubicon. Failure to remove Saddam Hussein would greatly debilitate American credibility and prestige. This would prove much more destabilizing to the region and U.S. strategic national interests. Left in power, Saddam Hussein and Islamic extremists would be emboldened to pursue their agendas. It is ironic that much of the criticism of the administration's position vis-a-vis Iraq is coming from the same individuals whose geopolitical acumen left Hussein in power in 1991. Whether their opposition to the war is a function of their attempts to vindicate their bankrupt policies that created the current situation, or whether they continue to believe the positions they are articulating is irrelevant. What is clear is that when they were in a position to influence events they failed to secure the region, and world, from the threat of Saddam Hussein. One of the more scathing criticisms came from retired marine general Anthony Zinni when he proclaimed "It's pretty interesting that all the generals see it the same way, and all the others who have never fired a shot and are hot to go to war see it another way.'' To this, the President only needs to heed the words of Georges Clemenceau that "War is much too important to be left to generals."


Shawn Pine is a military/strategic analyst who served for 9 years on active duty in the U.S. Army specializing in counterintelligence. He has published a myriad of articles and policy papers concerning the prevailing military and strategic environment in the Middle East. His works have appeared in Israel Affairs, The International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, The Jerusalem Post, and Nativ and the Maccabean.

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