Politics & Policy

Iraq, Now?

Jed Babbin v. Doug Bandow

Decisions of war and peace are not made lightly, and should not be made on the basis of other nations’ interests. Ultimately, whether Saddam Hussein will be removed is a question we must answer. The debate at the United Nations focuses — incorrectly — on the failure of the UNMOVIC inspectors to find evidence of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. The debate should focus only on Saddam Hussein’s intent and capability. We have to look at Iraq as the British and French should have looked at Germany in 1936. Iraq has the intent, and is doing everything in its power to obtain the capability to use weapons of mass destruction against us.

Saddam’s intent has been demonstrated for more than two decades. Before the Israelis destroyed the nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981, Saddam’s intent to develop nuclear weapons was open and obvious. The 1981 raid set back his timetable, but did nothing to change his plans. His ambitions make us his enemy. His intent to develop nuclear weapons is aimed at deterring us from interfering in his plans to dominate the region, including its oil and our ally, Israel. And Saddam’s ambitions are mother to his actions. Dr. Khidir Hamza, who headed Saddam’s nuclear-weapons program before he defected, told me more than once that Saddam will share chemical and biological weapons with terrorists for use against America in two circumstances. Either when his complicity will be undetected, or whenever he judges the penalty he will pay if he is caught will be insufficient to remove him from power. Any way you slice it, Saddam’s weapons programs threaten us.

Saddam is working hard to obtain the capability to deploy and use these weapons. Through the terrorists he supports — Hamas, Hezbollah, and al Qaeda — Saddam can already use these weapons against American targets. That he hasn’t done so yet is no assurance that he will not do so today or next week.

Iraq’s nuclear-weapons program is, according to our experts, only a year or two away from achieving a usable weapon. Worse still, Saddam may be able to buy them from North Korea or Pakistan even sooner. A nuclear-armed Iraq will be a safe haven for terrorists and will destabilize Turkey, our most important Muslim ally. North Korea has nuclear weapons and crude means to deliver them. Because they have that capability, we cannot deal with them militarily without risking a nuclear exchange. In a year, or perhaps two, Saddam will have the same capability. He, too, will be able to deter us from interfering in his plans. Would we risk a nuclear exchange to protect Israel? Probably. To protect Kuwait or Saudi Arabia? I think not. Unless we act now, while we can remove him without a massive slaughter, tens of thousands may die when we finally are forced to act. Better to do it now, than to have to mourn our indecision after a nuclear war in the Middle East has been fought. Saddam delendus est.

Jed Babbin was a deputy undersecretary of defense in the first Bush administration, and is the author of the novel, Legacy of Valor. He now often appears as a defense commentator on the Fox News Channel and MSNBC.

Forget Hans Blix and the inspectors. No one should believe that Iraq has disarmed.

Forget the war, which we will win, even though it could be tougher than expected. Forget the occupation, which is likely to be messy, expensive, and endless.

Will war make America more or less secure? The answer is no.

First, war will divert attention and resources from the ongoing battle against terrorism. Al Qaeda may be weakened and the Taliban regime may be gone, but terrorist attacks continue across the globe, with bombings in Kenya, off the coast of Yemen, and in Indonesia.

American soldiers are being shot even in Kuwait, America’s closest Gulf ally. And war continues to rage in the hills of Afghanistan, where U.S. soldiers are being ambushed by opponents who escape into Pakistan. The most recent attacker was a Pakistani border guard. Yet a U.S. attack on Iraq will reduce America’s leverage to demand assistance and Pakistan’s incentive to accede to such requests. Relations with a host of other nations necessary to battle international terrorist networks — Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia — will be similarly strained.

Second, war will make more terror likely. In the short term there may be little the U.S. can do to reduce Islamic hatred, but attacking Iraq is sure to inflame fundamentalist sentiments, offering yet another grievance for recruiting terrorists.

Moreover, war could set off populist waves that might swamp already fragile regimes, such as that of Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf. Islamabad has helped North Korea with its nuclear program; imagine a nuclear-armed fundamentalist Islamic government in Pakistan.

Third, Iraq is not uniquely dangerous. Saddam is a hideous thug and has developed some fearsome weapons, but in that he is not alone. Nor is he an uncontrollable madman.

He has killed Kurdish separatists, but so has Turkey. Saddam attacked Iran in 1980, but rationally expected support from Washington — and got it.

Baghdad thought, with some reason (remember Ambassador April Glaspie?), that Washington would similarly acquiesce when he invaded Kuwait. Since then, he’s weighed the correlation of forces and done nothing.

Fourth, deterrence also works against use of weapons of mass destruction. Saddam has never employed them against any state which, like America or Israel, could obliterate him.

Deterrence will continue to work unless the administration attacks to overthrow him. Then he would be foolish not to use his biological and chemical weapons against U.S. soldiers, Israeli civilians, and Arab allies.

Linking Baghdad to September 11 would offer a casus belli, but even this administration could not prove such a connection. In fact, al Qaeda theocrats don’t like secular dictators. Saddam is unlikely to turn over the crown jewels of any weapons program to a group which he doesn’t control, especially when he would face devastating retaliation for doing so. And Washington would automatically look to Iraq after any terrorist attack with WMD.

Finally, war makes proliferation almost inevitable. If it is Gotterdamerung in Baghdad, why not hand over canisters of anthrax and whatever else Iraq has developed to trusted agents, or even al Qaeda representatives, to wreak chaos?

In the end, the administration’s planned attack will harm America’s national interests.

— Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. He is a former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation.


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